English Insights

Reputation Management during a crisis

By Shonel Perera

The coronavirus pandemic created a catastrophe that business across the world could not prepare for. Shops shut, offices closed and streets deserted, thousands of businesses have had to drastically alter the way in which they operate.

Most business right now are focused on keeping the lights on, it is also essential that be consider the consequences of certain decisions in the long run as well, mainly maintaining your reputation. A business’s reputation is everything and the pandemic will prove a make or break moment for brands depending on how they respond to the crisis. 

Businesses that are seen to do the right thing and maintain strong customer relationships are well placed to overcome the crisis and come out the other end with their brand reputation well intact, while the other who fail to do the right thing could potentially lose customers and see their revenues dip.

The primary step is to realize that decisions made on the basis of short-term and profit motivated gains could actually break your business. The goal should be to act altruistically to generate positive stakeholder sentiment that will undoubtedly grow your brands reputation in the medium to long-term.

Here are 5 factors to consider to protect and potentially enhance your brands reputation in times of crisis.

  1. Take government advice… do not deviate
  2. Follow advice given by the government to the letter as this will be seen as a more formal and credible form of reputation gained. When curfew is imposed and “work from home” periods are extended, adhere to the guidelines and set up methods to have your employees to work from home in a safe manner. Nothing speaks more of a company’s ethics than the safety procedures it follows. Business leaders understand that health and safety is crucial, but in the current scenario, minor disruptions in complying fully with the rules would result in businesses finding themselves in the media light for all the wrong reasons. 

    Additionally, be mindful of the decision of temporarily “pulling the plug”, just pause and think for a second as to how this message would be perceived by the general public. Putting profit before humans can be interpreted in the worst ways
  • Protect your staff – they remain the face of your business
  • Make sure you take additional steps to keep your staff safe. People respect workplaces for good ethics but that respect can develop into something far greater when they know you genuinely care about your employees. Go the extra mile. People really are your best asset. They are the ones who have helped you succeed before the pandemic and they will be there to help you through it and out of it
  • Paying off wages are possibly the biggest cost burden for businesses, business owners should do whatever it takes to keep staff on payroll in these testing times. Keep your employees engaged and they will be your best promoters for your business
  • Improvise and continue maintain service standards
  • Businesses should do their best in adapt to the situation. In doing so, firms need to be mindful of what sort of message they are conveying to the public as a result of the actions they take
  • Be the type of business that strengthens relationships with their primary audience and also engaging with new ones. Not all businesses have the luxury of being flexible and are finding it difficult to change their business or service delivery models overnight. That being said, in industry sectors where the scope and range of services are having to be scaled back as a result of coronavirus, customer communications is key

    Play nicely
  • Play nice, be reasonable and don’t be stingy. Yes, your business is going to take a hit, maybe in a minimal way or sometimes a large scale. That is the risk of running a business. You can’t foresee situations as the current one we are in. ESPECIALLY, the current one we are in. Pandemics are situations you have no answer for, so adapt and understand that it isn’t just you that is in this situation. Your employees, clients and other stakeholders are also part of the crisis situations and suffer from it too. So be reasonable and portray yourself as the white knight in this war. Take the hit temporarily and wait for your business to yield benefits in the long run.

    Give something back
  • In times of crisis it can be hard to win over new clients/customers, especially when everyone is strapped for cash. Due to this, focus your attention on retaining your current clientele by giving something back. Throw in discount or a favor, show them you care beyond just the cheque deposited in your account. Your clients need to see that you are more than just a business. In short, generosity and kindness goes a long way in developing your rep!

In conclusion, while a range of other businesses navigate a number of different and seemingly more pressing priorities right now, try focusing on your company’s reputation and maintain that as your primary concern. Businesses that are seen to be responding positively to the coronavirus pandemic are the ones most likely to survive it.

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