Top-Shelf Tip No. 243:

"Stay true to your values. That’s why you were a success in the first place, and that’s how you make incredible things happen."

Rafe Offer

How Brands Can Bounce Back

Think back to March 10, 2004, when Martha Stewart, dubbed the Queen of Domestic Arts—the CEO of a multimillion-dollar business, author of numerous books and former TV host of several eponymous shows—was found guilty of felony charges, including obstruction of justice, making false allegations and conspiracy for lying to investigators about insider trading in a highly publicized, six-week trial. Stewart, who was 62 at the time, served five months in prison for her crimes. But despite this, her personal brand not only survived but is thriving.

The reality is that no person or enterprise can escape at least some degree of error, no matter how famous or respected they may be. While the case of Martha Stewart may be extreme, it certainly isn't unheard of, but there are damage-control strategies that have proven successful, no matter the blunder.

In this issue of Promotional Consultant Today, we share these tips from Emily Safrin, a professional translator and editor, on choosing the right words that can help your organization save its reputation in the face of mistakes.

Make it right. Words are vital when it comes to apologies, but they must be backed by tangible actions that illustrate genuine concern. For example, when customers of a certain fast-food chain were diagnosed with E. coli due to contaminated meat, the company offered to cover victims' medical expenses, settling for amounts of up to $15.6 million. The COO and CEO also attended mediation hearings to show their concern, and the chain opened a hotline and made a generous donation to research efforts seeking treatment for infections caused by the bacterium. This demonstration of remorse and accountability communicated the company's commitment to doing better and ensuring their customers received the care they needed.

Establish long-lasting change. Once apologies have been made in both words and deeds, it's crucial to ensure the mistake isn't repeated. The fast-food chain ramped up its food safety procedures following the outbreak to monitor that all burgers were being cooked at the necessary temperature to kill the bacteria. It also employed additional safety measures to confirm the food was handled properly from producer to consumer. The system later became so successful that it was endorsed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration and came to be considered the "gold standard" among fast-food chains.

Turn lemons into lemonade. Slip-ups present an opportunity to demonstrate your brand's leadership, transparency and trustworthiness—and all of this at a time when you're already in the spotlight. Just make sure it's for better, not for worse. For example, the fast-food chain used the tragic outbreak to reconsider their current procedures and to keep customer care top of mind—so much so, that its efforts were applauded nationally and applied by competitors in the industry.

Another company, a well-known pizza chain, also faced a rude awakening when a video of an employee tampering with food in the kitchen went viral. This is when the company realized it had even bigger problem—they admitted that customers had been complaining of pizza that tasted "like cardboard" and sauce that tasted "like ketchup." Instead of succumbing to an apparently imminent downfall, the company's leadership turned transparent, recognizing their faults and promising to improve their product. Shortly thereafter, they introduced a new pizza recipe, as well as a novel online ordering system designed to appeal to younger generations. The chain's shares increased sixty-fold and the company is now worth $60 billion dollars.

Keep calm and innovate . Every organization will face its day of reckoning, big or small. Luckily, history suggests that it's not the mistake itself, but the response that leaves a lasting impression. Remember the importance of accepting blame and apologizing for your mistakes, then turn the mistake into an opportunity to show leadership, responsibility and innovation. Sometimes blunders can blossom into successes.

Source: Emily Safrin is a certified Spanish-to-English translator and editor specializing in the medical sector. She is also an active member of the American Translators Association (ATA), which represents over 10,000 translators and interpreters across 103 countries.

Compiled by Cassandra Johnson

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