4 PR gaffes that jeopardize your reputation

In today’s media climate, consumer trust is the most valuable commodity your organization can possess. Here are four mistakes that damage public confidence.

There are few things as stressful as managing a PR disaster.

When crisis strikes, and the reputation of your business is questioned, there’s so much to do. You’re working overtime to control the damage and trying to figure out how to get out of this situation and back to where you once were.

Sometimes, it can take months or years before your reputation is restored. In other cases, it can’t be done, and you’re living with this weight on your shoulders forever.

Warren Buffet knew what he was talking about when he said, “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.”

Here are four PR catastrophes communicators should be careful to avoid:

1. Social media outbursts

Social media is a brilliant marketing tool, but it can also be the cause of many PR calamities.

Sometimes an organization will take to social media to voice controversial opinions that land them in hot water, perhaps as an aggressive response to abuse and criticism from online trolls. Other times it can be the result of pure carelessness or a lack of understanding of the power of social media and how it can affect your brand.

A salient example of this is a tweet from Chase Bank just a few days ago, since deleted.

The company thought it was sharing good advice, but critics found the message ridiculous and demeaning to the general population. For a company that’s already got a somewhat dodgy reputation, this kind of flub can do plenty of damage.

Think twice before you post anything on social media. If there’s the slightest chance it’s controversial or offensive, refrain from posting.

2. Customer data leaks

This is every business’s worst nightmare.

If the data of your customers has been compromised, hackers might leak the data online, or most likely use it for personal gain. Think about everything you’ve got stored about your customers; payment info, addresses, names and more.

If you don’t have a good enough end-to-end identity verification service in place, then it’s all too easy for someone to break into a customer’s account, steal their information, and go on a spending spree. Similarly, if your security isn’t up to scratch, your entire system can be compromised, leading to thousands of customers’ being affected.

This is a huge PR disaster as your business now takes the blame for all of this.

Why would someone decide to come to you if they’re worried their data could be compromised in the future? It takes a lot to repair the damage from this, which is why prevention is key.

3. Advertising errors

So many companies have spent a lot of time creating ads for their products, only for things to turn into a bit of a PR disaster.

Fashion brand H&M is a good example of this with one of their products from last year being advertised in a way that was seen as casual racism. These types errors often occur when a company doesn’t pay attention.

However, you can avoid landing in PR hot water if you invest time and money in listening to your audience before creating and launching a campaign. Hear them how they talk, what they talk about, what they care about and what matters to them. The extra effort will save you tons of headaches, apologies and handwringing.

The H&M example is nowhere near as bad as some other ones out there. Typically, the biggest advertising faux pas come when a company tries to be funny but just totally misses the mark.

4. Dishonesty

If your company is ever caught lying about something, then you’ll face a lot of backlash from all corners. This behavior also presents you as untrustworthy and sneaky, which can customers scurrying to your competitors. Always be honest when marketing products, selling them and so on.

When you know what can damage your business reputation, take active measures to mitigate the risk. When it comes to protecting your good name, you can’t un-ring the bell of a PR disaster.

Corina Manea is a digital marketer and blogger. She helps entrepreneurs build their personal brands online and grow communities on social media. A version of this article ran on her Nuts PR blog.

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