Damage Control: Digital Reputation Management

Damage Control. It’s an unfortunate but very real element of being a business. Try as you might, whether you’re a major corporation being nailed for shallow pandering, or a local shop facing accusations of racism, a business’s job is to catch the headlines. Sometimes they won’t be the right ones. Now, naturally, it isn’t very hard at all to avoid catching flack for downright unethical behavior, but what if you’re just doing business as usual? Not all press is good press — especially in a viral social media environment.

Types of Responses

Practical elements of damage control, or, in safer terms, reputation management, can be broken into roughly two perspectives: Proactive responses and Defensive responses.

Proactive Responses

Proactive suggests that the firm is being careful in their approach to extend an actionable solution to a problem — whether that requires action for the business themselves, or the disgruntled consumer(s). The question that firms must ask themselves in taking this path is what actions will they take after, during, or even before making their Public Relations or Customer response that aligns with the statement. Remember, it’s even worse than saying nothing at all if a firm makes a claim and follows it up with either no action or hypocrisy. If actions are met as indicated in a public response or apology, it is very often a better outcome than the defensive response.

Defensive Responses

Defensive responses are just what they sound like: a company sticking to its guns in whatever embroiled social platform quagmire they’ve gotten themselves into. Rarely does this approach result in the most savory of outcomes. Only the most avid fans and passive consumers of a given brand will stick around after a mediocre defensive response. Companies will go in this direction most likely if they feel that the scandal or customer complaint runs entirely contrary to their mission statement, or the complaint brought is entirely nonsensical. If a defensive statement has the well-being of brand employees in mind, it can reach a positive outcome. These outcomes, of course, are generally dependent on the scenario.

What It All Means

What should really be taken away here, is that a Proactive and Defensive response will send very different messages to the consumer. Proactive might mean “I’m here, I am listening, I am goal-oriented.” and defensive might mean “I’m right, and you’re incorrect on this one.”. Unless the defensive statement would be met with good public reception on a broader level, it is usually a much harder response to pull off. If possible, definitely choose to be proactive.

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