Pepsi. Home Depot. Target. United Airlines. From big brands to local car dealers, from celebrities to athletes, a PR nightmare can hit anyone. For businesses, this is often customer-related, and how the company handles it makes a huge difference in how customers react.
But what about that company’s employees? What about prospective employees? No one wants their name associated with a brand that has a negative reputation, and employees and job candidates are no different.
That viral video of a customer’s poor customer service experience at your location can lead to more than just a loss of customers and sales. It can mean that good prospects never even apply for positions that you have open.
Your public brand impacts your employer brand and vice versa. But how do we fix it?
If you’ve had a recent or even past issue with the public perception of your brand, address it immediately.
If you have experienced a PR issue, be prepared to answer candidate questions, especially if the conflict involved a supervisor or a conflict between personnel. The applicant wants to know that they will not find themselves in a similar situation and that you have taken appropriate action.
This may mean an in-depth look at your personnel, your training process, and your policies and procedures. Look at your culture from top to bottom, and if there is a systemic issue, work to find the source and remove it.
If you run a business long enough, you are going to get bad reviews and customer complaints. This means that depending on your reaction, a branding crisis can be right around the corner at any time. And with a cell phone and a camera in everyone’s pocket, it’s as likely to go viral as it is not.
Don’t forget your employer brand when you are handling this type of crisis. You’ll want to clarify your company culture and make sure potential candidates understand this is not the “norm” in your workplace.
A large part of your company culture, and your employees' understanding of it, comes from your training process. It’s important to lay a good foundation and ensure that everyone understands how to deal with angry customers, how to deal with internal conflict, and behavior that is and is not acceptable.
It’s also important that employees and candidates understand the consequences of such behavior. Start with the interview process and evaluate the candidate with a couple of if/then questions to help you understand where they are coming from. Employees can be your greatest asset, but they can also be a liability if they don’t fit into your company culture.
It’s also vital to look at your company culture to determine where any tension may be coming from, retrain current employees as needed, and keep internal communications robust and open. You’ll have the potential to stop problems before they start, and handle them quickly if or when they do happen.
While this may seem basic, employees now evaluate the companies they interview with at the same time the company is evaluating them. Sites like Glassdoor and other job bulletin boards have places where former employees, or really anyone, can leave a review of your company and any experience they have had with you.
If your reviews there are mostly negative, and many of them mention the same issues, pay attention to those things, and strive to correct them. Yes, disgruntled employees who have been dismissed or quit may leave scathing reviews that are not always accurate. But if you spot trends, you could head off a brand disaster before it happens by making changes.
The same is true for consumer reviews. Monitor them on popular places like Google, Facebook, and others. If they mention common problems with your team of employees, pay attention to them and address the issues before they become a larger problem.
Reputation management is about more than getting good reviews to mitigate the poor ones every brand will get, but also about paying attention to what those negative reviews are about. Be open to at least investigating the validity of those complaints, and taking preventative steps before they become an issue with both customers and prospective job candidates.
You can be sure both are paying attention to your reputation, even if you are not.
Brand crisis can happen to any brand at any time. And brand perception matters to more than just your customers. It can impact the number and type of job candidates you get. But by addressing issues head-on, making a plan to deal with a future crisis, revisiting training and culture, and simply paying attention to your reputation online and elsewhere, you can improve that perception.
When it comes time to list open positions and hire the best candidates, your brand perception can make all the difference.