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Reputation Management

Inspired by the Emirates Champagne story

Patrick Hendry on Unsplash

With a deluge of social media content and information floating around, Reputation Management for Public Relations professionals is a long road home in today’s times. Social Media has given rise to a sporadic spike in user generated content, meaning that gatekeepers are a thing of the past and everyone is out to create content in one way or the other. Not to forget the F word in news. Practically nonexistent a while back, but now, there is such a thing as fake news or deliberate misinformation which is being transmitted at lightning speed, thanks to whatsapp and other mediums.

It is imperative for public relations professionals to manage conversations, issues and reputation, be it through offline relationship building, releases or continuously keep a watch on online going-ons. Keeping a pulse on social, and cruising along with solid media relations is the name of the game.

If done in an articulate way, little grey dots that may appear on the horizon through the barrage of social media content might become a mere blip, quickly passed off by a following of steady advocates and the veritable cognoscenti.

Take for example the recent outrage on the Emirates issue when a video capturing a cabin crew in the Business Class showed her pouring back unused champagne from the glasses into a bottle. The video was posted by a Russian passenger, Yevgeny Kayumov who inadvertently posted it on his Instagram handle (the video is now deleted), but quickly lapped up the attention as his post went viral. A volley of messages followed thereafter, and the furore sparked a debate on the quality control of in-flight service standards. Some spoke up and said that the staff member might be collecting it back in the bottle to dispose off later.

Now, we all know that the brand is based on a solid turf of carefully constructed reputation and is perceived as one of the top in their league. Emirates’ strong brand positioning is laid on a foundation of world class service and careful listening to their customers’ needs.

Having evolved as a global lifestyle brand, Emirates has been named the world’s best airline in the first ever TripAdvisor Travellers’ Choice awards in 2017.

In the face of this adverse social media climate, Emirates, unfazed, maintained its stand with composure after the video whizzed around bringing in its wake, on a spate of heated arguments and said, “We strive to consistently deliver the highest quality products and customer service. What the video depicts is not in line with our service standards. We are investigating the matter.”

As time will tell, this upsurge will ebb away in the ephemeral nature of social media happenings and the colossal brand perception of this world class leader is what will remain.

Here are some key takeaways for brands to remember when crafting an enduring, genuine reputation.

1. Brand Advocates for the long haul

The answer is to remain true to brand values on a long term basis and always be engaging with customers and guests across social platforms, as also on the ground. These two work in a two-pronged route of communications. When the basics are done right, your tribe will always stick around you as brand advocates.

2. It takes a Village

Train your staff to always be alert and mindful of their own personal branding, especially when on duty…..more so when in uniform. It is important to remember that each one is a figment of the bigger whole.

3. Be a Goliath in the face of a storm and it will pass

Anyone armed with a camera can turn it against you. Social Media has created cynics and critics by the score. But in this transient climate, there is always scope to stand tall and unbending with values that triumph the test of time.

Please let me know your thoughts in the comments below. Reputation Management is a key area of Public Relations, and I would love to know your take on this.

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