Overcoming Negative Branding: There Is Always Hope

If you pay attention to the world of sports, you’ve no doubt heard plenty about Michael Vick’s record setting performance last Monday night. Vick, the quarterback of the Philadelphia Eagles, had an incredible game while becoming the only player in NFL history to throw three touchdown passes and run for two more in the first half of a game. Headlines across the nation paid tribute to his incredible performance—starkly contrasting the headlines that ran in 2007, when Vick was arrested for animal cruelty and other charges. I’ve spoken to many individuals who have been on the receiving end of negative publicity because of their own or other’s mistakes. In many cases, they feel hopeless and are ready to give up. Michael Vick’s story is a great illustration of the reality that it is never too late to begin recuperating your brand and overcoming mistakes. While Vick still has many detractors and a long way to go to make us all forget about his crimes, the fact that he is back in the public eye, making millions of dollars playing in the NFL, is amazing. So how has he begun restoring his brand, and what lessons can we take from it?

1) Take responsibility for your mistakes. Own up, apologize if necessary, do what you have to do to make it right—and move on. In Vick’s case this meant prison time… for most people, this may mean an apology to a customer, employer or boss. If a client complains about your products publically online, for instance, don’t ignore it. Instead, engage the unhappy customer and offer to work with him or her to make it right. Not only might you win the customer back, you’ll also have turned the negative publicity into a positive. Without your response, potential customers that saw your unhappy client’s complaint might have been frightened away. By responding, you’ve ensured that even if potential clients do see a complaint about you, they will also see how hard you’ve worked to make it right.

2) Address the issues that caused the problem. For Vick, this meant finding a new circle of friends. For others, it may mean being careful about what they post and say on Twitter and Facebook, or it may mean terminating or retraining an employee. The bottom line is that you need to fix the problem and make sure it doesn’t happen again. In general, people are willing to forgive and forget about a mistake. But repeating the same mistake over and over will make it very hard to recover.

3) Remember that nearly everything you do contributes to your brand. You may not think that how you answer your phone is important—but it often forms the first impression that somebody has of you. When you’re trying to recuperate your image, every interaction with a customer, colleague, boss or employee is important. Think about how you dress, what you say, and how you say it. Are you sending the right message?

4) Give them something else to talk about. Last Monday night, Mike Vick changed his public perception by performing at an incredible level. You may not be an NFL quarterback, but you are capable of exceptional performance in your field, whatever that may be. Do what it takes to impress those around you with your skill, determination, knowledge or whatever assets you possess.

Dealing with negative publicity or a bad reputation can be depressing. It’s a horrible feeling to see your name or your company’s name associated with negativity. But it is never too late to turn your reputation around. The steps we’ve discussed above will get you started in the right direction.