The Evolution of Reputation Management in a Crisis

By admin Dec 21, 2023

Today’s scenario of handling public relations and navigating reputation management in a crisis reflects a distinct paradigm shift. In past ages, the press might have disseminated stories about your brand. It would start with a press conference or interview; then, other outlets would pick up the story over a period of a few days.

Now, every single person with an internet connection has the ability to send a story on its way to being viral, and a company response can make all the difference.

A great example is when United Airlines faced a public relations nightmare in 2017 when a video of a passenger being forcibly removed from an overbooked flight went viral.  The incident sparked outrage and a significant dip in public perception. The incident exposed a misalignment between the company’s values and actions, severely damaging the organization’s reputation.

United responded by changing its policies, compensating affected passengers, and emphasizing a renewed commitment to customer service. The lesson here is that consistency in values, both in messaging and actions, is critical.  A misalignment between stated values and actual behavior can erode trust and tarnish a brand’s reputation.

From the evolution of reputation in the digital age to effective management, this article aims to shed light on why reputation is more than just a buzzword – it’s a strategic necessity.

Evolution of Reputation Management in a Crisis

The evolution of reputation management in a crisis has undergone a remarkable transformation, mirroring the seismic shifts in communication technologies and the rapid expansion of the digital landscape.

Historically rooted in word-of-mouth exchange and community interaction, the concept of reputation took on a new dimension with the advent of mass media.  However, the real game-change emerged with the rise of the internet and social media.  The decentralization of information dissemination empowered individuals to become both the consumers and producers of content, fundamentally altering the dynamics of reputation.  Online platforms, review sites, and social networks provided unprecedented visibility and amplified the impact of reputation on business.

The evolution continued with the integration of sophisticated algorithms and artificial intelligence, enabling real-time monitoring and proactive management of reputational assets.  As reputation management traverses this digital frontier, it has an intricate dance between authentic engagement, strategic communication, and technological innovation.

In the contemporary era, the evolution of reputation management in a crisis is intricately woven into the fabric of our interconnected, information-driven society.

How the Evolution of Reputation Management in a Crisis Has Impacted Businesses

Reputation management for businesses has transcended beyond a mere public relations concern to become a critical strategic imperative in today’s competitive landscape.

The impact of reputation on revenue is profound and far-reaching, with a positive reputation serving as a potent driver of financial success for businesses. A favorable reputation can enhance customer trust, loyalty, and satisfaction, leading to increased patronage and repeat business.

Positive online and offline word-of-mouth often stems from a strong reputation, attracting new customers, and expanding market share.  Conversely, a tarnished reputation can have detrimental effects, eroding consumer confidence and dissuading potential clients.

Negative reviews and unfavorable public perception can result in decreased sales, lost opportunities, and, in severe cases, long-term damage to the brand’s financial viability.  The interconnected nature of the digital era intensifies these dynamics, as online platforms provide a public forum for consumers to share their experiences and options.

A company’s reputation is a valuable asset that directly influences consumer behavior, making it a pivotal factor in determining revenue growth and overall business success.

How to Handle a Reputation Management in a Crisis

Quick and level-headed thinking is essential if a reputation issue threatens your brand. The sooner you react effectively, the smaller the chance of a social media firestorm.

A few of the strategies you need for effective crisis management:

1. Monitor social media 24 hours a day.

A crisis can occur at any time, day or night. Social media and online platforms can amplify or mitigate a crisis in the digital landscape. Utilize social listening tools to monitor conversation, sentiment, and emerging issues.  This real-time monitoring provides valuable insights into public perception and allows for agile adjustment to the crisis management strategy.

2. Acknowledge the crisis quickly.

Definitive answers are not needed right away. It is enough to let customers know that you know there is a problem and that you are working on solutions.

3. Research the issue thoroughly.

Who is affected? What is the current sentiment about your brand? What caused the issue to occur?

4. Do not act rashly.

Acting too quickly and without thinking can harm your brand more than it can help. Do not take steps that you cannot take back. At every stage, think not just of your organization but all the stakeholders. As the crisis occurs, employees, customers, suppliers, and investors are affected by what you do.

5. Have a written crisis plan in place.

A well-prepared response plan, including a reputation management command center, is a critical component of effective reputation management in a crisis.  Anticipate potential crises, outline response protocols, and identify key spokespersons.  The plan should address various scenarios. Ensuring adaptability to the unique challenges of each situation.

Study how other brands have handled the sorts of reputation management issues that your brand may face. Create an actionable plan to deal with these issues before they ever occur. Doing drills on how you will react in a crisis can help you respond more quickly and effectively when a real one happens.


The journey of reputation management in a crisis has traversed a riveting path, mirroring the shifts in communication paradigms from work-of-mouth exchanges to the vast digital landscape we navigate today. The advent of the internet and social media heralded a new era, granting individuals the dual roles of consumers and content producers.

In this dynamic landscape, the impact of reputation on business has become more pronounced than ever. The financial success of a company is intricately tied to its reputation, acting as a linchpin for customer trust, loyalty, and satisfaction.

The interconnected nature of the digital era amplifies the consequences of a tarnished reputation, making effective reputation management a strategic imperative in the competitive business landscape.

When faced with a reputation crisis, businesses must navigate the storm with quick and level-headed thinking. Effective crisis management involves continuous social media monitoring, promptly acknowledging the crisis, thorough research to understand the root causes and its impact, avoiding rash actions that could harm the brand, and having a well-prepared crisis plan in place. The importance of anticipating potential crises, outlining response protocols, and identifying key spokespersons cannot be overstated.

Learning from other brands’ experiences and conducting drills to prepare for potential crises contribute to a proactive and resilient approach to reputation management. In this ever-evolving digital landscape, the ability to handle a crisis with agility and strategic foresight has become a cornerstone of successful reputation management in a crisis.

Want to work with us and learn more about reputation management?

  • Our proprietary Resiliency Diagnosis process is the perfect way to advance your crisis management, business continuity, and crisis communications program. Our thorough standards-based review culminates in a full report, maturity model scoring, and a clear set of recommendations for improvement.
  • Our Exercise in a Box product contains 15 simple tabletop exercise scenarios that your business leaders can utilize for crisis microsimulations with minimal involvement from your team.
  • With our Exercise in a Day™️  product, you’ll get a comprehensive, ready-to-execute crisis tabletop exercise developed by our team of experts in just one day. Optionally, we’ll even facilitate the exercise and write an after-action report.
  • Our Crisis Communications services help you rapidly implement and mature your program to ensure your organization is prepared for what lies ahead.
  • Our Free Crisis Communications 101 Introductory Course can help you understand the basics of crisis communications and reputation management.
  • Learn about our Free Resources, including articles, a resource library, white papers, reports, free introductory courses, webinars, and more.
  • Set up an initial call with us to chat further about how we might be able to work together.

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