7 reputation-damaging events

From the smallest start-up to the largest corporation, every type of company has the potential to face a serious reputational threat – often when they least expect it. Here are the most common types of PR crisis…

…and a few tips on avoiding them!

1. A viral complaint

It only takes one online complaint, bad review or negative blog post to go viral; even if you’re not really at fault, the damage from this kind of negative publicity can be significant.

That’s why it’s always important to be pro-active in responding to customer complaints, and to put things right as soon as possible.

2. A data breach

This should be a pretty big concern for most businesses, particularly in the age of GDPR. A rogue virus, a piece of ransomware, a hacking scandal or anything that compromises the data you hold on your customers could quickly lead to a full-blown PR crisis.

The NHS and TalkTalk are still recovering from theirs. Water-tight systems, a robust data policy and an IT risk management plan are essential; as is making sure your staff don’t open suspicious-looking emails.

3. Customer injury

Needless to say, if your products have caused an injury – whether it’s customers getting food poisoning at a restaurant to potentially life-threatening product faults, injuries are difficult to recover from; for both the customer and the brand.

In situations like these, companies should take every measure to prevent further injuries, apologise to (and fully support) any injured parties and clearly outline how they’ll ensure it doesn’t happen again.

4. Financial irregularities

Surprisingly, financial irregularities are relatively high on the list of most likely PR crises to face an SME or large company. Remember the Kids Company fiasco? Brands must be above reproach when it comes to financial management, and be able to show full transparency in all dealings.

5. Saying the wrong thing

History is littered with examples of how one poorly-advised comment can signal the end of either your brand or your career. Look at Gerald Ratner, Glenn Hoddle and Tony Hayward. More recently, former Emmerdale actress Roxanne Pallett caused a media storm and effectively ended her career with this comment; even after a public apology, the damage had been done.

6. Internal or staff incident

Any issue concerning your staff, from unethical behaviour to an offensive comment on Facebook or Twitter, could become a problem. Your employees represent your brand – and incidents like these can have a highly detrimental impact on your reputation.

This careless FedEx employee, for instance, almost caused a PR crisis with his unique ‘delivery’ style – fortunately, the brand were able to overcome the problem quickly and professionally.

7. Closures or redundancies

While closures and redundancies do happen, they should always be handled extremely sensitively and with professional PR support in place – otherwise your stakeholders can quickly lose confidence in what remains of your operation and it may lead to a public backlash.

Would you know what to do if any of these events happened to your company?

Venti Comms has almost a decade of experience in helping companies effectively manage their reputations; we can advise and support you through any event that could negatively impact your brand, help you build a plan for all eventualities and work with you to develop strategies that will help safeguard your reputation in the long-term.

Did you know that we also run a bespoke 3-hour PR Crisis Management Workshop? To find out more, get in touch today.

Lara Page

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