A company’s reputation is one of its greatest assets; if not its greatest. According to The 2017 UK Reputation Dividend Report, the combined value of corporate reputations of the 350 largest listed companies in the UK stood at £986bn in January 2017; which represents 39% of all shareholder value.
In the automotive industry, the ongoing VW emissions scandal – which, it is reported has cost Volkswagen as much as $25 billion – reports around the improper handling of damage claims by rental companies, and a new issue that has surfaced about the quality of Japanese metals used in vehicle production are all examples of current stories that may have rocked, or be rocking market confidence.
All of these highlight the importance of industry providers having a clear and comprehensive communications strategy in place. As part of this it is also vital to plan for any unexpected negative events or crises that may arise and to ensure you are on the front foot when the you-know-what hits the proverbial fan.
Here are some tips for achieving cut-through communications and being prepared for every eventuality:
- Boost your reputation: As well as the day-to-day task of building your reputation by positioning yourself as a thought leader and commenting on key industry issues, it is also important to share good news stories and celebrate success with the media – award wins, contract wins, investment news, key appointments, milestones and new product or service launches. Having a strong two-way dialogue with key media will pay dividends when you have to tell them something negative.
- Be prepared: Crises are by and large unexpected, but you can plan for them and by doing so help to minimise operational and reputational impact. Agree your spokespeople, rehearse the plan and make sure colleagues know who to escalate potentially negative issues to and when.
- The three Rs – Reason, Regret, Remedy: The impact and value of a simple statement of regret cannot be overstated – A simple statement of regret will demonstrate that the company and the senior team are humans and can empathise with the people directly affected by the crisis.
The specifics of each situation will vary and it will not always be possible or appropriate but a full and genuine apology delivered in a timely manner can be a powerful way to defuse criticism.
In the event of a crisis explain the facts of the situation as accurately and as early as possible. In the fast moving media environment it is important to take control and be seen to be the leading source of information about the crisis.
It is also important to explain what the company is doing to try and solve the problem and what the likely timescales involved will be. By providing as much detail as possible, the company will appear to be taking clear and decisive action and fulfilling its responsibilities to improve the situation.
- Be First, Frank and Fast: In a crisis it is essential to take control of the situation FIRST by acting swiftly and controlling the dissemination of consistent and accurate information to internal and external audiences. By acting first, the business will establish itself as leading the response to the crisis and as the primary source of information.
In the modern media and social media environment news and reaction can spread within minutes and it is essential that businesses react to this changing reality FAST. In a significant crisis, it is important to respond much more quickly and to work to the media’s schedule. Crisis planning and briefing members of staff in advance will be essential to enable a business to respond quickly in the event of a crisis.
Be FRANK. It is important to be as honest as possible in dealing with the media and the public. In the age of the 24 hours news cycle and social media nothing will stay secret and any attempts to cover up or hide bad news can make a crisis much worse and ruin any remaining goodwill towards the company.
As a final thought, when considering the value of corporate reputation, I think this quote sums it up perfectly:
“We can afford to lose money – even a lot of money. But we can’t afford to lose reputation – even a shred of reputation,” wrote Warren Buffett to managers.
If you need crisis communications support, look no further than our team of experts!
Did you know Acceleris has won the Issues and Reputation Management title at the European Excellence Awards three out of the last four years!