Reputation, Crisis and the Role of Digital

By Hinda Mitchell
April 18, 2022

PR and its digital tools are powerful for brands to build and maintain trust with critical audiences. By helping brands connect with their stakeholders, leveraging shared values and creating meaningful conversations, trust is established. When a company faces a challenge or crisis, being able to lean into that trust will decrease negative, long-term impacts on the brand.

In reputation, social media is the best and worst. For brands, it is so easy to step on a land mine. Many leaders forget to “pause before posting”, and the result is a post that is inappropriate or offensive that gets widely shared – which creates the digital and reputational crisis. Or companies post when they should be silent, or fail to monitor online sentiment effectively, and quickly spiral out of control.

Brands consistently make two significant mistakes online. One is that companies are pushing information out, but they’re not listening to their critical audiences. The digital and social space is a back-and-forth conversation – push and pull, talk and listen.

The second is that many companies are “tone-deaf” when it comes to what they share online. When taking public/online positions about divisive social issues, it is essential that the words brands choose and the content posted are fully aligned with the values of those who engage with the brand.

Crises online move swiftly, and they can escalate in a matter of minutes, not hours. Misinformation travels just as quickly as information (and sometimes faster.) Being early to the conversation and providing frequent updates matters. Keep all eyes looking at the company to define what is happening. A lack of communication allows the crisis to be defined by others.

Social media can be a valuable tool to reputation management, as it allows real-time listening to key audiences and gives companies a swift way to engage all their online stakeholders with one message. If the company monitors conversations and sentiment taking place online, it can use those metrics and understanding to shape its messages and to quickly address any misinformation or conversation that would put its reputation at risk.

The bottom line is this: it’s called social media for a reason. Companies must engage their online followers in meaningful dialogue – online conversations always should be a priority, but especially now, when more people are online than ever before. It’s not something that should be a secondary communication or just for marketing, nor is it something that should be delegated to an intern. Online engagement is an essential part of a brand’s reputation strategy, and it should be budgeted and led as such.