Don’t let your reputation be swept under the carpet!

Large firms can spend millions of pounds building their brand, whiles smaller ones might choose to invest a few grand in promoting themselves to their marketplace .It doesn’t matter how good you make yourself look and how you pretty you come across, your companies reputation can be on line in how you conduct your business.

Having worked in the PR industry for over thirty years, we at Bridge PR have developed a keen sense of danger –  eyes in the backs of our heads – as well as the experience of dealing with many ‘reputation management’ situations ie a crisis when a newspaper or magazine publishes a damning and negative article on one of our clients.

Can we see a “bad news” story coming? Sometimes…and sometimes not! But we always take a positive stance. Some years ago, I worked for a multi-national aerospace firm at their Scottish factory. I received a call from the local press to say that one of our employees had committed suicide in our chemical labs. My first instinct was ‘he’s got this all wrong’, I would surely know as the firm’s PR manager. I made enquiries and my first call was to our HR manager. I told him of the phone call I received and his comment was ‘Oh god, they haven’t found out have they?  They surely did! Local newspapers are good at checking out police, fire and ambulance reports and following up on them.

The HR manager hoped it would all go away and be swept under the carpet. He didn’t want anyone to know, whereas I had my duty to try and get the facts right and carry out a damage limitation exercise. It turned out that the employee had ended his life because his wife was having an affair. Having a straight conversation with the newspapers and radio stations about the grief the whole family was going through meant that they downplayed any coverage, In fact only one radio station gave a brief report. It was sad episode, but having a frank discussion and good relationships with the press meant I had achieved an acceptable outcome for the man’s family (saving them from sordid details being published) and for the company.

 I dealt with a number of testing situations at that factory, including a ‘sex change’ employee who called himself Danielle and wanted to use the ladies loos – and a chap who kept a loaded revolver in his locker! 

Businesses put time, effort and money into building their reputation. Sometimes you need to put in the same commitment to protect that reputation. What should you do?

Here are some practical steps to take:-

Be prepared and give straight answers. ‘No comment’ is tantamount to giving the press carte blanche to print what they like.

Check out the facts! Have the press got it wrong, is it an isolated incident i.e.  a one off or have they got things out of context? Again, be prepared to put actions in place to stop it happening again and be upfront with the press on the positive steps you are taking.

– Press statement. It’s one thing to talk to a journalist over the phone. But have they listened correctly to what you have to say?  A safer and additional option is to send them a written statement so the situation is kept in context and your words cannot be misinterpreted.

We are very positive in promoting our client’s good news stories. We take the same positive stance in defending them against criticism.

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Posted on February 24, 2011, in "public relations", "digital media", "marketing", Brand Reputation, Bridge PR, Company Reputation, Coventry PR, online PR, PR in Coventry, Social media marketing. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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