Nothing moves faster than gossip over the internet. If your reputation is maligned by an incident, you can bet your customers will find out about it in short order. When that happens, you must respond appropriately to lay their concerns to rest. However, once you’ve done so, you’ll still be faced with rebuilding your reputation after a PR disaster.

These five tips will help you accomplish that.

1. Apologize for Your Mistake

Regardless of whom you perceive to be at fault, your customers are going to lay the blame squarely at your feet. Ignoring this will only serve to make you look callous. Offering up a mea culpa as soon as all of the factors driving the misunderstanding are clear will gain you sympathy. Demonstrating both contrition and compassion are key to regaining the trust of your core constituency. You must also make sure the key elements of the apology are the same everywhere it appears. When people consistently hear the same message, they begin to believe it.

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2. Maintain Transparency

Don’t try to sugarcoat the situation. Be completely upfront about the circumstances, the ramifications and your efforts to put things right. People will investigate the incident and if your version of the story is proven false in any way, your reputation will be even further diminished. You’ll be branded a liar and untrustworthy. That’s a very deep hole out of which to dig. As soon as people come to realize “there’s nothing else to see here” they will turn their attention elsewhere. But if you keep dumping fuel on the fire in the form of obfuscation, the story will dribble out bit by bit as the layers of the subterfuge are peeled away. This keeps it in in the public eye longer, which makes the damage more difficult to repair.

3. Demonstrate You’ve Fixed the Problem

If you sell cosmetics from home and inadvertently sold a batch of eyeshadow laced with Pinkeye causing bacteria, your customers are going to be justifiably reluctant to purchase from you again. However, if you take the time to clearly enumerate the steps you’ve taken to make sure it does not happen again, your reputation will be bolstered in the eyes (no pun intended) of your loyal shoppers. Even better, produce a video of yourself apologizing and using the product to demonstrate how confident you are in the efficacy of your solution. People know stuff happens. But when it happens again and again and again, it’s going to be hard to convince people to continue trusting you. Fix it fast, make sure it stays fixed and tell everyone how you fixed it.

4. Exceed Expectations

With the problem in your rearview mirror, you might be tempted to revert to the same old way of doing business. This is a mistake. People are still watching you, waiting for you to screw up again. This is why you need to make every effort to surpass the level of customer service, attention to detail and efficiencies you maintained before. In other words, with the stain on your character, you have to be better than you ever were in all regards. Doing this as you move on from the situation will bolster your reputation significantly—and win you new customers in the process.

5. Invite Scrutiny

It’s going to be happening anyway, so you might as well take control and embrace it. If you’re being flamed consistently by one particular news outlet or blogger, invite them to come see what you’re doing to correct the situation. Extend an open invitation to look over your shoulder and report on your efforts as you set about rebuilding your reputation after the PR disaster.

Posted by Wendy Dessler

Wendy is a super connector who helps businesses find their audience online through outreach, partnerships and networking. She frequently writes about the latest advancements in digital marketing and focuses her efforts on developing customized marketing plans depending on the industry and competition.

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