Senior marketer and brand enthusiast This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. leverages years of experience in....more

Brand Reputation on the Line?

Dealing with rumors, mishaps, or plain misinterpretations.

At every industry trade show, it seems I hear something that leads me to believe a manufacturing company could be going out of business or possibly doing something unethical. Inevitably I find the rumor to be a misinterpretation or outright fabrication based on a thread of truth. The sad thing is that rumors almost always do lasting harm to the company being targeted.

Recently, I’ve personally gone through something like this. A college student with the same name as mine listed that she worked for Paper, Film & Foil Converter (PFFC) on her student loan application. Now that her payments are overdue, the debt collection agency has been harassing PFFC and me. At first, we thought the company was scamming us trying to garnish wages, but after three letters and over 10 phone calls to them, we found out what and why this was happening. It’s all cleared up and thankfully my editors Yolanda Simonsis and Claudia Hine worked with me, but I can’t help thinking that it damaged my reputation at least a little!

Things like this happen often. My first job in this industry was to communicate that our company wasn’t going under as competitors were spreading vicious rumors while my company was merging with another. So how do you make the best situations when your good brand name is at risk of damage?

First, address it head-on. Leave no stone unturned once you get wind of something being said. When did the rumor/issue start? Who was talking about it? Where were the discussions held, and how do others believe it got started? Find out as much as you can as fast as you can. The longer you wait to address it, the harder it will be to provide your side of the story.

Next, have sincere one-on-one conversations with everyone you have found to have heard or been involved with the rumor.

Then, go on the offense:

  • Address the issue with the source and set clear boundaries if that is at all possible. Engage them in helping you to “clear the air” in a timely manner.
  • Use public relations to offset the rumor. If the subject suggested you could be out of business, issue a press release relating to increased sales, hiring new talent, forming a new alliance or developing a new product/feature.
  • Arm your sales team. Have your salespeople approach the companies that were in attendance at the show or in the category the rumor was buzzing around in to promote the announcement. Giving them something to address with customers could lead to profitable sales leads just by having something fresh to discuss in person!
  • Finally, be steadfast and consistent. Inconsistencies give others the impression that you are not a straight shooter; hence they’d be more apt to misinterpret or misunderstand you.

Rumors and misinterpretations happen all too often, and with today’s social media tools, they can take down a good reputation quickly. So keep your ears open, and act quickly when you get a hint of some misspeaking. Upon reflecting how I responded to my reputation being damaged by a debt collector, I think I should’ve turned up the intensity of my efforts earlier. In the end, there is a silver lining; I know I have a stronger relationship with PFFC as they stood behind me. (Thanks team!)

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