| Oct 29, 2020

5 Things Entrepreneurs Can Do to Manage Reputation Damage

A reputation crisis is inevitable in the course of every entrepreneur or executive's journey -- the key is knowing how to mitigate and recover from it.
Reputation in mud scaled

At some point on your adventure as an entrepreneur or executive, you or your company will make a mistake. That’s okay and inevitable. Unfortunately, sometimes those mistakes will damage your reputation. This can be fatal, as your brand and public perception are critical to market penetration, product acceptance, and overall success. Here are five things you can do to recover from a blow to your reputation:

Manage the Source of the Problem

No public relations nightmare is without cause. Something put you into this position, and while it’s difficult — some even say impossible — to truly remove something from the internet, you should at least patch up the wound so it doesn’t bleed you any further.

How you manage the source of the issue depends on what the issue is exactly. If your reputation was hurt by a malfunctioning product, recall those products to prevent more problems from popping up. If it’s an unhappy customer, contact them directly and find a way to appease them to keep them from adding more complaints on social media or on review sites. The sooner you do something about it, the sooner your brand can start healing.

Approach Social Media with Care

Social media is a great way to manage your reputation after a brutal blow. It lets you communicate with your audience in real-time and answer questions or issues the moment they come up. Unfortunately, it’s easy to say the wrong thing and end up worsening the situation. This message can stick around for a long time — passed around as an image or even a meme.

When approaching social media in an effort to repair your online reputation, you need to be careful. Live chatting is not recommended, as any pauses in your replies can be taken negatively. Focus on messaging services like Twitter. These will allow you to reply quickly while limiting the things that people can take the wrong way. You can also focus on using these platforms as a way of staying transparent by informing consumers of what you’re doing to fix the situation.


Accept the Consequences

Mistakes can be costly for any business and especially a startup. In extreme cases, you’ll likely have to make some form of reparations. While damage control can appease many people, there are times when you won’t have a choice but to pay for your mistakes. Your capital may be limited, and it may hurt to spend money just trying to fix a mistake instead of on things that further your agenda, but that’s a relatively small price to pay to repair a venture-ending hit to your reputation.

Look for the Realistic Outcome

For many entrepreneurs and executives, the company is their pride and joy. Ironically, it’s this love and passion that can make it difficult to view reputation repair efforts in a realistic manner. They swing for the fences, hoping to quickly fix everything, and often end up overcorrecting and making things worse.

When fixing an online reputation, you need to put your passion aside and look at things realistically. For example, it might take time to appease the masses and for the memory of the mistake to fade. This might mean having to adjust any upcoming campaigns and strategies to match the new timetable. It’s uncomfortable and can put you in awkward positions, but if it’s the realistic outcome, that’s what you need to work with.


The biggest mistake many make when repairing their reputation is simply not apologizing. They instead focus on putting blame on people or on trying to redirect attention to a different issue or new offering. Unfortunately, this rarely works. You can promise the world to your customers, but if you don’t apologize, people will notice.

Accept the failing and admit to customers that something went terribly wrong. Acknowledging your errors and their feelings in this matter makes people feel heard and more open to any reparations you’ll make. Without this apology, you run the risk of coming off callous, which can shut down any of your attempts to improve the situation.

While these are far from the only things you need to remember when repairing a reputation, they should get you off to a good start. If you’re ever at a loss for what to do, just remember — your objective is to get back into a position where the public trusts you again. Keep that in mind and you should find your way.

Tom Popomaronis
Tom Popomaronis
Executive Author

EVP, Innovation, Massive Alliance

Tom Popomaronis is Executive Vice President of Innovation at Massive Alliance and a frequent contributor to CNBC Make It & Entrepreneur Magazine. view profile


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