The Brand You Save Could Be Your Own
Have you ever heard the term “brand safety”? Many business people haven’t, yet it is getting quite a bit of attention lately in the marketing community. Some people reference brand safety in the context of a company’s social media presence. For example, Facebook is introducing new tools that will shield ads from being displayed within “fake news” or otherwise questionable content. YouTube has also implemented policies to protect marketers from being associated with controversial content.
These are all appropriate concerns. But to my way of thinking, the idea of brand safety extends beyond social media per se. I prefer the term “brand trust.” It is a process aimed at protecting a brand’s integrity. In public relations, we would refer to this as crisis management. In the broader arena of online marketing, it would entail what is now commonly called reputation management. Regardless of the medium, effectively protecting one’s brand requires proactive planning.
It is human nature to “hope for the best” so we seldom “prepare for the worst.” Failure to anticipate negative scenarios can be devastating to a brand’s reputation. That’s why it is essential to have a crisis communications plan at the ready at all times. We can’t anticipate every possible scenario that might threaten our brand, but we certainly can look at a wide range of “what if’s” so we are prepared to react swiftly and appropriately as necessary.
- What if… you are a bank or credit union and someone hacks into your customer database?
- What if… a fire at your place of business disrupts contract fulfillment at a critical time or results in the loss of important information?
- What if… a former employee trashes your organization on GlassDoor when you are in the midst of a recruiting campaign?
- What if… the health department reports serious deficiencies in your restaurant’s food safety operations?
- What if… you see an uptick in low ratings and negative comments about your hotel or attraction on Yelp or TripAdvisor?
These scenarios are just some of the more obvious ones facing different types of businesses. Every organization is different with its own possible causes of potential harm to the organization’s reputation. Some scenarios are catastrophic. Some may fall more in the category of annoyance. But all have the potential of diminishing trust in your organization – your brand. And the more you can be out front in anticipating potential problems, the better equipped you will be to deal with them.
The subject of how to prepare a crisis communications plan goes far beyond the scope of this article and could be the basis for a substantial white paper or even a major e-book. But whether threats are major or mundane, marketers would be well advised to have a plan in place. To that end, here are a few of the essential components of such a plan.
- Go through the “what if” scenarios in order to anticipate potential crises.
- Put together the team that will execute the plan when the threat becomes real. Designate specific roles and responsibilities.
- Identify the appropriate (and qualified) spokesperson(s) and establish the protocol for communications and notifications.
- Be prepared to respond quickly (if appropriate).
- Agree on and publish appropriate messaging strategies and communications templates.
- Monitor internal and external communications as events play out.
- Evaluate the organization’s handling of the threat to assess brand damage and determine impact on future events.
There’s an old expression, “People don’t plan to fail. They fail to plan.” That seems particularly appropriate when it comes to protecting the integrity of your brand.
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