Brand Reputation Management: Come Out on Top Post-Crisis

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Heidi Lang

Instagram 101 | Jan 30, 2024

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In today’s digital age, “cancel culture” is real, not just for celebrities but for brands as well. If you misbehave, post tone-deaf content, or are caught running your business unethically, fans can turn on you instantly. You can wake up one day with intense social media backlash and an incredibly damaged public perception of your brand. Luckily, that damage is never beyond repair—at least if you have a brand reputation management plan in mind.

If your brand is going through a PR crisis, don’t panic. You need to be cool, collected, and ready to go into action and save your business from online hate. You must turn negative reviews and nasty online mentions of your brand around and rebuild a positive brand reputation.

Do you want to discover reputation management strategies to help turn a brand PR crisis around? Keep reading to see what we suggest you do to drive positive sentiment for your brand again.

A gray typewriter printing out the words “Cancel Culture” on paper.

What Is Brand Reputation Management?

Every brand needs to be ready to execute reputation management strategies in case they’re under hot water for negative issues. But what is brand reputation management in the first place?

Reputation management is the process of influencing the public perception of a brand. Business owners can implement these management strategies at any time. However, most use them to control the narrative when the media paints their brand in a bad light. Basically, it’s the public relations practice of mitigating negative attention and restoring a damaged brand reputation.

In the online world, people are very vocal. If your brand does something wrong, they’ll call you out on it and demand accountability through social media backlash. They’ll write thought pieces on blogs, post harsh comments on your content, and leave negative reviews about your products. Your once-happy customers can do a full 180 and “cancel” your brand—unless you do something to stop it.

Knowing how to handle brand-related crises is a must if you want to keep a sustainable business going. Every business will have its ups and downs. Brand owners need to know how to ride the waves and survive each time with their reputation management strategy. It’s the only way to regain customer loyalty and trust.

A man frowning while doing a thumbs-down motion.

Why Might a Brand Need Brand Reputation Crisis Management?

There are many reasons why a business might be in dire need of brand reputation crisis management. External factors, sometimes beyond the brand’s control, can cause them. But usually, the cause is because of a bad brand move that earned negative sentiment among their customers and supporters.

Below are just some of the many reasons why a brand could need reputation management.

Offensive Ads or Social Media Content

Most brands don’t mean to do it, but sometimes, their content can be tone-deaf and offensive. Some ads may come off as discriminatory and culturally insensitive. This is probably the most common cause of social media backlash for brands online.

Ads like these tell your potential customers that you’re not mindful of the message you spread on social media. Even if the offensiveness is unintentional, it could be hurtful to many. And people stand up for each other online. Even if you don’t offend their race or culture specifically, they won’t think twice about canceling your brand. It erodes people’s trust in your brand and paints you in a malicious light.

Customers are usually very quick to call out brands when they come out with offensive content. They’ll share their take on the brand’s material and explain why it’s distasteful. If it gets really bad, some people might even call for a boycott of the brand. 

Recalls on Your Products for Low Quality or Defects

If news breaks out that your products have serious flaws or dangerous defects, it could lead to high customer dissatisfaction. And it gets even worse when your products get recalled from the market. When that happens, customer loyalty starts to waver.

If there’s one thing that customers are unlikely to forgive, it’s when brands put them in harm’s way. Ensuring safety and putting products through quality control is the bare minimum for brands. If the media starts scrutinizing this brand for its low-quality, hazardous products, it will lead to negative public perception.

Recalls also hurt businesses from a sales standpoint. Their industry competitors might take advantage of this crisis and go all-out on their marketing efforts to steal once-loyal customers.

Data Breach Affecting Your Customer’s Sensitive Information

People might also put your brand under fire online if there’s been a data breach on your site. Plenty of hackers target brands with big customer bases when stealing people’s information online. If your customers learn that their sensitive information has been compromised, they may point their fingers at your brand.

Customers who buy products online place a lot of trust in the brand websites they shop from. They willingly provide payment details and personal information to support these brands. But if a brand’s data privacy isn’t as secure anymore, it can shatter that trust and cause significant harm to the brand’s reputation.

