|A potential client started dogging me to give him special treatment: Would I cut my rates? If not, could a friend join along with him as a 2-for-1 at the base rate? No, well would I provide him additional services for the base rate?
This went on for several weeks during which he contacted me almost daily with new and numerous requests for discounts and extras.
Today, I know exactly how to manage a similar situation.
But, as a new business owner, I didn’t know how to address his behavior.
So I made a mistake.
I forwarded one of the prospect’s most egregious emails to my husband, Michael, and said, “I am going to quote this man a rate so high, he’ll never be able to afford to hire me.”
Wouldn’t you know it, there was some kind of auto-reply-all on my email.
And he got copied on that email.
Very quickly I got a reply from him saying that for someone who was supposed to be helping people improve their images, I should have more class than to talk like that about my potential clients behind their backs.
Of course, he was right.
I had shown poor professionalism, a lack of discretion, and, as he said, a lack of class.
My reputation was on the line.
I know this sounds like a little mistake, not a career ruining event; however, . . .
Michael and I, along with many of our family members and closest friends are Penn State grads: Blue and White through and through. “WE ARE! PENN STATE!”
When Penn State a number of years ago became embroiled in a horrific criminal situation and suffered a huge blow to its reputation, we were devastated.
Because the firm I owned at that time had evolved into a reputation management firm, we were frequently asked what the University should do. This was no insensitive email to one client; this was a disaster of epic proportions that destroyed many lives, ended up costing the university tens of millions of dollars, and even caused the premature death of one of the greatest football coaches of all time, Joe Paterno.
I so wish that the crimes that were perpetrated and the harm that befell so many had never happened.
On a lesser scale, I also wish that the elite reputation firms in which Penn State invested tens of millions of dollars did in fact lead to a quick and equitable resolution to the crisis. Some of the reputation management strategies were well executed. But others left many of us wondering what all involved could possibly have been thinking.
WELCOME TO REPUTATION CRISIS MANAGEMENT 101
FOUNDATION: Proactive reputation management is your most powerful weapon in combating a reputational crisis.
Most crises happen because you or your company screwed up.
What do you do when you’ve done something that could damage or even destroy your reputation? How do you handle yourself in a reputational crisis?
TELL IT FAST.
TELL IT ALL.
TELL THE TRUTH.
PRINCIPLE 1: Tell It Fast
The longer you wait to address the crisis, the guiltier you will seem. Do not let weeks or months go by when you are aware that someone has suffered at your or your company’s hands.
Even if you don’t have a solution, get out in front of the bad situation and negative publicity within hours or at least by the next day.
As for my offended client, I called him less than a minute after I received his angry email.
PRINCIPLE 2: Tell It All
Address every aspect of the situation, without trying to justify, minimize, alter, or hide any of the circumstances that led up to the crisis.
If you are at fault (and you will know if you are), acknowledge it.
If you are not at fault, clearly state that the allegations against you are false. Lay your cards on the table.
When I called my offended client, I told him that as a new entrepreneur, I had gotten unduly frustrated by his efforts to get me to change my practices and rates. I said I had never dealt with this particular issue and had not had the forethought to establish a company policy for handling a situation like this. As a result, I reacted emotionally. I said that, as a professional, I should not have allowed my negative thoughts to develop in the first place, let alone shared them with someone else, and instead should have addressed matters directly and only with him.
PRINCIPLE 3: Tell the Truth
Do not shade or cover up or spin the story.
Lies invariably are revealed. Any falsehoods will turn what was probably a solvable reputation issue into a full-blown crisis or even a disaster.
I told my (no longer) potential client that I had really messed up, had acted unprofessionally, and that he was right to be upset with me. That was the truth. No made up stories about migraines, or family crises, or any other untrue attempt at an excuse for my behavior.
Understandably, he declined my offer of complimentary services, but our dialogue continued beyond that day until we quickly reached a point where we were amicable and could even look back and laugh at what had happened.
EXECUTION: If it’s a big deal, deal with it by employing the Five Cs of Reputation Crisis Management.
Some reputation crises may be more serious if you are part of a large entity or if you are accused of something legally significant.
You may need to hire legal counsel and a reputation management firm to help you make appropriate restitution and then to restore your good name in the marketplace or keep it from being tarnished further.
If you ever get to that point, remember the Five Cs in addressing those you’ve harmed as well as the public at large.
Clarity: What is the message you want to convey? Sorrow, innocence, repentance, defiance?
Conciseness: Go straight to your prepared key talking points. No chit chat. Of course, this means you never go into the conversation without a plan for what you will and will not say and what you do want to achieve.
