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Posted by Sheryl Pattek on November 19, 2012
While I’m not usually a political or news junkie, in looking at the activity of the past few weeks, it’s been quite a few weeks! It ranged from the saga of David Petraeus to the absurdity of a famed Nascar driver intentionally crashing a competitor (resulting in fist fights between the crews), brands' use of Twitter during Hurricane Sandy (the good and the not so good), and finally the culmination of BP pleading guilty to 14 criminal charges and paying a record $4.5 billion in fines and penalties resulting from the 2010 oil rig explosion in the Gulf of Mexico. Each of these stories highlights how important it is to have a strategy in place to protect your brand in times of crisis. While every one of these examples is interesting, in this post, I’ll concentrate on the insights we can gain from the Petreaus and BP incidents to manage brands effectively through a crisis.
Watching a stellar career blow up overnight is a stark reminder of how a carefully-built brand reputation for honesty and integrity can disintegrate over one misstep. Over the past week or so, we watched the Petraeus scandal spiral out of control, fueled by the news media and the power of social media. And while the latest blow to BP delivers a hit to its bottom line, the negative impact on its brand may prove to be more costly in the long run. James S. O'Rourke, a professor at the University of Notre Dame and an expert in business communications and reputation management, commented in a recent Los Angeles Times article that "the real fallout [for BP] is not financial; the real fallout is one of trust.”
Both of these recent incidents should be a wake-up call to marketing leaders to be sure that there is a crisis management plan in place that can be activated at a moment’s notice to protect the core attributes and reputation of the brand that B2B companies have so carefully built up.
Why is this even more important to CMOs now? Customer expectations of brands have dramatically increased in the past few years. Empowered customers establish control of how they want to interact with and share their perception of brands with others. Forrester Research’s recent 21st Century Brand Marketing Playbook identifies these new consumer expectations as well as the importance of a brand being TRUE: 1) trusted; 2) remarkable; 3) unmistakable; and 4) essential. Specifically, trust is something we earn from our customers by delivering a transparent experience that builds and maintains brand preference and willingness to recommend, which are customer actions that are critical to our success in the connected and socially empowered world we live in today.
So, what lessons can the Petraeus and BP experiences teach you about managing your B2B brand?
How are you preparing to address potential brand crises in your organization? Are you ready? And most importantly, can you afford to not take this seriously?
I’m interested in your comments and feedback on these thoughts.