A hacker infiltrating a website’s code to steal its customer’s data.

Unethical Treatment of Employees

The general public can also rise against brands that don’t treat their employees ethically. These issues can range from huge labor disputes to everyday employees complaining about burnout and a toxic work environment. News of unsafe work conditions, unequal pay, and harassment in the workplace are also red flags for businesses.

Apart from getting negative sentiment from potential customers, issues like this also cause employee morale to drop. That means they affect not just a company’s branding but also their business operations. With a tarnished reputation as an employer, the business might even have a difficult time acquiring new talent later on.

A tired employee resting his head on a desk in front of his laptop, which displays the word “Burnout.”

Misconduct by Business Owners and Influencers

Business leaders and influencers are both considered brand ambassadors of their label. They represent the brand and the values it stands for. So, when these people behave inappropriately or engage in offensive or scandalous activities, it also reflects on the brand.

There are many ways to “misbehave” as a brand ambassador. The founder of the brand may have faced arrest for fraud and embezzlement. Or maybe the brand’s biggest influencer got caught on video using offensive slurs during a public argument. Either way, these people’s association with the brand they work with can lead to negative sentiment for the company.

People might start asking questions like, “Why is this brand okay with working with someone like this? Do they support the same behaviors and ideals?” These ambassadors’ actions don’t just hurt their reputation; they hurt that of their company, too.

How Do I Check a Company’s Reputation Online?

Knowing the reason why a brand is under fire on social media is different from knowing how big the fire is. And you need to know how big a flame is to put it out. So now, you might be asking—how do I check a company’s reputation? What are people saying about the brand? How bad is the negative sentiment online?

That’s where social listening comes in. Social listening tools allow you to monitor a brand’s reputation by analyzing conversations and other online mentions about that brand. These tools allow you to track anything from negative reviews to customer rant videos to unfavorable news coverage.

Some tools do sentiment analysis reports as well to give businesses insights about the current public perception of their brand. They can tell whether the general sentiment for the brand is positive, negative, or neutral.

With these bits of information, business owners can pinpoint how their customers feel about their brand. Then, they can be even more purposeful and pointed in crafting reputation management plans to squash that negative perception.

There are a bunch of other ways to check on a brand’s reputation, like these:

  • Use search engines to find the latest news articles about the brand to check on the media’s narrative.
  • Look through online review sites to see what customers are saying about a brand’s products and services.
  • Visit the brand’s official website to see its latest public statements and press releases.
  • Conduct surveys and other market research efforts to get the nitty-gritty of how the public feels about a brand.

Doing this research allows you to understand the gravity of a brand crisis and respond to it quickly. Once you have a grasp on how bad a brand’s reputation is, you can hatch plans to regain positive sentiment.

Brand Reputation Management Strategies: 6 Ways To Gain Positive Sentiment

Once you know what’s killing public perception about your brand, you can then start deciding on your next moves. You need to appease unhappy customers and prove that they can trust your brand again. The end goal is to repair any animosity between you and your stakeholders and regain a positive brand reputation.

Many reputation management strategies aim to handle brand crises. However, you can always incorporate them into your everyday digital presence to improve customer relationships and public perception online.

Not sure what to do to get people to see your brand in a good light? Let a social media platform like Instagram work some magic for you. Here are six Instagram brand reputation management strategies that might work for you.

Post Positive Reviews in Your IG Story Highlights

Gather positive reviews and testimonials from happy customers and compile them into a Story Highlight on your IG page. That way, potential customers can see that people have positive experiences when they patronize your brand.

These reviews serve as social proof that your brand is legitimate and credible. They can help people build trust for your brand and its products. It also influences purchase decisions, driving more sales for your brand.

Posting these online reviews on your Instagram Stories is super easy. Just take screenshots of the positive reviews people leave on your website or share them with you over DM. Then, post them to your Stories and add them to your Highlights. Don’t forget to make cute covers for your Highlights to drive clicks from potential customers who visit your profile!

Two beauty influencers filming a good review of an eyeshadow palette to post on Instagram.

