We have all heard the talk about how PR is just “spinning” the truth. Here’s the thing. Once you are caught in a lie, your brand will forever be tainted with that lie and it makes it really hard to bounce back with your audience. We live in a connected world and bad news travels fast. All of the great stuff you do within the community and to reward customer loyalty definitely has a shelf life, but when it comes to a lie – even a small one – your audience’s memories will be very long.

Once the lie is discovered – and it will be – you have to rebuild the entire trust structure your original relationship was built on. Only this time, it becomes that much harder to win your audience’s trust.

I know you know lying is wrong. But you may still be tempted to lie for various reasons, but the absolute best way not to get caught in a lie is to tell the truth. I know – it’s mind-blowing.

In case you were tempted by the dark side and your brand was caught in a lie, here 5 steps to help you come back into the light.

Step 1: Create a brand response strategy

You should try to plan ahead. If you have a crisis strategy in place, then you aren’t relying on split second decisions when it comes to addressing the issue publicly. If you don’t have anything in place, make sure you sit down with your executive/management team to plan out your strategic response before acting. This ensures everything you are doing is carefully planned, rather than knee-jerk responses in succession.

Step 2: Acknowledge your mistake – own up to it

There are two elements of this step. The first thing you need to do is close ranks and acknowledge what happened internally to your company. If you don’t do this, your employees will wonder what’s going on, especially if they hear everything from an outside source (ie. The news). Then the gossip will start, and that can make things worse.

Once you have brought your full team on board, you should then acknowledge your mistake externally. It’s very easy for lies to spin out of control if they aren’t dealt with so don’t take too long to get to step two. You need to swallow your pride and be sincere when you address the issues publicly and internally.

Step 3: Provide a solution and an explanation

This is key. Just because you have owned up to your lie doesn’t mean the situation is fixed. It is inevitable that someone was likely negatively impacted by your lie – do something about it. Don’t make excuses, and certainly don’t lie to fix a lie (lies are what got you here in the first place). You have an opportunity to do things right with your audience that was affected negatively by your behaviour, so make the most of it.

Step 4: Connect with influencers

You are going to need to rebuild your brand reputation. An effective way to do this is to connect with influencers who can help you get your message out to a broader audience. The thing is, you are going to need to do some rebuilding of your own first before they can trust you to vouch for you.

Step 5: Learn from your mistakes

FYI this means don’t do it again…

For large companies who have a strongly established footing in the market, and who have the budget to overcome these set-backs, bouncing back from a discovered lie will often be easier. If you are a smaller brand either starting out or trying to make it to the next growth level, your best bet is always the truth because you will have to work twice as hard to recover.

This was originally published to the SongBird Marketing Blog.