Our world, and certainly my world, is in recovery. Our country is on a path to economic recovery. Most of the eastern seaboard is recovering from the blows of hurricane season. My mom is bedridden and recovering from surgery after a major fall. All of this talk about recovery got me thinking about how every person and thing can essentially be hit with a crisis of some sort and be forced into a recovery process. And naturally, my mind went right back to my passion—marketing. Brands are exposed to just as many crisis situations as everyone else. I’ve written before about how to handle a crisis via social media and best practices for the immediate reaction. But what about after the immediate reaction? Brands need to rehabilitate just as people do.
When a brand’s image is tarnished, whether from a public breach of trust or a social media gaffe, the road to recovery is not an easy one. Here are some tips for brands embarking on the recovery process.
Rebuild and Restore
Once you’ve addressed the situation and assumed responsibility, it’s time to move on and begin the rebuilding phase. In the face of a crisis, it’s not unusual for consumers to lose trust in your brand. Your business practices could also be seriously scrutinized. Your reputation will likely take a bit hit as well. You’ll probably be down, but you won’t be out. And you need to focus on moving on. Even though it may seem like a long process, you can rebuild your brand and restore the legitimacy of it.
It All Begins with Order
Regardless of the situation, there will inevitably be some untangling to do. First and foremost, you need to revamp your image. This starts with order. Take great care when revamping a weak image to avoid appearing disingenuous. In this case, brands can take the example set forth by celebrities. Whether or not you think a celebrity is a brand (I actually do), you can’t argue that many of them have successfully restored order after their image was blemished. Kate Moss resumed her position as a household name in the fashion industry after her reputation and image fell apart in 2005 when proof of her drug use surfaced. Robert Downey, Jr. recovered from years of drug addiction and run-ins with the law. Britney Spears bounced back from a series of failed marriages and roller-coaster-like incidences of chaos. All of these celebrities pulled themselves up from the D list by fixing what was broken and restoring order to their lives. Brands can do the same!
Give it Time
No matter how big or small the blow, recovery takes time. Take a lesson from our country. We’ve been in the recovery stages for nearly a decade. Rehabilitation does not happen overnight. Because of this, it’s important to map out a timeline or plan. My mom will soon start her intense rehab schedule and doctor check-ins. Brands should craft a similar schedule of routine check-ins and deadlines for rebuilding their image, reputation and consumer loyalty and trust. It does take time, but with a plan, a brand can begin to see small successes and progress at every check-in.
Just as you should keep your audience updated directly following a crisis, you should continue to keep the communication lines open and your audience up to speed on your progress. What steps are you taking to rectify the situation? How are you ensuring it won’t happen again? Which direction are you moving in? If you don’t keep people in the know they will assume you’re just maintaining the status quo. Plus, they may have some insight to share that could help carve the recovery path.
The last and arguably most important tip is to reflect. You will undoubtedly uncover a lot of key takeaways from the experience. And the recovery process will grant you the time needed to digest and reflect on those discoveries so you can possibly avoid, or at the very least be better equipped to handle, in the future.