An organization that can successfully ride out a public-relations crisis knows that many reputation challenges are hidden marketing opportunities. Armed with the powerful combination of confidence and humility, these businesses have the qualities they need to not only survive a PR disaster but to thrive on it.

A reputation crisis doesn’t always have to mean plummeting sales and a ton of bad publicity. With a more positive mindset, one might instead see it as a turning point that provides insights into new opportunities. It could mean changing marketing direction, implementing a new product, or attracting new talent.

Although reputation crises are difficult to anticipate, it is essential to have a plan. Another key preparational step is to implement a reputation monitoring strategy that tracks mentions of your brand on social networks, consumer review websites, and other platforms. Doing so will help you act quickly to mitigate further damage and garner a better understanding of the overall sentiment of your target audience.

The Importance of Acting Quickly

These days, people expect instant gratification. Modern communications have given businesses and individuals the opportunity to share their thoughts at the press of a button, so there’s no excuse for being silent. In fact, if there’s one thing that all successful cases of crises management have in common, it’s that the affected organizations were quick to respond.

Customers hate being ignored, especially when they have grievances to solve. How many times have you heard people complain about poor customer service due to long resolution times or even an apparent lack of willingness to respond at all? With the ability of social media posts and bad reviews to go viral in mere hours, brands are under more pressure than ever before to act immediately.

In many situations, a lacking a quick response can be attributed to a lack of confidence. Often, organizations simply don’t know what to say when a crisis occurs, hence the importance of planning ahead. However, even if you can’t expect to solve the problem right away, the ability to respond quickly and clearly is critical. That means acknowledging the customer’s concern and using the right tone without avoiding the issue. If you can do that, then you’re already starting to turn your reputation crisis into an opportunity.

Getting Involved in the Conversation

A canned or insincere response to a reputation crisis is potentially worse than not responding at all. Another common mistake that many brands make is to try to make the conversation disappear entirely, which is a bad idea if the complaint is legitimate.On the other hand, there are a number of ways to remove illegitimate content from the Internet and search engine results. The viral nature of social media and the speed at which words can now spread mean that transparency is now an absolute necessity.

Being actively involved in the conversation helps show the human element of your brand, and it also presents an opportunity to turn things around. Exactly how you involve yourself, however, depends on the nature of the crisis. For example, you may approach a structural crisis, such as a problem with your product or service, by offering a formal apology, a refund and a message of thanks to your customers for bringing up their concerns in the first place.

Dealing with Emotional Crises

Emotional crises, which concern people’s morals and feelings, tend to be a lot more difficult for companies to deal with. These may include allegations against company leadership or a company’s ethical responsibilities. At the same time, however, they can present an opportunity depending on the context of the situation.

There are two main ways to approach emotional crises, and each has its pros and cons in different situations. One option is to take a defensive approach which, if executed with confidence, understanding and perhaps even some humor, can be a great way to deal with criticism that’s blatantly unfair. The defensive approach tends to be the best one when your target audience is mainly on your side, although it’s also risky. Nonetheless, taking a stand, while often divisive, can help your brand by giving you the opportunity to reach out to the type of customer you want to attract.

Frequently, it’s better to opt for acceptance, in which a company recognizes a crisis and takes the steps necessary to recover its reputation. This approach tends to be the only practical option if the negative feeling is widespread among your target audience – after all, they’re the people you don’t want to upset! It’s at times like this when companies need to be quick to respond with a personalized approach that directly addresses the problem.

Regardless of the strategy that works best for your organization’s situation, having a plan and publishing content to highlight the positive aspects of the story are critical to creating the best possible outcome. In business, there is usually an opportunity accompanying a challenge.