Trust your brand

For as long as there have been corporations, there have been corporate crises. But while these sorts of failures certainly aren’t new, a backdrop of global uncertainty, rising costs and job security concerns have all seen the level of public awareness and scrutiny out there intensify.

Looking ahead to the future, it’s never been more critical for businesses and their leaders to be actively building reputation and trust – with their own people and out in the world.

At its simplest, this is about doing what you say you’re going to do.

But if there’s one added dimension that’s emerged in recent times, it’s the growing emphasis on corporate conscience and governance. The latest FutureBrand Index spotlighted that people are actively rejecting brands that fail to practice what they preach – and that corporate reputation and trust are even more of an emerging threat to business success than climate change.

Brands are created with purpose but ultimately defined by the everyday experiences they deliver. In good times – and in bad – words are never enough. Everything must come back to relevant, tangible action and positive impact. So, whether it’s as minor as a series of underwhelming experiences or something far more significant, the degree to which reputations are damaged depends on how these brands respond in the moments that truly matter.

Here are three key ways corporations navigate crises – and come out the other side with their brand reputation still intact.

1. Get the basics right

The top-performing brands in the FutureBrand Index are all considered to be ‘trustworthy’, as well as strong on ‘purpose’, ‘thought leadership’ and ‘innovation’. The data suggests that brands with a clear sense of the future with strong ideas and principles – while consistently delivering products and services that are genuinely useful – are best positioned to withstand even the trickiest of times.

One of the most critical things to remember in response to any perceived failure is that it’s often not simply an issue of a single misstep. In fact, it can be symptomatic of not getting the basics right. We often hear about the importance of elevating key brand moments to create meaningful friction that is memorable and adds value. An important caveat, however, is ensuring that you’re still meeting the core needs of your customer so that above all else you’re still able to deliver on what you promise.

2. Keep people informed to reduce uncertainty

Plenty has been written about the importance of reducing the uncertainty through an experience since people are often quick to catastrophise a situation at times when there isn’t enough information available. Building channels and processes to help keep people informed about what happened, what will happen next and what they can do, goes a long way to improving an experience. Not just in moments of crisis, but in every part of the journey.

There have even been research studies that show how people would rather wait longer for a delivery than not know when it’ll arrive. The insight to take from this is that if you can let people know what is happening and what they can expect next, there will be a lot more forgiveness and leeway given, while you try and make it right.

3. Make it worthwhile

The FutureBrand Index talks about the importance of ‘purpose relevance’, which is all about organisations standing for – and delivering on – the things that people truly care about as a way to counter eroding levels of societal confidence, corporate trust and rising fears. When things do go wrong, it’s important that what you’re doing to make it right is both valuable and easy for the people whom you’re looking to compensate. In instances where brands want to do the right thing by customers, but the quick-fix experience isn’t as easy, seamless and worthwhile as they can make it, then it can end up leaving brands worse off.

However, if done the right way, a good experience putting it right can mean that a brand can be actually better off than before: people will remember how the brand acted to make things right over and above what went wrong.

No business is immune to a potential crisis, and no brand can ever entirely avoid the risk of a damaged reputation. By actively taking steps before a negative experience takes place to deliver a better everyday experience – and then being transparent, thoughtful and understanding if things do take a turn for the worse – businesses are better equipped to navigate these sorts of situations. And to come out the other side with less impact to their customers and to their own reputations, and a brighter future ahead.

This article was first published by Mumbrella on 10 April 2024

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