Reputation is a fickle friend. Both people, and brands, are loved one minute, and hated the next. Volkswagen proved this, when its diesel engine emissions scandal turned many off buying its cars. Likewise, very few people trust banks after the worldwide financial crisis exposed the extent of bad practice among many bankers.
The internet means that the slightest of incidents can be found out and, now that fake news has become a phenomenon, reputations can be damaged by stories that aren't even true. So, what do we need to know about reputation management in today's climate of mistrust, misinformation and mistakes?
1. Be transparent
It's now more important than ever that communication professionals are transparent. If your company has done something wrong, admit it, don't try and turn it around into something that it's not. People are tired of spin, and will appreciate it much more if a company simply tells the truth, something that was one of the key issues during the banking crisis.
2. Never issue a statement too hastily
Being transparent doesn't mean making apologies before you've even investigated the situation, however. Whenever a problem or potential scandal comes up, always issue a "we are investigating this issue" style social media post before you release something longer and more detailed. Your company might not necessarily be in the wrong, and it helps to gather all the details before the press start reporting misinformation that may lead to fake news scandals.
3. Be aware that you're always being watched
So many reputations have been ruined due to computer and mobile phone hacks. Hillary Clinton was an unfortunate reminder of this, when her emails were hacked during the election campaign, damaging her credibility and causing many to vote for Trump instead. As communication professionals, you can't impress enough upon your co-workers, especially those high up in the company, that they need to be careful with all emails and texts, especially those from their work accounts.
4. Charity work is more important than ever
One of the best ways to improve the reputation of your organisation is by getting involved in charity work. This may mean sponsoring some local charities, or ones that are related to your company's field, or setting up special fundraising events. Look to your fellow employees to see if they have any stories to tell about their own personal charitable involvement.
Reputation management is one of the most difficult parts of communication work, but staying abreast of developments in the field is one way we can make it a little easier.