How to Manage Online Reputation Crises

managing online reputation crises

Online reputation crisis happens when any kind of negative information related to your company starts spreading. A single negative review is not a reputation crisis. But if that customer’s negative experience with your company is being actively discussed on several social media channels, turns into memes, and gets shared among friends – that is a reputation crisis.

Reputation problems occur not only as a result of unsatisfied customers. Unhappy (past) employees can voice their frustration in public. Or a malware attack can result in unfortunate misunderstandings or even data leaks.

There may be many reasons for a reputation crisis, in fact, so many, that hardly any brand can consider itself safe from one. Social media has given negative comments wings. It is too easy to suddenly see your brand name mentioned in a negative context all over the web, whether your business is big or small. That negative footprint may take years to get rid of.

While any business is dreading facing a reputation crisis, knowing how to react if it happens is fundamental to a speedy recovery.

1. Make sure you will be the first to know

The earlier you realize there’s a reputation crisis coming (or already happening), the better. A crisis often fades away as soon as the business steps in to clarify and fix the situation. A well-set-up social media listening strategy is an effective way to ensure your team and you are promptly alerted of negative comments or publications.

Awario is a solid platform that uses Artificial Intelligence to prioritize important negative mentions and notify you right away. You can set up Awario to send Slack notifications which will come straight to your phone.

How to Manage Online Reputation Crises

2. Investigate the situation quickly but thoroughly

While getting an alert is important, don’t rush to respond to those comments right away. Try to avoid getting too emotional and remain quiet until you know what actually happened.

Emotions can make things much worse. If there’s an unhappy customer or customers voicing dissatisfaction, reply that you are investigating the matter and will keep them updated. If there’s a quick fix to an issue (e.g. a refund or a website clean-up), make sure it is fixed as quickly as possible.

3. Publish an official response

Once you know what is going on, you can post your brand’s official response. Use all your digital media channels to make sure a lot of people are reached. These include your own site, social media channels, and other offsite channels, like press releases.

Here’s a great list of crisis recovery case studies, and here are press release examples for you to have resources ready for when you need them.

Your official response needs to be neutral and professional. Keep in mind that those press releases can rank for your brand name, so focus on what has been done rather than what actually happened. You need to control the sentiment and steer it to the positive side.

How to Manage Online Reputation Crises

4. Take a pause, then evaluate the impact

Taking a pause is important because you and your team need time to put emotions aside and move on. Even the biggest scandals die out eventually as people lose interest in discussing them any further.

After a few months, you can go back and evaluate the impact as well as figure out what kind of lessons you have learned from the situation.

But before that keep yourself and your team busy with something else. Try to do something useful, yet distracting. This is a time to start a seasonal mini-project to move away from your brand name and try something new. Namify could offer you lots of ideas. Somehow I always feel inspired by just looking at fun names it suggests.

Or run your keyword through Text Optimizer to find some content ideas to keep yourself busy. This is a good time to create something new, invest in lead magnets, or even set up a course.


Once some time passes, start investigating what kind of footprint that reputation crisis caused and how to eliminate the impact. Search for your name in Google and run your brand name through Google Autocomplete tools to see if there are any traces left from that incident. This is important to try and rank your own assets for all of Google’s suggestions Google is showing for your brand name.

This tool will run your brand name through Google Autocomplete’s suggestions and expand them using every letter of the alphabet giving you the full picture of how your name is being searched. Look for any suggestions with potentially negative connotations and create content to address all those search queries:

brand name suggestions

5. Don’t take it personally

It is too easy to take these situations personally. However, the truth is even very well-organized organizations that take pride in their culture may inevitably face a reputation crisis. Mistakes and misunderstandings happen. And that’s just what any brand needs to be ready to cope with. You’ve got this.

6. Leverage Customer Advocacy

In times of crisis, your loyal customers can be your best advocates. Encourage satisfied customers to share their positive experiences and counterbalance the negative narrative. Their authentic testimonials can significantly boost your credibility and help repair your online reputation.

7. Monitor and Address Concerns on Review Sites

Actively monitor popular review sites like Yelp, Google Reviews, and industry-specific platforms. Address negative reviews professionally and offer solutions where possible. Showcasing your commitment to customer satisfaction in public forums can mitigate the impact of a few negative reviews.

8. Engage in Community Outreach

Participate in community events or initiate charitable programs. Positive involvement in community services can enhance your brand’s image and overshadow negative sentiments. These activities demonstrate your company’s commitment beyond just business operations.

9. Strengthen Your Digital PR Efforts

In the wake of a reputation crisis, invest in digital public relations. Collaborate with reputable online publications to feature your brand’s story, achievements, or community initiatives. Positive press coverage can play a pivotal role in reshaping public perception.

10. Reassess and Update Your Online Content

Audit your existing online content, including your website, blog, and social media profiles. Update them to reflect your current brand values and messaging. Fresh and relevant content can help in pushing down negative search results over time.

11. Conduct a Sentiment Analysis

Utilize tools for sentiment analysis to gauge the public’s current perception of your brand. Understanding the general sentiment can guide your content strategy and communication efforts to address specific areas of concern.

12. Implement Crisis Simulation Training

Prepare your team for potential future crises with simulation exercises. Training in crisis management ensures your team is better equipped to handle similar situations swiftly and effectively, minimizing potential damage.

13. Develop a Recovery Campaign

Plan a strategic marketing campaign focused on brand recovery. This could include highlighting recent improvements, showcasing new offerings, or reiterating your brand’s core values. A well-crafted campaign can help shift the narrative and rejuvenate your brand’s image.

