Much Ado About Nothing

Why you should tactfully manage your brand reputation 

Managing brand reputation can sound quite daunting, but it can be as simple as writing content for this blog informing you, the audience, about something important regarding the industry on a website that works smoothly and is easy to manage. 

But, sometimes, it requires more than what’s on this web page right now as you read this sentence while being distracted by several other things and thoughts. Sometimes, it requires a strong concoction of public relations blitzes, content strategies, search engine optimisation and social media strategy. But most times, it demands tactfulness.  

All publicity is not good publicity.

Gone are the pre-internet days when bad publicity could propel a company in the limelight and a well manufactured public relations spin would turn public perception around. You don’t get the news just in your morning or evening newspaper anymore, nor do you need to turn on the radio to hear what’s buzzing. Google reads your habits and pings you with choice tidbits of controversy and scandal and sensationalism right in your notifications bar. You don’t even need to unlock your phone anymore. 

Today, image sells and image sinks. A single viral vine can turn you into an overnight sensation, and even a whisper of malpractice is enough to plant seeds of doubt in your audience and prompt a swift response from your most benevolent and trusted investors. 

Controversy is the number one weapon for online reputation warfare, and only few tend to ride the negative wave, and those end up being populist politicians more of than not. 

It is important to cremate the skeletons that lie beyond the six feet grave before you voice your opinion about anything political or controversial as a collective or an individual brand.

A cautionary example is of Hollywood director James Gunn, the creative head of the successful Guardians of the Galaxymovie series for Marvel Studios and the recent else-world villainous superman film Brightburn. A vocal critic of the current American government, he made his opinions known time and again on Twitter, only to be responded to by trolls who unearthed tweets from nearly a decade ago with some terribly dark and shock humour. Within hours, James Gunn was trending on social media, and covered by news sites and channels, and swiftly fired by Disney, parent company of Marvel Studios. 

There was more to this story, as James Gunn had previously approached the media before he directed the first Guardians of the Galaxy film and came clean regarding his distasteful humour and promised to make amends. This was before 2013, and though there was outrage regarding his tweets in forums and on comments section of news sites, due to the lack of the intricately connected nature of the current social media network, the story withered into anonymity quickly. But, James Gunn, while staying true to his resolution to abandon his Troma inspired brand of humour, did not in fact delete those tweets, and forgot about it as he grew into a voice of equality, social justice and progressive views. 

The news cycle was far less forgiving the second time the story was resurrected, and despite a bulk deletion of tweets, the damage was done. But here’s where things get muddled in brand reputation management. 

Disney’s impulsive firing of James Gunn was not received well by the public, the media and even its own employees, partners and stakeholders. Several bankable actors employed by the studio threatened to quit in solidarity and the media perception shifted from a witch trial for Gunn to a story of the internet being unforgiving to celebrities who have made a positive turn of character, and Disney came under heavy criticism, accused of abandoning its star director to save its reputation. While James Gunn’s tweets died down in a few weeks, Disney’s decision continued to gain traction in news circles for months, until it was revealed that James Gunn has been reinstated as the director of the Guardians of the Galaxyfilms. 

By this time, plenty of Disney’s negative incidents were brought to the fore and the negative publicity hurt the company more than the original reason that kickstarted this, especially criticism that pointed out Disney’s awareness of the tweets all along and its lack of action until it became a problem in the public eye. 

Proactive and pre-emptive management of any and all negative aspects related to your brand is imperative, but so is careful and well-thought reaction and response after a controversy has been brewed. Once the hot tea is served, you can only cool it down, not change the flavour of it once its sipped.   

Owning up to mistakes, offering a sincere apology and promising to rectify errors is always better than contesting public criticism. Remember, the brand works so well because it is relatable, and when a brand is relatable, it is often conflated to be human, and we love holding other people accountable, especially if they are popular or public figures. Empathising with your audience’s point of view and mirroring their thought process will help in crafting a perfect response that does its best to minimise further controversy. 

The small things matter, your reputation is the sum of your actions.

On a more day-to-day level, its crucial to put your best foot forward at all times. Avoid conflict with your customers/audience, and never get personal or emotional in your response. Pepper the good bits over a long period of time, because consistent influx of positive word about your brand will be more effective than bursts of keyword spam. 

Anything you say may be used against you in a court of public opinion. You have the option to consult an in-house communications professional before speaking to the public and to have a team present during the approval of your brand reputation strategy now or in the future. If you cannot afford a full-time staff to manage your brand and its reputation, Jester is willing to provide its services and expertise if you wish.

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