What do United, Sean Spicer, Amtrak and Pepsi have in common?

All four waited far too long to respond to horrific videos and global social amplification of their misdeeds before responding (or not responding at all) to a mega reputation crisis.

The new, and emerging enemy, to every organization’s most important asset, reputation, is negative videos that go viral, dominate the news of the day and do incalculable damage to all of the brand equity built up until that point.

Here are four tips you MUST follow if something you, or your employees, said or did that was dead wrong and becomes the news of the day:

1.) Don’t send muddled messages. United sent internal and external statements that, at first, dismissed the manhandling of a passenger.

We live in a visual world. Any neophyte would have seen the airline’s actions were inexcusable. Act at lightning speed to admit fault and try to make things right.

2.) Timing is everything. White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer has perfected the art of not only antagonizing a huge swathe of Americans, but seems to time his inexcusable comments at the worst possible moment (i.e. Passover).

Hitler never gassed his own people? Spicer waited way too long to “correct” and finally apologize. If you, or your team, say something incendiary, issue an immediate apology. Negative news spreads in nanoseconds and can bring down the biggest and smallest companies. Figure out what you’re going to say to put the issue to rest and do it within minutes of the video going viral.

3.) Think about the ripple effect. Pepsi’s Kendall Jenner fiasco was the direct result of the in-house Pepsi communications team not factoring in the ripple effect. Their naïveté in not realizing that “Pepsi is NOT the answer to the world’s problems” was laughably ill-conceived. And partnering with any Kardashian immediately amps up the risk. Like the others, Pepsi waited until the highly offensive video, below, went global before yanking it and apologizing.

4.) Ignore the crisis at your own risk. Amtrak and New Jersey Transit have been absolutely pilloried over the past 10 days for their near total lack of communication, explanation or apologies for horrific delays that paralyzed the Northeast Corridor. The NJT/outraged Mets fan video, below, totally ruined whatever semblance of credibility the country’s worst commuter rail system had remaining in its nearly empty reputation tank. And Amtrak’s lack of a timely response and apology did a major number on its credibility.

In summary, he who hesitates will lose. And don’t kid yourself by thinking that big reputational problems can’t derail small companies. I’ve survived a few myself.

 

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