Concern: Whether you are innocent of any wrongdoing or guilty as sin, you can still be kind and express concern and empathy for your accusers.
Control: Express to the other parties that you are personally investigating the situation and explain what you are going to do. Showing that you are taking control of the harmful circumstances helps diffuse what could otherwise become a volatile or chaotic situation.
Confidence: Show that you have remedies or that you are confident that the situation can be resolved. Exude confidence in your ability to solve ensuing problems.
I’ve been very fortunate in my many years as a business owner not to have had any significant reputational crisis.
I’ve found that for those who really care about their clients’ well being and satisfaction and who weave integrity into every aspect of their business or personal life, that crises seldom occur.
However, there are no guarantees that you or I will not end up facing an attack on our reputations.
Part of my role as a business, brand, and performance strategist is to help my clients operate in such a way that crises do not happen.
YOU RECOGNIZE THAT YOUR GOOD REPUTATION IS A STRONG KEY TO YOUR SUCCESS
Although reputation management and reputation crisis management share many of the same elements, one is far superior to the other.
Crisis management is like climbing out of a deep hole with slippery slopes; reputation management is the planning that keeps you from falling into that hole in the first place.
Mistakes happen. If you are the victim of unwarranted criticism or if you have made a mistake that needs repairing, reputation management strategies must be designed and executed to restore your good reputation.
Strategic reputation and crisis management strategies allow you to go about business as usual without the threat of an unexpected crisis damaging or even destroying your standing in the marketplace.
I am wholly committed to integrity, so I do not assist those who have been grossly unethical or guilty of egregious behavior who wish to fool the public.
If you have questions about strengthening, protecting, or repairing your/your business’s professional reputation, let’s talk.When you are ready to create your abundant life, it’s time to ask and answer:
What do you actually, truly want?
Where are you lacking abundance?
Where are you taking joy in abundance?
However we define it, we all want an abundant life. The truth is that abundance is within reach for all of us. That’s what motivates me as a strategist: helping people reach new levels of abundance, however they define it.
Message me for more information on the ways you can work with me to achieve ever higher levels of performance and abundance in your life. Especially check out The Abundance Project Mastermind and upcoming Yacht Retreat below!
REGISTRATION ENDS SOON!
To Your Abundance,
Qualified Abundance Strategy clients will be joining me for a 4-Day ABUNDANCE-LEVEL INTENSIVE aboard THIS and additional luxury yachts in the Florida Keys this November 1-4!
REGISTRATION ENDS SOON!
You DO NOT want to miss this! Message me for details at Beth@BethStrange.com
P.S. When you’re ready, below are some ways you can work with me to achieve ever higher levels of abundance. Please complete this Application to request an Initial Abundance Strategy Session
The Abundance Project: If you are an abundance seeker with new heights to achieve, you belong here with other extraordinary, good people in a high-level mastermind setting where you will work with me as your expert Strategist and The Abundance Project mastermind members to assist you as you define, create, and execute the strategic projects that will bring abundance into your business and your life. The Abundance Project is for you if you are ready and committed to exponentially increasing ABUNDANCE in your professional and personal life–abundance of time, money, opportunities, satisfaction, relationships–however you define abundance. Entered by this Application and invitation, The Abundance Project requires a 9-month commitment.
Abundance Performance Strategy: For abundance-seeking professionals, service-based entrepreneurs, and top performers. When you are ready to work with an expert Strategist to make the kind of exponential progress that would satisfy you and bring abundance into your business and your life. LET’S STRATEGIZE. I assist extraordinary professionals, entrepreneurs, and abundance performers like you to think and plan even bigger and overcome roadblocks to abundantly idyllic lives and businesses. I bring the experience, the training, the credentials and certifications, the scientific and strategic processes, and the expertise. You bring your ready willingness to try, to plan, to work, to change, to do, and to dream big, exciting, and fulfilling dreams. You will develop insights, breakthroughs, discoveries, and STRATEGIES. You will experience RESULTS. Together we will powerfully face and tackle your plateaus, your stress, your roadblocks, your overwhelm, your inferiority, your fears, your fatigue, your excuses. Abundance Strategy is NOT for the faint of heart. We will dive DEEP. We will work INTENSELY. We will strategize POWERFULLY. Apply here.
Abundance Level Branding Package: This is an exclusive opportunity for global brand expert, Beth Strange, and her team to assist you with the initial definition of your Brand Identity. Define your brand, develop your logo, design your business cards and letterhead, build your website. All done for you! We make it easy and fast to Red-Carpet-Roll-Out your brand to the world.