Last January, the famous Swedish clothing brand H&M (which is in more than 69 countries and has more than 4.700 stores all around the world) did something we didn’t expect from them, since they are a business giant and they are used to work with new technologies to spread their brand.
Controversy started when the textile company promoted in his store a hoodie with the next printed message: “the coolest monkey in the jungle”. The fact is that the model who was showing this clothing piece was a black child. So, this was an act liable to be understand as racist.
This fact caused a big drop of H&M stock’s value because of the boycott organized by online community. Even some stores had to close in some places in South Africa, where protests were bigger.
This small (a priori) action meant unmeasured consequences and millionaire loses that affected (and still affect) to the multinational reputation. But beyond all these collateral problems, there is a question that everyone who knows about consequences of not managing company online reputation should be asking: how is it possible that a company with more than 171.000 employees doesn’t count with someone able to stop or avoid this issue? And something even more interesting when we talk about online marketing… how is it possible that, just some weeks after this huge controversy, we search the brand on the Internet and we find that negative results are not in the first positions?
Through this concrete case, we will discover tools, processes and amenities that could have avoided and hided this company reputation crisis.
The controversial selling page that caused the biggest H&M reputation crisis with millionaire loses in their accounts. Source: elperiodico.com
What is the cause of a company Reputation crisis?
To understand the whole issue, we should previously study its origin in order to solve the problem and to avoid it to happen again.
In H&M’s case, the main error are lack of prevision and lack of supervision. Why are we talking about lack of prevision? Because everyone who works in the online world should know that every published message is displayed to more than 3.500 potential users.
This wide exposure means that every message (especially if you are a multinational) should be appropriate for the whole audience. It shouldn’t generate any kind of doubt or misinterpretation.
We want to think that the person who was responsible of this action didn’t had a racist intention. H&M should have thought that, between its audience, there is a huge quantity of black people that could feel offended by this publication.
Here is where we find the second mistake: lack of supervision. Such a big company as H&M, with billing over 12.000 million euros, should count with a whole team that know the benefits and dangers of online exposure.
Some of the tweets responding H&M advertisement. Source: The Hollywood Gossip
What tools do we need to stop a company Reputation crisis?
We still assume that “we all have bad days”, so the person in charge of promoting this product had a horrible one. This way, there is a second factor to have into account while dealing with reputation crisis: containment.
When we talk about containment in online reputation crisis, we mean doing everything we can in order to avoid the crisis to spread: deleting sensitive content, a quick apologize or explanation; or promoting and making visible positive aspects to neutralize negative ones.
In this case, after its huge “blunder”, made use of its large potential to revert all the negative effects caused by the hoodie case. They took the product off the market and published a sincere and agile apologize statement.
Temporary closing of stores, answering critics in a humble way instead of trying to silence it; and the creation of a position to safeguard diversity were some reactions to amend their mistakes but… what was the most helpful to forget this terrible controversy?
First page of Google Results for the search “H&M” on February 6, 2018, only a month after the crisis (January 9). Any vestige of the crisis is displayed.
Here we have the third and definitive step: reputation cleaning. H&M waited until the storm went by and then they started to fix the “flaws”.
If they would have started with the corporate promotion during the crisis, the effect would have been the same as when you clean your car during rainy days. This is why they waited some time to let the Internet forget.
In this moment, they started to promote different fashion lines, they spread statements and generated positive news to strengthen brand image. Additionally, they got a digital marketing team to position this content over the negative one.
Despite news about the crisis had a larger impact, they achieved to put it into the background thanks to current content published in notorious portals.
Tools and amenities to manage a company Reputation crisis
We have already seen how to deal with a company reputation crisis in 3 steps: prevision, containment and cleaning. But we need procedures and tools to make it possible. Which are the required ones to manage online reputation?
Manual and best practices procedures
What to do and what not to do. The way we talk to our audience, the appropriate tone, what to emphasize, what to put into the background… all these factors should be communicated to all the employees, even those ones who don’t work with company accounts, just in case they talk about in their spare time.
Corporate image and Brand values
Despite having accurate procedures, managers and main departments should insist on how to communicate and how to act in order to transmit brand values not only through direct communication channels, but through the whole company. This is an important point because 80% of consumers buy according to brand values.
Manual and crisis management procedure
Even when we have the most accurate prevention processes, we are not 100% safe of mistakes and misunderstandings. This way, we should count with all kind of procedures to know how to react in case of reputation crisis. The quicker we react, the less it will expand.
How do we know how big our crisis is? In order to understand what we are facing, we should know how big it is and what is being said and displayed about us. With this goal, we should count with monitoring tools (Buzzmometer, Hootsuite…) or other more rudimentary but effective like an Excel sheet where we follow Google Searches Results.
We should know how to talk to our public, and to those ones who are not part of our public. This way, our messages have to be precisely built, avoiding misunderstandings. They should also be accurately spread.
Additionally, this department should have knowledge about marketing techniques to position those messages in the first positions to make it prevail over those ones we don’t control.
Online crisis management services
We need proper professionals from each sector if we want our strategy to work efficiently and avoid mistakes. This way, management process is great to avoid a crisis to spread, but it should be developed by online reputation specialists. They are able to combine marketing techniques and large web knowledge to delete all noticeable trace of crisis.