“Scandal” may seem like a dramatic word, but an event or situation doesn’t have to be that major to cause real damage to your reputation—and your company’s bottom line. Even minor negative incidents or reviews can have a significant impact. A scandal has the potential to cause a lot of harm, but if you get out in front of it, you can minimize the damage. Here are some 6 Professional Tips for Surviving a Scandal.
- Assess the Situation
Responding to an issue in a timely manner is important. However, your plan also needs to be thoughtful so that you don’t accidentally make the situation worse. Instead of reacting immediately, take a little time to assess the situation. This will help you calm down and give you the time to formulate a plan, so you don’t act rashly.
The specifics of what happened will inform your response. Form a small working group to discuss and evaluate the situation. List what happened, who is involved, and what might happen next. Outline how this incident harms your business and the specific types of damage it could continue to do.
- Craft Your Response
Don’t let step one take too long. A prompt response is essential. Once you have assessed the situation, craft a level, fair, and appropriate response to what happened. Rein in your emotions, and try to be level-headed. Share your response on your social media accounts and website. Depending on the scale of the situation, you can also consider sending out a press release to get the message to a wider audience.
- Hire a Professional Online Reputation Service
Depending on the severity of the situation and your own abilities, you may want to hire a professional reputation management service. Positive reputation management is a growing industry because it can truly be a full-time job for businesses to craft their images and deal with negative press or scandals, especially in an online setting.
The complexity of managing a scandal is related to the speed at which information travels online and the volume of people consuming the content. A professional service can do things to repair your reputation that may be a struggle to do on your own:
- Remove negative content– It is possible to remove things online you don’t want, like a bad review. This can’t take back the fact that people saw it, but it does give you a chance to stop the spread of bad news. It provides a starting point for rebuilding a better reputation.
- Build a positive reputation– You can and should work on this aspect of branding yourself, but it takes time. With a professional team tackling the situation, you will get more positive mentions online in a shorter amount of time. This is the fastest way to start building up your company’s reputation online.
- Consider Legal Action
If your company is being defamed, you can take legal action against those responsible. Defamation is a false, damaging statement. It is considered a tort, which means if you can prove defamation, you can sue the person or company that made the statement. You can also seek monetary damages to make up for what you believe their statement has cost your business, and force them to remove or retract a statement.
There are two types of defamation: libel and slander. Slander is an oral statement—for instance, something someone said about you or your business on the news or in a speech. Libel is written and published. Online statements can qualify as libel. Legal action is expensive, so think carefully about the potential value before proceeding.
- Make a Plan for the Future
Avoid being shortsighted when managing a scandal. Take a look at how and why this happened. Did it expose an inherent weakness? If you don’t reflect on this, you’ll find yourself in this same position again in the future.
Showing that you’re planning for the future can also be part of your reputation management. Publicize the changes made so that it’s clear your company is trying to be better.
You can take this one step further and rebrand. This is an involved marketing strategy that takes time and costs money, but it may be worthwhile. If it helps you weather the scandal and create a more solid bulwark against future scandals, consider it.
- Log Off
Sometimes, the best thing to do is nothing at all. Resist the urge to be reactive, for instance, to a bad review or a false statement. Avoid getting involved in an online back-and-forth. It won’t help and will probably make things worse. Backing off and staying grounded may be the best course of action, depending on the situation, and can sometimes even prevent an unfortunate occurrence from developing into a full-blown scandal.
You Can, and Will, Get Through This
A scandal can seem impossible to overcome in the moment. Fortunately, people have short memories. Stay calm, be proactive, plan for the future, and enlist professional services, and you and your business will weather this moment and perhaps even emerge stronger for it.