The Business That Story Built podcast

65: Reputation Management & Crisis Communication with Pat Ford

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PR Series

In this episode I interview Pat Ford, a Professional-in-Residence at the University of Florida and was the former CEO of Burson-Marstellar, about what reputation management means, why it matters for the success of your business, and how to prepare for a crisis before you have one.

Some top tips …

The more goodwill you demonstrate to your audience strengthens your reputation enough to withstand some negativity. If you don’t put forth the time and effort to fill it enough, anything negative about your company can potentially sink your business. It’s like filling a kitchen sink with water or filling a reservoir. If you pour one cup of contaminated water into a kitchen sink, you’ve ruined the water. If you’ve filled a reservoir, one cup of contaminated water can be balanced by the rest.

The pre-crisis phase of a crisis communication plan happens when everything is going fine during everyday business. You always need to be ready, because if not, you won’t be ready when it’s needed. The crisis management team should include the company’s head of PR or communications, someone in operations, the general counsel or someone from legal, someone from finance who deals with investors and funding sources, the social media manager, HR, and CIO or head of cybersecurity.

You can’t always trust the first reports you hear about a crisis. Just like during the fog of war, a crisis

Don’t underestimate how crucially important your employees are during a crisis. According to Harold Burson, “Your employees are someone’s best expert on your company. They are either your greatest ambassador or your fiercest critic.”

The post-crisis phase includes demonstrating that you’ve correctly identified the problem, and either guaranteeing that it won’t happen again or that you can minimize the chance of it happening again. The second part of this phase is rebuilding your reputation.

Before issuing a corporate apology, be ready to hear stories and express sympathy and concern for those who were affected as you learn the facts about who/what is to blame. The fog of crisis is confusing and filled with high emotions. Wait to issue a response until you find definitive facts. Regardless of whether or not the company is to blame, the public always expects them to lead the solution.

If you haven’t refreshed your crisis plan at least once in the past year, it may be obsolete.

This episode at glance …

>> (5:05-7:00) An equation to measure and improve your brand’s reputation

>> (7:05-10:00) Kitchen sink vs. reservoir example of reputation management

>> (10:30-12:05) The Page Principles

>> (12:10-22:00) How to create a crisis plan

>> (22:00-24) What to anticipate during a crisis

>> (24:15-30:30) How Domino’s Pizza came out stronger after a crisis and what others can learn

>> (30:35-32:15) How Tylenol’s historic recall in the ‘80s changed the industry

>> (32:35-34:00) Resist the temptation to call an end to a crisis too soon

>> (34:05-35:00) Rebuilding a reputation

>> (35:05-41:30) Handling corporate apologies

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Ways to reach Pat Ford & Christie Bilbrey


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