How to Protect Yourself Against a Self-Inflicted Reputational Disaster

All businesses strive to achieve the best balance between what they want to project or sell alongside captivating and persuading the widest audience. These two elements can be conflicting if the business is trying to persuade an audience that is not captivated or interested in what the business is offering. The problems arise when the business employs methods and techniques that act as a repellant to potential clients and customers. Here the business has seriously misjudged the message it is trying to deliver and the worst outcome is achieved – a loss in reputation to the business and its brand as a whole.

This self-inflicted harm should obviously be avoided at all costs. The level of reputational damage can be significant especially if the story catches the attention of social media. The potential reach for a reputational issue is magnified tenfold when traction is gained across social media.

Siemens experienced exactly this issue when rebranding its healthcare division to the ‘Healthineers’, commented upon as being possibly the most embarrassing corporate rebranding event ever. The rebranding fiasco has been captured within the mainstream press, but more damagingly it has gathered enough momentum on social media to be on the verge of going viral. For Siemens the implications are the ridicule of a division that has a 120 year old well regarded reputation. The further implications to its sales, customer retention, competitive standing and ongoing brand integrity are unknown but potentially extremely damaging.

This self-inflicted harm should obviously be avoided at all costs. The level of reputational damage can be significant especially if the story catches the attention of social media. The potential reach for a reputation management issue is magnified tenfold when traction is gained across social media.

When a business inflicts this level of reputational damage to its brand and integrity, it is time to examine why the rebrand was considered and implemented. The following questions should be asked –

  • Why was a rebrand considered necessary?
  • What research and proof points were used to confirm the validity of the rebrand?
  • Was a test audience used?
  • Did feedback confirm the branding was right?

The lessons learnt from asking these questions should be fed back into the business to ensure that this level of harm is not repeated. A business like Siemens that has a global presence may well recover from a reputational issue, even if it has gone viral, but smaller or less well established businesses will not. Reputation should be regarded as a company asset and protected in the same way that customers and physical assets are. When reputational issues become public knowledge and are reported widely across social media the damage can be irreversible. Businesses should guard against what they put online and be vigilant to what is being discussed about them online.

This self-inflicted harm should obviously be avoided at all costs. The level of reputational damage can be significant especially if the story catches the attention of social media. The potential reach for a reputational issue is magnified tenfold when traction is gained across social media.