Posted on: September 27, 2021
“It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.” In today’s world of seemingly constant crisis, Warren Buffett’s words ring truer than ever.
But this begs the question: How do you build your reputation? And, when crisis strikes, how do you prevent that reputation from being ruined?
Public relations can go a long way — long before crisis strikes. PR can help build your bank account of goodwill, granting you the positive capital to survive the ebbs and flows of positive and negative publicity. If you have a positive bank account of goodwill, then typically you can survive a negative “hit” to your reputation and still have a positive balance left over. However, if you already have a negative balance, then you’re just shoveling more and more dirt on the grave that is your business — whether it means a bad news cycle, lost customers or even bankruptcy.
Proactively focusing on PR, even when a crisis seems unlikely, is like having insurance on your business. It helps ensure a steady stream of positivity. For example, it is prudent for businesses to maintain personal relationships with media contacts and conduct media outreach regularly so those media contacts can report favorably on the ebbs and flows of your business. You don’t want to contact a reporter for the first time if and when crisis strikes; ideally, that reporter will already be comfortable with you, leading to more favorable news coverage in a time of need.
When you hire a new marketing director, inform the media. When you win an award in a business competition, inform the media. When you donate money to a local nonprofit, inform the media. When you’re involved at a nearby community service event, inform the media. When you reach an unprecedented sales goal, inform the media.
Of course, you don’t want to overload the media with too much information, so it remains important to distinguish between real news and self-promotion for self-promotion’s sake. However, you can only build a rapport with the media — especially local reporters — by putting yourself and your business out there. And it’s the only way to build that bank account of goodwill.
The reputation “hit” may come. Being in business involves trials and tribulations, not just successes. A CEO may get a DUI. A CFO may be caught embezzling money. Perhaps employees will go on strike and demand union representation. Product recalls are possible. You may even have to scale back the business and lay off workers.
Whatever the crisis may be, mitigating it and surviving the hit means laying a solid foundation beforehand. Building a favorable relationship with a local reporter may be the difference between losing 10% of your business and losing 90% of it. Securing a lukewarm news story, rather than an outright hit piece, could save the CEO his job or the CFO hers.
You never know how far positive capital can go, but it goes far!
Put yourself in the position of a paying customer who searches for your company on Google. If that customer sees no positive news stories and a couple of negative ones, they will be less likely to give you their business. However, if they see 10 positive news stories and a negative one, chances are, they will be more likely to look past it and trust your business.
Reputation is a matter of perception. In the end, what the customer sees or thinks is ultimately all that matters. When it comes to branding, how the customer feels is everything. They want to feel positively, not negatively.
That’s where PR comes into play. Build a bank account of goodwill, and others are more likely to reward you for it with their hard-earned dollars.
This article originally appeared on the Forbes Agency Council CommunityVoice in July 2021.