Mark Knight is a Director at Four Broadgate the London PR agency, specialists in financial services public relations amongst many other services.
In the wake of the Maria Sharapova scandal, you might be wondering how you would handle a similar crisis in your own reputation. PR experts are generally agreed that Sharapova was well advised by her team and handled the matter well, although the actual damage may take longer to repair. But how do you go about maintaining your personal reputation? Here are 8 top tips to follow.
1. Work to establish a positive image
Whether you’re marketing yourself or your company, work hard to build trust in your brand.Your public image is crucial to your success, so always ensure you act in a way that promotes your values and your brand fully.
2. Think before you act
Experts are baffled by Sharapova’s apparent lack of foresight – how could she not have seen that this would end badly? Consider all the possible implications of any actions before taking a leap. Always ask yourself ‘How will this look if it becomes public knowledge?’
3. Build relationships with your audience
In the past, PR was a matter of releasing information about you or your product to your loyal ‘customers’, but nowadays, success is gained by interacting with your audience. Build a strong positive relationship with them, so you can fall back on it if things do go belly-up.
4. Monitor the internet
More than one reputation has been ruined by being mistaken for someone with the same name. So keep an eye on your internet presence – this can be done easily by setting up a Google alert. Every day you’ll get an email with new items linked to your name, so you can act to put things right if necessary.
5. Take care with social media
A social media presence is critical to building relationships with your audience, but think carefully about what you share. Potential employers or customers can see those photos of you drunk under a table at the office party years later. Monitor friends’ posts too, and untag any possible embarrassments.
6. Don’t ignore a glitch
If the worst happens, and something comes out that you’d rather remain hidden, never ignore it. The longer you leave it, the more time there is for rumours and gossip to grow, and the longer it will take to repair your reputation. If there’s a problem, face up to it promptly.
7. Tackle it decisively
Taking public action (e.g. Sharapova’s press conference), is an opportunity to set the record straight, and if necessary, hold your hands up and admit something went wrong. It’s better to be contrite and apologetic rather than make excuses e.g. blame circumstances or other people. And never, ever lie – the truth will always come out in the end.
8. Rebrand yourself
Once the initial storm is over, work hard to rebuild your reputation. This can be difficult, but it’s not impossible. Even if you’re renowned for making a huge mistake or bad decision, with time and effort you can rebrand yourself and regain people’s trust and respect.