Improve Customer Service by Replying to Concerns Quickly

If you’re getting backlash for product-related issues and customer dissatisfaction, you might want to upgrade your customer service systems.

Followers who have a negative experience with your brand may leave nasty, direct messages or comments on your page. Never ignore them. Respond to their concerns and queries as fast as possible. You want to show people that you value their constructive feedback and want to help solve their problems immediately.

It’s also important to be respectful and professional when talking to even the most irritated customers. Show your followers that they have every reason to trust that you will turn things around for them. It tells people that customer satisfaction always comes first.

Responding to concerns quickly prevents small issues from escalating into bigger problems. It nips small problems in the bud to keep social media backlash and negative word-of-mouth at bay. Plus, if a customer is happy with how you handled their problem, they may leave a positive review for you!

Happy customer service agents looking at the camera while smiling. Happy customer service agents looking at the camera while smiling.

Incentivize User-Generated Content

Aside from positive online reviews, user-generated content (UGC) can also be social proof of your brand’s product quality and service. UGC is any branded content produced not by a brand or endorser but by a genuinely happy customer. These can be simple photo posts or IG Reels showing off a brand’s offerings.

Real, satisfied customers create UGC, making it much more authentic than ads or sponsored influencer posts. This can help shape your brand image to be more credible and trustworthy through positive word-of-mouth.

You want your brand to have as much UGC on the platform as possible. Not only does it humanize your brand and put you in a good light, but it widens your reach, too. To encourage happy customers to make UGC, incentivize them. Give them discounts, freebies, or maybe even a feature on your brand’s profile if they post UGC featuring your products.

Post About Your Brand’s Social Responsibility Efforts

One way to maintain a positive brand reputation among your customers is by highlighting your social responsibility projects online. Post about these efforts online, whether they’re environmental initiatives, volunteer work in your industry, or donating profits to charities.

This can resonate well with your more socially conscious customers. It shows them that you’re not just some money-hungry company; you care about others, too. It will also give them more confidence in your brand, knowing that your values align with theirs. All these can help strengthen your connection with your audience, boosting overall positive sentiment for your brand.

A woman holding newly potted plants while wearing a shirt that says, “No Planet B.”

Get Influencers To Vouch for Your Brand

If your customers don’t trust you right now, get a spokesperson to get through to them. Tap your brand influencers that have pretty good sway with your followers, and ask them to vouch for you.

When influencers post good reviews and stories detailing positive experiences with your brand, they may raise trust scores again. People trust influencers because they’re real people, so their word is much more credible than a brand’s. Tap these creators to help humanize your brand if it’s in hot water with your audience.

A female influencer filming in front of her camera with a serious face.

Post a Sincere Public Apology After a Crisis

If you know that you were completely in the wrong during a brand crisis, apologize. Draft a public statement acknowledging where you went wrong and say sorry for it. Post it on your social media channels for your customers to see remorse from your end. It helps prove that you know what you did and that you genuinely want to improve how you run things.

Some business owners might think a public apology is a sign of weakness. But trust us when we say that it does a lot to gain your customers’ trust back. It shows them that you’re holding yourself accountable for where you went wrong. Make sure your statement contains transparent next steps as to how your brand will change and do better moving forward.

By posting a message for the public during a crisis, you regain control of your brand’s narrative. It keeps negative sentiment from escalating even further, giving you time to do more damage control.

Of course, it never stops at an apology. You have to commit to improving and bettering yourself as a brand. Deliver on your promises to learn from your mistakes and make it up to your followers. Trust that if you make the same mistake twice, they may not be as forgiving about it.

Scrabble letters spelling out “I am sorry” against a white surface.

Social Media Brand Reputation Management Case Studies To Learn From

Some brands do crisis management really well, while others completely miss the mark. Either way, you can learn from these crises and understand what brands did right or wrong to handle them. That way, you can be armed and better prepared for the possibility of your brand going through the same thing.

Here are three brand-reputation management case studies that any business owner can learn from.

