6 Ways to Rebuild Reputation with PR after a Crisis


Just about everyone has heard of or been affected by the Target credit card crisis where over 40 million credit card numbers were stolen after hackers installed malware to get into the retail store’s payment system. In doing so, the hackers obtained credit card numbers of consumers who visited Target locations throughout the country. How did this hack impact Target’s reputation? Shoppers became skeptical of shopping at the popular store, resulting in a dramatic decrease in transactions to the lowest they’ve been since 2008.

Target credit card hack

Even though the actual hacking happened months ago, credit card companies are still working to inform cardholders that their cards might have been compromised. And Target is still working to rebuild their brand loyal customer base after the crisis. So what can you do to rebuild your reputation after a crisis? We’ve come up with six tips on how to rebuild your reputation using public relations:

1. Communicate impacts of the situation as soon as possible. It is key to provide simple, straightforward communication to your customers and clients as soon as a crisis occurs. Target’s communication efforts were a bit delayed, which jeopardized trust among their brand-loyal customer base. The delay in Target’s response gave the media an opportunity to define the story themselves, without any public announcement from Target first. It is imperative to present an announcement or release a statement as soon as possible so the story can be told from the company’s point of view.

2. Deliver a sincere apology. Customer satisfaction should be the number one priority for a business. After a crisis, you want clients to feel comforted by lessening their concerns. A heart-felt, sincere apology in the form of a public announcement, in addition to supporting communication efforts, will humanize the company, re-instilling faith in the brand.

3. Maintain complete honesty. Do not try to sugarcoat the true, complete factors of a situation. Target tried to downplay the amount of credit card numbers stolen in the beginning, lessening their credibility when the facts and statistics were released, showing the true crisis of the situation. Sugarcoating the situation increases the amount of time the story is in the news because more and more stories revealing bits and pieces of the truth may continue to surface.

4. Employ strong internal communication. Employees are the best brand ambassadors for your company. Maintaining strong internal communications will boost morale and provide employees with a sense of empowerment. Their confidence in the company and knowledge of its efforts to alleviate a negative situation can be transferred to the customers, providing reassurance.

5. Display how you’re fixing the problem. In order for customers or clients to continue business with your organization, they will want assurance that similar problems will not arise in the future. Write a press release highlighting the steps you’re taking to fix the problem. Avoid offering discounts or sales because that will appear as a selfish business boost. You want to focus on your customers’ best interest at this time.

6. Share what you’re learning about the crisis with others in the industry. Sharing the key takeaways that your company learned after the crisis provides an opportunity to engage with the community. Target can serve as a perfect example of a company that takes preventative measures after a crisis by installing security systems and using appropriate tactics to avoid a hack in the future. This showcases the responsibility of the company and positions themselves as an example that other retail brands can learn from.

What other tips do you have to rebuild your reputation after a crisis? Leave a comment below!


Lesley H. • March 20, 2014

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