Managing a Brand Crisis

No company is immune from a crisis – it can happen at any time to any brand. How the company handles the crisis will dictate whether the brand survives. That was the topic of a #ConnectChat from earlier this year, which featured Karen Post (@BrandingDiva). Post shared her expertise on how companies can protect their brands against a crisis and rally in the face of disaster.

Post is the author of two books, “Brand Turnaround: How Brands Go Bad and Return to Glory” (McGraw-Hill 2011) and “Brain Tattoos: Creating Unique Brands That Stick to Customers’ Minds” (AMACOM 2004). Since 2000, she has led Brain Tattoo Branding, a firm that provides creative and strategic services to start, grow and manage brands. She is a sought-after speaker and a regular branding contributor on FOX TV.

Following is a recap of the chat:

ProfNet: Karen, thanks so much for joining us today!

Post: It’s great to be with you, spreading the good word on branding. I just did a shot of coffee, so I can type fast.

ProfNet: I’m on my third bottle of Snapple, so I should be able to keep up. I really enjoyed “Brand Turnaround.” It’s fascinating to see brands everyone has written off turn their reputations around.

Post: Yes, so many brands we know and love were on death row and they found redemption: Apple, Ford, Robert Downey Jr., even the Red Cross.

ProfNet: Let’s start with the basics. What is branding?

Post: Branding, as a verb, is the action required to navigate your image, reputation and identity. Your brand is what your market, customers, peers, and vendors think about you, feel about you and expect from you.

ProfNet: What is the difference between marketing and branding?

Post: The different between marketing and branding: Marketing is the process. Your brand is the result.

ProfNet: A brand crisis can happen to any company, large or small, right?

Post: No one is immune to a brand shakeup. It’s all relative. It can be an early obituary if you are not ready. Prepare for potholes.

ProfNet: It seems a day doesn’t go by that we don’t hear about a brand scandal. What do you attribute this to? What role does social media play?

Post: All media is a factor, but especially online. Because it’s 24/7, it can spread like wildfire. And often it’s indexed by search engines, and that time you drank three glasses of wine and danced on the table at Chili’s, it’s there for your great grandkids to see.

ProfNet: That brings up another point: In this digital age, a brand has to always be “on.” Mistakes can no longer be swept under the rug.

Post: When a crisis hits, speed and a fast-lane response is key to a brand’s health. Like I say, 48 hours is the new 72 hours.

ProfNet: Even 48 hours seems like a lot. Why so long?

Post: Great point. It’s often critical for a brand to show up and say, “We know there’s a situation, we are gathering all the facts, and are on it.”

ProfNet: In your book, you talk about “game changers,” strategies that brands can use to turn their image around. Can you give us an example?

Post: There are seven game changers. The first one is: Take responsibility. This does not mean saying you are guilty. It means showing up, letting folks know you share their concerns, and your goal is to find the answer.

ProfNet: Can you give us an example of a brand that did this the right way?

Post: Two excellent examples are Taco Bell. For a few weeks they were Taco Hell, all from a crazy meatless lawsuit. They not only responded, but turned a bad deal into a lot of “on-brand,” lighthearted, fun publicity. Another good example is the Dallas Mavericks and Mark Cuban. They were a lame franchise – empty seats and losing money. Cuban’s leadership was key. His focus on customers and then performance counts. The team played well and won a championship.

ProfNet: What are some brands that got it wrong?

Post: The News of the World, Borders, Saab, Oldsmobile, Lehman Brothers. The verdict is still out on Lindsay Lohan, Herman Cain, Charlie Sheen and Tom Brady’s wife. ;-)

ProfNet: What could they have done differently?

Post: Reading my book helps. Seriously, many brand deaths are from inside the company, operations, over-leverage and sloppy conduct.

ProfNet:  What are the biggest mistakes companies make when it comes to their brand?

Post: Deadly killers: Wrong spokesperson (Tony Hayward), not preparing for potholes, operating in denial mode. At the first signs of bad, get on it!

ProfNet: That’s all the time we have. Thank you so much, Karen, for sharing your branding wisdom.

Post: Thanks so much! This was a blast. If you love branding, please check out my blog at http://www.brandingdiva.com/blog

Author Maria Perez is director of news operations for ProfNet, a service that helps connect journalists with expert sources. To read more from Maria, visit her blog on ProfNet Connect at http://www.profnetconnect.com/profnetmaria/blog/

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