Reputation management – the tips you need to know to navigate your way out of a crisis

High-Rise Communications are experts at reputation management and crisis communications. We are often called in to support when the unexpected and unwelcome happens. Many of our long-term clients originally started working with us when things were going wrong and they needed expert communications advice and support in a hurry.

We’ve helped with all sorts of reputation management issues – from high-profile and sensitive public inquiries to disgruntled staff members leaking sensitive internal documents.

We pride ourselves on providing purposeful communications for purposeful organisations so our take on reputation management includes emphasising the importance of people, values and culture. That’s because our aim when it comes to reputation management is to work with clients on long-term solutions, as well as offering advice and support with the immediate problem.

It’s common sense but to prevent similar reputational issues and problems from coming up time and time again it’s important to take the learnings from what went wrong and think about what needs to change over the long-term.

Based on our years of experience, here are our top tips for reputation management and for making sure your organisation is known for the right, rather than the wrong reasons.

1. Only go on the record when you are ready

Take some time to think and to get expert advice if you need it. Tell the journalist you will phone them back (and make sure you or someone else does).

2. Don’t say ‘no comment

Say ‘no comment’ and you sound like you have something to hide. Your organisation should have something to say – so provide an accurate media statement as a minimum. Remember, you may want to speak to that journalist again in the future.

3. Get ahead of the story

Try to be as front foot as you can. Don’t just keep reacting, proactively offer information or an angle which takes the story in the direction you want it to go.

4. Be honest

If things could have been done differently say so. Being honest will help to restore reputational trust and credibility with your audience over time.

5. Be consistent

Don’t tell the media something different than you are telling your staff. Think about your key messages and make sure they are coming across on all channels.

6. Choose your spokespeople carefully – and don’t throw them in at the deep end (or under the bus)!

Consider who could front an interview in the event of a reputation management crisis. Who are your trained spokespeople? Think about who would give the best interview and not just who is the most senior person in the organisation. For more on this see our media training pages.

7. Think about your company culture

As the saying goes ‘culture eats strategy for breakfast’. Get the culture of your organisation right and everything else will follow. Be honest about your organisation and its culture. If you are saying you are one thing, but your staff and people you work with know that you are very much another, then that’s a huge disconnect that is inevitably going to lead to all sorts of reputational problems and challenges.

8. Listen – even if you don’t like what people are telling you!

Leaders need to be able to embrace – even welcome – the truth about what people think about their organisation rather than what they would like them to think. Remember your brand is what people say when you are not in the room and sometimes that can sting a bit. For successful business owners and leaders it’s not always easy to hear things aren’t as good as you want them to be, but it is always helpful. People at the top need to work at being open to hearing what needs to improve and how things could be (even) better.

9. Don’t forget about internal communications – it matters more than you think!

Often the Cinderella of the communications world, neglecting internal communications can result in low employee engagement. This can lead to dissatisfied staff talking about problems and challenges externally, or even to the media. And when a reputation management problem happens it’s important not to forget about timely and accurate internal communications. Consider what information people need and ensure your staff aren’t getting their updates from the media, social media or the rumour mill instead of from you.

10. Get expert reputational advice

Yes we would say that wouldn’t we? But really, the sooner you get expert advice, the better. Choosing an effective reputation management agency like High-Rise Communications will help you to engage more effectively to avoid another crisis, and help you to navigate this one.

Read our top tips for reputation management and avoiding a crisis here!

If you need reputation management help or advice contact our Managing Director Helen Furnivall on helen@highrisecommunications.co.uk or 0161 706 1618.