Bernard O'Riordan, Media Trainer
When your corporate reputation has been so severely trashed that the public like you even less than they do the tax man, then you know you are a brand in crisis.
That’s the unenviable position the Commonwealth Bank finds itself in as 2018 draws to a close, having breached money-laundering and terrorism-funding laws, offering dodgy financial advice, mis-selling insurance and treating life insurance customers harshly.
The reputation of the Commonwealth Bank, Australia’s biggest company by market capitalisation, also took a major beating at the Banking Royal Commission, with shock admissions eroding trust and hitting the company’s bottom line.
But CBA wasn’t alone, with financial planning scandals and deep-rooted cultural and ethical problems shredding the iconic AMP brand and its share price, along with National Australia Bank.
Even our national past-time - sport - took a massive beating, with a ball-tampering scandal tearing Cricket Australia apart from top to bottom, while allegations of sexual assault, domestic violence and salary cap rorting continue to drag the National Rugby League (NRL) through the mud.
From cheating and fraud to questionable crisis management tactics, 2018 has definitely been a year when many of our iconic brands have gone from hero to zero.
There'll no doubt be a lot of big brands and CEOs in damage control when the Hayne Royal Commission hands down its findings in February.
What long term impacts these incidents have remains to be seen. But with their financial wellbeing inextricably linked to their reputation, it’s vital these organisations take swift, credible and genuine steps to rebuild trust in the year ahead.
The Five Most Damaged Brands of 2018
How To Win Back Trust After A Crisis
When you lose your most essential brand value – trust – everything you do or say in the future will be questioned and put under the microscope. And rightly so.
If a crisis-hit brand can respond with empathy (understanding the expectations of employees, customers, fans or corporate partners), diligence (showing a commitment to solving the problem) and honesty (taking responsibility), it can rebuild trust and emerge in a much stronger position.
Here are some actionable steps these five big Aussie brands should consider as they hit the road to redemption.
ACKNOWLEDGE THE SITUATION
It’s vital to acknowledge the gravity of a situation even if you can’t comment specifically on the issues at hand. There’s no worse message you can send to your stakeholders, employees, customers and the broader public than being silent, slow to communicate or in denial. Eventually, every big brand that errs should draw a line in the sand and admit they got it wrong, or by providing a genuine apology. At the very least there should be transparency and a message of reassurance that you have learned from the errors of your ways. The future of your brand depends on it.
DO THE RIGHT THING
After any scandal, crisis or tragedy, actions should be driven by a desire to do the right thing and be more transparent. Put yourself in the shoes of your investors, customers or fans: what would it take to win back your trust after a scandal or crisis? Build out from there. Forget what the legal department might be telling you, there comes a time when you must stop hiding behind lawyers and start to show real compassion, regret and empathy. Understand that you’re dealing with real people who have real emotions and real concerns. You can boost trust by making your business more transparent and allowing more people to see how your organisation operates.
CALL OFF THE WAR
Too often in a crisis, company’s go on a war footing with the media, creating further bad blood that paints their brand in a bad light. As difficult as it might be, you need to understand the media is not the enemy, they are just doing their job. If you wage war with the reporters who covered your crisis, as AMP is accused of doing, the road to redemption will be longer and more arduous than it needs to be. Let it go, for the sake of the brand.
HAVE A VOICE ON SOCIAL MEDIA
The risk of long and lasting reputational damage following a crisis is now much greater thanks to social media and the speed at which negative comments can be shared. That’s why it’s vital to step up your social media activities and start painting the brand in the right light. Monitor the sentiment on Twitter and Facebook and act quickly and decisively to not only fix the problems, but to assure people you do take their concerns seriously. False and damaging claims that go unchallenged often are perceived as fact on social media.
> Here's a link to the final report and recommendations from the Hayne Royal Commission, released in February 2019.
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