5 Steps to Handle a Business Reputation Crisis

Are you ready for a business reputation crisis? See how to prepare and recover to protect your customer’s trust and your brand’s image.

Blog Post

6 minutes

Mar 23, 2023

Do you know how to handle a business reputation crisis when it hits? With modern technology, businesses are under more of a microscope than ever and any slip up can be magnified, scrutinized, and made very public, very fast. 

Business reputation crises can be caused by a variety of things. Common sources of reputational harm are data breaches, negative reviews, poor public interactions, bad news, communication or customer service slip-ups, unsettled employees, and much more. 

To handle these situations, you need a plan. 

Read this blog, Using Marketing and Cybersecurity for Brand Reputation Management to learn more about how cybersecurity and marketing teams can help you manage your brand and avoid business reputation crises. 

5 Steps for Rebuilding After a Business Reputation Crisis 

Reputation recovery is not easy as 1, 2, 3 (or 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 in this case), but having a step-by-step plan will help you get your entire team on the same page and ensure all the key tasks get done. Below is a simple, five-step plan that businesses can implement to help rebuild their brand reputation after a cyberattack or PR mishap delivers a crisis of public opinion. 

Are you ready for a business reputation crisis? See how to prepare and recover to protect your customer’s trust and your brand’s image.

1. Know the Extent of the Damage 

First, you need to assess the severity of the damage. Log the events that led up to the business reputation crisis, what happened to incite the incident, the following backlash, and the results on your company. Try to measure this damage in a quantifiable way (i.e., sales lost, followers lost, complaints filed). 

Along with building this report, it’s also important to continuously track the situation, especially if it has gone viral or was newsworthy. Have your social media team monitor your channels for related hashtags and keywords associated with your company and have your PR team watch for additional stories being published. 

Overall, this step is about making sure you know the full extent of the damage—where it came from, how it happened, and what’s currently happening. 

2. Align Stakeholders 

Next, you need to inform everyone who needs to know. Gather a list of major stakeholders—investors, executives, customers, department heads, legal, etc.—and provide them with all the details you put together in step one.  

This step is critical in keeping everyone who needs to know up to date on what you know and how you’re developing your plan to right the wrongs. 

3. Develop Your Communications Strategy 

After aligning your stakeholders, it’s time to decide how you want to frame the situation to the public. This means your messaging on social media, press releases, emails to customers, and more all need to be aligned with a consistent tone and message. 

65% of business leaders believe that a poor social media plan can worsen a business reputation crisis. This goes for all forms of communication, too. Without a concrete plan, you risk coming across as unapologetic, uninformed, sloppy, and as if you didn’t put as much effort or time into the reputation recovery as the public expects.  

With so much transparency naturally baked into the communications process, everything you do is under a microscope. 

If the incident was something that affects the public part of your business (your customers or shareholders), then you’ll need to address a communications strategy in step two because alerting stakeholders would mean contacting customers or shareholders/investors, which would quickly become public information. 

4. Establish Trust-Building Plan 

Having the trust of your customers is critical for modern businesses. 44% of consumers will spend over $500 more each year with brands that they trust the most with younger consumers (Gen Z and Millennials) spending over $1,000 more. 

Being a trusted brand attracts new customers, increases customer retention, and is a key ingredient in producing loyal brand advocates. But breaking that trust puts you in a very difficult spot. Once trust is broken, over 55% of consumers say they’d never give that brand their business again. 

“It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it.” – Warren Buffet 

A plan to rebuild the trust of your customers (and the general public) is the most important step in this process because, without it, you won’t ever fully recover. 

So, how do you rebuild the trust that you spent decades building? 

  • Demonstrate the core values that you originally built the trust using 
  • Assure customers of your commitment to righting wrongs and recovering from reputational damage 
  • Explain your public, actionable plan in a transparent way 
  • Convey positivity in messaging and get across that you learned your lesson 

5. Plan for the Future 

Beyond building a plan and adequately communicating it to the public, the only part left is to put it into practice. If your business reputation crisis stemmed from a data breach or cyberattack, implement new cyber policies. If it was a PR disaster: implement trainings, adjust staff, and hire PR managers. 

No matter what your plan entails, it’s not enough to say what you’re going to do. You must put rubber to the road and make changes to ensure whatever happened never happens again. 

What is Business Reputation Management? 

One major change every business can make even before disaster strikes is to build reputation management into your strategy now. For most businesses, this happens in two ways: 

How Marketing & Branding Helps Manage Your Reputation 

With marketing & branding, you can control your messaging across all platforms. A strong marketing team at your side can ensure your social media, email marketing, website, ads, and brand collateral are consistent, high quality, and accurate to how you want the public to see your business.  

Additionally, you can build your digital presence through more active social channels and a stronger website to help engage with your audience, building trust and raising awareness. 

Cybersecurity’s Role in Your Brand Reputation 

When your customers trust you with their personal information, you must protect it. If you don’t, you’ll lose customers who, as mentioned above, probably won’t come back. 65% of data breach victims lost trust in the affected organization and 80% of consumers said they would defect from a business if their information was compromised. 

To avoid reputation crises related to data breaches, you need a strong cybersecurity standing. This means having all the necessary technologies, controls, and protocols in place to avoid attacks altogether or identify them quickly before they can do damage and steal data.  

Cybersecurity solutions like consistent network security monitoring, endpoint protection, identity & access management, employee awareness training, and antivirus software all work together to keep businesses secure. 

Key Takeaways About Recovering from a Business Reputation Crisis 

  • Business reputation crises are difficult to recover from because it takes time to build trust 
  • Customers who trust your business are more loyal, spend more, and advocate for your brand. Losing that trust can cost you current and future customers as well as do irreparable brand harm 
  • Building a five-step plan to recover from a business reputation crisis involves clear communication, alignment across your organization, transparency, and an actionable plan to right wrongs and learn 
  • Strong marketing and cybersecurity are two ways you can implement reputation management and avoid becoming a victim of a data breach 

Learn more about how managed marketing and cybersecurity services can help you manage your business’ brand reputation and avoid the pitfalls of a reputation crisis in our blog, Using Marketing and Cybersecurity for Brand Reputation Management. 


CybersecurityMarketingBrand Reputation Management


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