14. Foster a Culture of Transparency

Internally, cultivate a culture of openness and accountability. When your team understands the importance of maintaining a positive online presence, they can proactively contribute to safeguarding the brand’s reputation.

15. Use Data to Inform Future Strategies

Analyze data from the crisis to understand what triggered it and how it evolved. Use these insights to inform your future marketing and communication strategies, ensuring a more resilient approach to reputation management.

Incorporating these strategies into your approach for managing online reputation crises can provide a comprehensive and proactive plan to not only manage the current situation but also to build a more resilient brand for the future.

Managing an Online Reputation Crisis: Effective Recovery Strategies

In today’s digital age, an online reputation crisis can occur suddenly, threatening your brand’s image. To navigate such situations and recover swiftly, follow these essential steps:

  • Swift Awareness: Stay informed about potential reputation crises using tools like Awario. Setting up real-time alerts for negative mentions helps you respond promptly.
  • Thorough Understanding: Before reacting, thoroughly investigate the issue. Avoid emotional responses and focus on comprehending the situation from all angles.
  • Official Response: Craft an official response and distribute it across various digital platforms: your website, social media channels, and press releases. Use a professional tone and emphasize the actions taken to address the situation.
  • Evaluate Long-Term Impact: Give time for the dust to settle. After a few months, assess the incident’s impact on your brand’s reputation and identify lessons learned.
  • Maintain Perspective: Avoid taking the situation personally. Even well-established brands face crises. Prepare your team to handle challenges and turn them into growth opportunities.
StepDescriptionKey Actions
Swift AwarenessStay informed using tools like Awario. Set up real-time alerts for negative mentions to respond promptly.- Utilize social listening tools - Set up real-time alerts - Monitor negative mentions - Promptly respond to potential crises
Thorough UnderstandingInvestigate the issue comprehensively before reacting. Avoid emotional responses and understand the situation from all angles.- Gather information about the issue - Avoid emotional reactions - Understand the context and details of the crisis
Official ResponseCraft an official response and distribute it across digital platforms. Maintain a professional tone and emphasize the actions taken to address the situation.- Prepare an official response - Share on website, social media, and press releases - Use a professional tone - Highlight steps taken to resolve the issue
Evaluate Long-Term ImpactAllow time for emotions to settle. Assess the crisis's impact on brand reputation after a few months. Identify lessons learned and growth opportunities.- Wait for emotions to subside - Assess the crisis's impact - Identify lessons and improvements - Consider the crisis as a growth opportunity
Maintain PerspectiveAvoid personalizing the situation. Understand that even established brands face crises. Prepare your team to handle challenges and view them as opportunities for growth.- Avoid personalizing the crisis - Recognize that challenges happen to all brands - Equip the team for crisis management - Approach challenges as chances to improve and grow.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is an online reputation crisis?

An online reputation crisis occurs when negative information related to your company spreads widely. This can involve multiple negative reviews, discussions on various social media channels, the creation of memes, and sharing among friends. A single negative review might not constitute a crisis, but widespread negative attention can damage your brand’s image significantly.

What causes reputation problems?

Reputation problems can stem from various sources. Apart from dissatisfied customers, unhappy past employees can publicly voice their frustrations. Malware attacks can also lead to misunderstandings or data leaks, impacting your brand’s reputation.

Is any brand immune to a reputation crisis?

No brand can consider itself completely safe from a reputation crisis. With the prevalence of social media, negative comments can quickly spread, regardless of the business’s size. Your brand name can be mentioned negatively across the web, making it crucial to be prepared to address such situations.

How can I proactively address a reputation crisis?

Being the first to know about a potential crisis is vital. Implement a social media listening strategy to promptly alert your team about negative comments or publications. Tools like Awario, with AI-powered features and notification capabilities, can help you stay ahead of potential issues.

How should I approach investigating a crisis situation?

Upon receiving an alert, resist the urge to react immediately. Investigate the matter thoroughly to understand the situation fully. Avoid emotional responses, especially if the crisis involves dissatisfied customers. Communicate that you are investigating and assure affected parties that updates will be provided.

What should I consider when crafting an official response?

Once you have a clear understanding of the situation, publish an official response. Utilize your digital media channels, including your website, social media, and press releases, to ensure widespread reach. Maintain a neutral and professional tone, highlighting the actions taken to address the issue rather than dwelling on the specifics of the crisis.

How should I evaluate the long-term impact of a reputation crisis?

Allow some time for the initial emotions to settle. After a few months, assess the impact of the crisis on your brand’s reputation. Identify the lessons learned from the situation and determine how you can avoid similar issues in the future.

What steps should I take to maintain perspective during a crisis?

Avoid taking the crisis personally. Even well-organized organizations can face reputation challenges. Prepare your team to handle such situations and consider them as opportunities for growth and improvement.

Can a crisis be mitigated through distraction?

Engaging in productive and distracting activities during the aftermath of a crisis can be beneficial. Consider starting a seasonal mini-project or exploring creative ideas. Tools like Namify can offer inspiration for new endeavors.

How can I address the lingering impact of a reputation crisis?

Investigate the residual impact of the reputation crisis by checking Google search results and using Google Autocomplete tools. Create content to address any negative suggestions associated with your brand. Over time, focus on ranking positive assets to outweigh the negative ones.

What mindset should I adopt during a reputation crisis?

While it’s natural to take such situations personally, it’s essential to remember that even well-established organizations can face challenges. Mistakes and misunderstandings happen in any business. Adopt a proactive and strategic approach to navigate and recover from a reputation crisis effectively.

Image: Envato Elements

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Ann Smarty Ann Smarty is the founder of Viral Content Bee, a social media marketing platform, and the founder of SEO Smarty, an SEO consulting and link building agency.