KFC’s Witty Ad Addressing Their Chicken Shortage

In 2018, something peculiar happened at KFC stores all over the UK. The restaurant chain had suffered from logistics issues and a chicken shortage. They had no food to serve to customers. So, 800 of its stores had to close for an entire day.

The KFC team knew they had to address disappointed customers who were looking forward to eating their food that day. But they didn’t panic despite the crisis. Instead, they opted for a more lighthearted approach—creating a witty, funny ad apologizing for the inconvenience.

The ad material depicts an empty bucket of chicken with the letters “FCK” on top instead of KFC. It then goes on with their light yet heartfelt apology about not being able to serve their loyal customers. They ran the ad in the newspaper the day after the crisis when their stores were back in full swing.

Self-deprecating humor is a great way to frame a small, harmless mishap by your brand. It humanizes your brand and makes it seem more down-to-earth. Getting your customers to laugh also de-escalates negative sentiment about the issue. KFC might have saved themselves from more backlash if they hadn’t been quick on their feet with their funny ad. 

Tide’s Influencer Campaign To Curb the Tide Pod Challenge

We all know about the Tide Pod Challenge—one of the most dangerous social media challenges in recent years. This online phenomenon saw plenty of clout-chasing users and even children trying to bite and eat detergent-filled Tide pods. Some people needed hospitalization after joining the challenge. And although Tide was not involved in the conception of this challenge, its reputation suffered.

To mitigate this brand crisis, Tide turned to influencer marketing as a solution. They partnered with NFL star Rob Gronkowski to release a video discouraging people from eating Tide pods. They released a video on social media of Rob candidly and passionately telling people to stop eating Tide pods.

Why was this effective? Because of Rob Gronkowski’s involvement. The football star is known for his cool and outrageous personality. He loved partying and saying scandalous things in interviews.

At that point, teens were joining the Tide pod challenge out of FOMO to look cool. So, when a super cool, outgoing person like Rob deems the challenge totally uncool, people are bound to listen. It was a great way to drive the point home that it’s incredibly dangerous to eat Tide pods. If even the most fun people you can think of wouldn’t do it, why should you?

Pepsi Missing With Mark With Their Tone-Deaf Kendall Jenner Ad

In 2017, Pepsi made headlines after they aired a controversial video ad featuring Kendall Jenner. In the material, Kendall attends a street protest. When tension arises between the protesters and the police, Kendall approaches the men in uniform and hands them a Pepsi. The police officer smiles while the crowd of protesters starts cheering.

Netizens were quick to call out Pepsi on the ad, calling it tone-deaf and insensitive. It seemed like they were trivializing the efforts of protesters who take to the streets about important social justice issues.

To make matters worse, the Black Lives Matter movement was at its peak then. People had been actively protesting police brutality when the ad aired. It felt even more like a slap to the face of people trying to speak up for causes they cared about.

After so much public outcry, Pepsi pulled the ad everywhere. Then, they issued a public apology to their customers. In the statement, they expressed their intention to spread the message of peace and unity. However, they also admitted that they “missed the mark.” They apologized not only to their disappointed followers but also to Kendall, who was getting backlash for her involvement.

Pepsi’s apology showed that it values what its customers think. They were willing to take accountability for their mistake, even deciding to pull the plug on the campaign. It was a great show of empathy, open communication, and swift reputation management.

Rebuild Your Community Post-Crisis With Path Social

Having a solid reputation management strategy can help foster positive sentiment around your brand even after a PR crisis. But you don’t even need to be going through public perception issues to adopt these strategies into your online presence. Amplifying positive reviews, improving customer service, influencer marketing, and more are amazing for maintaining a good relationship with your customers. Keep them in mind to ensure that your customers are always happy, loyal, and proud to patronize your brand.

Now that you know how to repair credibility with brand reputation management, it’s time to focus on rebuilding your brand. That means getting more followers back—especially if you’ve lost some along the way.

With Path Social’s AI-powered targeting tool, you can reach your target audience pronto. We hunt down your niche audience and promote your content so that it shows up on their feed. This gives you a huge boost in engagement, followers, and potential customers. Build an online community that lasts today with our help!