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Repairing the Damage and Rebuilding Trust

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Digital Marketing - Study Notes:

Rebuilding trust

So your company has survived the crisis. The dust has settled and sales are starting to pick up again. Everyone can breathe sigh of relief, right? Well, yes, up to a point. But this is no time for self-congratulation and complacency. Now the hard work begins as you start to rebuild consumer trust over time, in the wake of a crisis.

Once the initial response has been made, it’s time to form a more detailed and measured response to the public. Create a crisis overview to give an outline of what happened on which to base this response.

Key questions

The crisis overview needs to answer a number of key questions.

What happened?

Present the facts of the situation, fully and truthfully. Don’t try to equivocate and deflect blame. Outline exactly what the crisis involved.

Why did the crisis happen?

Here again, you need to avoid the blame game and instead present the root causes of the crisis. Any attempt to blame the crisis solely on external sources will not sit well with customers. They will suspect the company is trying to hide something.

Where did it happen?

This will give customers a good sense of the scale of the problem, and whether it affects them.

Who was involved?

You also need to make clear who was involved. Was it human error, or a systemic failure? Was it caused by criminals intent on damaging the company, or employees with a grudge?

How was alerted?

Customers also want assurance that you have crisis management plans in place. So when this crisis broke, who was alerted and how? Were external organizations or law enforcement involved? Did you have to contact emergency services?

What have you learned?

Now come arguably two of the most important questions you need to address. How will the current situation be dealt with? And what steps will you be taking to prevent future issues? People need to know that you have learned from the crisis and are being proactive to prevent a recurrence.

Publishing the crisis overview

In a crisis overview, you aim to address the most likely questions that people have about the crisis. However, you can’t anticipate every possible question or concern. So, in the crisis overview, make sure you provide contact information for people with further questions.

Your crisis overview can then be published as a press release to follow up on your initial response to the situation.

At this stage, there may still be a lot of detractors online. A careful balancing is required now. Of course, it’s best to be proactive and face the issues head on. However, you also need to make sure that the discussion doesn’t descend into unproductive arguments with angry consumers. Unfortunately, some people are never satisfied! And once they have your attention, they are reluctant to let you go. So engage with them as far as you productively can. State your case, and proactively offer information in a transparent and authentic way. And then move on.

Rebuilding trust in practice

Let’s consider another example from Johnson & Johnson. In 2018, the company faced allegations that there was asbestos in its talcum powder. The company addressed the concerns raised by creating a ‘Facts About Talc’ microsite, which tackled the allegations head on.

An informational website like this can provide an all-in-one place for people to inform themselves over concerns. Your company can then link to this site in social media conversations. You can also ensure that it appears in search results. After all, search and social media are the two key channels that people will use to find out more about a product issue like this. You want to make your own site the endpoint of as many consumer queries as possible. This enables you to control the message. Also, it helps to settle the matter in the mind of the consumers. And it underlines the brand’s commitment to the customer’s safety first and foremost.

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Bill Phillips and Will Francis

Bill Phillips is an International Facilitator, Trainer, and Team Coach.

  • Has successfully coached CEOs, board members, directors, executive teams, and team leaders in public and private companies, NGOs, and UN organizations in 15 countries across four continents
  • Is the creator of Future-basing®, a highly potent process for building strategy, vision, and cooperation
  • Inspires people to build excellent interpersonal relationships and achieve their goals

In this module, Bill is the instructor for the ‘Conflict Management’ lesson.


Will Francis is a Digital Marketing Consultant, Trainer, and Speaker.

  • Educates and consults for senior marketers at the world’s leading brands
  • Ran a successful digital ad agency in London for eight years
  • Editor of social network MySpace in the 00s
  • Regularly appears at conferences, in press, TV, and radio to share his experience and expertise
  • Previous clients include Samsung, Spotify, Marriott Hotels, Warner Music, Penguin Books, and Net A Porter

In this module, Will is the instructor for the ‘Crisis Management’ lesson.

The following pieces of content from the Digital Marketing Institute's Membership Library have been chosen to offer additional material that you might find interesting or insightful.

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    Dealing With Conflicts and Crises
    Bill Phillips and Will Francis
    Skills Expert

    Every leader will be faced with conflicts between team members from time to time. Some leaders have to deal with major crises too, where the company’s reputation – and sometimes its very survival – may be at stake. This module can help you respond effectively in such situations.

    You will learn how to manage workplace conflicts effectively when they break out. You will discover techniques you can use to deal with the warring parties and defuse their anger, as well as helping them to resolve their issues and find common ground.

    You will also be introduced to the principles of crisis management. You will find out about the types of crises that typically affect organizations, and how you can prepare for them in advance. You will also learn how to handle crises in the short term, and the steps you can take to repair damage and rebuild trust with your customers in the long term.