The fallout from a PR crisis may drive a business to try to reinvent itself in the eyes of the public. In such a case, rebranding is about more than simply changing the look and feel of the company’s marketing and advertising. A crisis-driven rebrand must be authentic if it is to achieve the purpose of rehabilitating a brand below the surface.
If consumers sense a rebranding effort is not genuine but merely a stunt intended to help the company escape public censure, they’re less likely to be on board with it going forward. In the long run, this could impact business significantly if loyal customers are disappointed by the brand’s efforts.
So how can a company ensure the success of a rebrand driven by a PR crisis without risking further damage to its reputation? Below, nine experts from Forbes Agency Council look at vital steps involved in the process of rebranding to ensure that customers will see it as a true change in the business’s values.
1. Acknowledge Missteps
You can’t start fresh without first acknowledging that you messed up or missed a past opportunity. When you launch the new brand, admit that you have work to do and that it starts with a new brand direction. If you slap together a shiny new brand as a means to sweep the dust under the rug without an authentic acknowledgement of past missteps, then it will be met with additional criticism. – Lindsey Groepper, BLASTmedia
2. Practice Total Transparency
During a crisis, it’s always important to listen to consumers through open discussion and address their concerns. I’ve always focused on total transparency to help highlight issues and find resolutions. You will never be able to please everyone; but a crisis usually presents an opportunity for improvement. Use it to improve policies, educate staff or change the way you do business. – Brian Meert, AdvertiseMint
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3. Reconnect With Your Core Values
Consider the PR crisis as an opportunity to reconnect with your core values. A brand is like a soul, and a crisis offers an avenue for introspection and rebirth. Involve your employees, command authenticity and invest in customer journey research that provides a deep understanding of your ideal audiences. Then, design your marketing strategy to connect with them and attract them to your brand. – Mary Ann O’Brien, OBI Creative
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4. Respond Immediately
A PR crisis is bound to hit, and when it does, don’t hide or ignore the situation. Rather, take responsibility and face the crisis head-on while making immediate, action-based decisions, no excuses or denial. With the immediate response in place, make sure not to make promises you cannot keep. – Timothy Nichols, ExactDrive, Inc
5. Clarify A True Course Correction
A rebrand as a result of a crisis will come across as authentic if it is, in fact, authentic. It’s important for companies and executives to take a hard look at what caused the crisis in the first place. Like people, brands are always growing and evolving, so there’s nothing wrong with missing the mark as long as it’s clear that there’s a true course correction. – Danielle Sabrina, Tribe Builder Media
6. Show Real Change In Personnel And Processes
A simple rebranding isn’t enough to overcome a PR crisis. The public needs to see real changes in personnel and internal processes that reflect the rebrand. Consumers and businesses are much more skeptical nowadays, and social media will echo any skepticism. A PR-crisis rebrand gone wrong is a larger PR crisis waiting to happen. – Douglas Karr, Highbridge
7. Build The New Brand Around The Customer
The most important thing is to build the new brand based on a brief that has the customer in mind—what the customer needs and why the brand, in itself, answers such needs—and not from a company perspective. When the brand is built around customer expectations and needs, it comes with an authentic value proposition. The messaging needs also to speak the customers’ language and bring the value they expect from the brand. – Elissar Hajj Zarwi, Comma Hub
8. Get Your Entire Workforce On Board
The most important thing is to ensure that your entire staff understands and agrees to the rebranding. That is a great way to know that you have all on board. You also need to share all of the updated collateral and announcements in advance so that everyone knows what you are changing as well. These kinds of PR announcements will ensure that the entire staff knows the right alignment. – Jon James, Ignited Results
9. Stand For Your Brand’s Values
Don’t rebrand because of the PR crisis. Rebrand because your brand stands for something important. A PR crisis is an opportunity for you to stand for your brand’s values, and rebranding may strengthen those values. The events that come after rebranding will then have to focus on the authenticity of your brand wanting to make things better instead of on rebranding your company from scratch. – Solomon Thimothy, OneIMS
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Author: Expert Panel®, Forbes Councils Member