I had the pleasure last month of presenting to a national symposium of consulting engineers and other professional service firms. We had some terrific questions from the floor.
One question that has stuck with me is, “How do you rebuild reputation after a crisis?”
There are no shortcuts to brand and reputation recovery. Indeed, some studies indicate that it takes roughly four years for a company to fully repair a damaged reputation. I suggest there at least three essential steps to post-crisis reputation recovery:
1. Fix the problem, or at least take practical steps towards making sure there’s no repeat. JPMorgan Chase’s recent management reshuffle is a case in point: it is widely seen as creating more checks and balances to restore investors’ trust following the bank’s $6 billion trading losses.
2. Repair relationships with the people who are most important to your business – your customers, employees, investors and partners. If at fault, front up and apologise. If resolving an issue, tell them how – and how you will make things right.
3. Sustain results in the post-crisis environment. Politicians talk about getting ‘clear air’, when issues abate and positive messages can be heard. It’s the same for crisis recoverers: it needs a sustained period of good performance, an avoidance of any repeat crises and a demonstration that your company’s values are being adhered to.
None of this will be easy or quick. Four years is a long time to restore your reputation.
In fact, it’s the same time frame faced by any athlete who’s missed gold in London and wants to improve their ranking in Rio. For companies, too, rebuilding reputation is an Olympic-sized challenge.