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BrandingNerds Of Business (episode transcriptions)

Ep.9 [transcript] “Uh-oh brand damage: what to do when your brand turns to shit”

By September 24, 2020November 20th, 2020No Comments


Darren Moffatt (00:02):

Hi there listeners. And welcome to episode nine of the Nerds of Business podcast. My name’s Darren Moffatt. I’m a director at web buzz, the growth marketing agency. And I’m your host. It’s great to have you with us for the final instalment of the branding series. Yes. After 11 guests and about 350 minutes of conversation, this is the last episode of season one. It’s been a lot of fun and we’ve learned so much along the way. I hope the insight tonight is shared by our branding nerds have helped you crack the code to growth in your own venture. If you’re a bit disappointed that the brainy series is coming to an end, don’t be sad. We’ll be returning very soon with the same unique show format, but focused on solving another challenge that all entrepreneurs must overcome. We’ll have a whole new panel of nerds to help us get the answers you need.

Darren Moffatt (00:57):

One problem at a time, I’m excited to announce the new theme for season two at the end of this show. So stick around for that. Regular listeners will know that season one has focused so far on how to establish and grow a brand. And episode six on brand equity looked at the opportunities as successful brand creates for its business owners, but brand equity also carries risk. When you’ve built something of value, you’ve got a lot more to lose. If things go wrong and that what we’re looking at today, we begin with an opening story that might just be the best of the season. It’s a fascinating, true tale of a brand who shot themselves in the foot, were ridiculed by competitors and the public, but who managed a remarkable recovery to overcome brand damage.

Darren Moffatt (02:06):

The country of great Britain is not known for its gastronomic sophistication. Its most famous dishes are hearty meals, such as Shepherd’s pie, Yorkshire pudding and the charmingly named Spotted Dick. But in 2017, the UK was briefly famous for its chicken or more precisely a lack of it like any fast food chain. The British division of Kentucky fried chicken or KFC relies on a vast system of supply logistics to run its daily operations in 2017, British KFC ended its relationship with longtime food delivery partner, Bidvest logistics in favor of a new supplier, D H L the change delivered an absolute disaster to the KFC business. Within three months, KFC restaurants were running out of chicken. Hundreds of restaurants we’re soon forced to close global news outlets began covering the story. TV crews filmed angry customers, bemoaning being forced to visit burger King. Instead at the peak of the crisis, 900 restaurants were closed in one day alone.

Darren Moffatt (03:19):

There were 53,000 social media mentions of KFC with the hashtags chicken crisis and KFC crisis. In desperation, the company turns to its creative agency mother for help. The agency identifies a vital inside from the data 71% of the UK population visits KFC at least once a year and a quarter eat in its outlets on a weekly or monthly basis. With the vast scale of such an audience, it’s clear a broadcast message is required to reach them all in one hit. They decide on a full page newspaper apology, but the agency know the creative direction needs something special. It features a photograph of the iconic KFC bucket of chicken, but the KFC logo emblazoned on the side is rearrange to instead read F C K and apology written in everyday. Language follows underneath the image, the near explorative anagram of KFC brand name seizes the public’s attention, the ad, which originally appeared in just two UK newspapers prompts more than 700 press articles delivering a combined global audience of 797 million. A further 219 million social media users are exposed to the FC K image. Within three months, the campaign has generated a total earned reach of more than 1 billion, all from a single press ad. Amazingly the brand, not only recovers from the crisis, but actually improves its standing with key customer segments among people who would consider eating at KFC its brand impression score of 57 is actually one point higher than it was pre-crisis.

Darren Moffatt (05:33):

Now if you suspect the main reason I chose the KFC story was for an excuse to use a chicken sound effect. You might well be right, but this story is interesting in so many ways. On one level it’s a classic case study of how random events can suddenly jolt any business into crisis mode. It also shows how social media can quickly cause a brand sentiment to spiral out of control, where it’s perhaps unique. However, its use of humor in the official response. Most of the time corporate atonement is a serious po-faced affair that struggles to cut through to the public, let alone actually improve the brand perception. But the KFC response was brilliantly on brand it’s irreverent FC K apology was not only consistent with its brand values. It spoke in the language of its younger customer base. In fact, it was seen as so clever and authentic that those same consumers pay the brand overwhelming kudos on social media. The customer base effectively applauded the campaign in admiration. If you’ve built some brand equity or you plan on doing so then the potential for a future brand damage event is a real threat. You need to think about. So how can you prepare for reputation crisis? And when it comes, what should you do to give your brand the best chance of recovery?

Speaker 2 (07:11):

I love data. I love people. You need to have systems. You need to have structure. You’re going to get softer pieces is unstoppable. We kind of hit a point where we were like, we need another lever around yourself with people who are smarter than you and Richard and you.

Darren Moffatt (07:31):

This is nerds of business. So the problem we’re trying to solve, and the title of today’s episode is brand damage. What to do when your brand turns to shit. This is a highly specialized topic. So today’s episode is a little different. We’re focusing on just two expert guests from the world of reputation and crisis management. The people who inhabit this world are a lot like the SWAT team of brand marketing they’re rarely seen or heard in public. They operate behind the scenes to at first diffuse an immediate crisis and then repair the damage brand of a company or individuals who find themselves in trouble. So it’s a real privilege to have them on the show today, they’ll lift the lead on what really goes on in the corporate world and share valuable tips for how SMEs can prepare for the worst. I think what they have to say might just change the way you run your business.

Darren Moffatt (08:31):

But first here’s just a quick reminder that if you’re enjoying Nerds of Business to please hit the subscribe button on your podcast player, it means you’ll automatically receive each new episode every fortnight and it makes it easier for us to stay in touch to some listeners, the concept of brand damage and specialists who are paid to fix. It might sound fairly esoteric. John Michael is from the image group for 30 years. He’s been a leading brand and image consultant to some of the biggest names in sport and business. He’s one of our two resident branding specialists for this series. And I asked him to explain brand damage in everyday language

Jon Michail (09:15):

Brand damage. Good examples right now would be, and I can give you distinctions if you like, right. I’ll start from the biggest brand damage is the banks and the Royal commission. Yeah. Okay. It’s department stores and bad customer service. Yep. It’s digital companies and the deceitful behaviors. Yep. Okay. Um, on a personal level, you know, it’s Masterchefs in the restaurants. Yeah, yeah, yeah. It’s celebrities athletes and they personalize a bit like what I mentioned before with one of my clients it’s business leaders and their atrocious leadership. Yup. Now the interesting thing here is, and we know this, if you look at cycles and wealth and so on, you know, when things have gone really well, like Australia’s being done really well for 30 years, everyone gets comfortable complacence and we think the gravy train’s going to be here forever. Um, so we take advantage of that, but in the current climate, right, especially the current climate brands will be damaged big time for many, many reasons, including personal brands. But the difference is, and this is a distinction here between big brands to small brands. I smoke small business, a medium sized business to corporations, the banks, for instance like the Royal commission found construe their clients and still survive this business here, the small business they tried to do that they finished and most likely could end up in jail

Darren Moffatt (11:09):

When it comes to brand damage on the internet reputation management can get very complex very quickly. Sam Wilkinson is the head of digital at communication and corporate affairs from Wilkinson Butler. Sam is the go to guy for client of his firm who need help with the online aspects of crisis management. Understandably, Sam’s got a slightly different take on brand damage

Jon Michail (11:36):

Brand damage damages, really any, any existing, uh, asset that you can read or hear or be told about a brand that’s going to make you see polio from, um, um, the way that sort of manifests for most people is you read a negative.

Sam Wilkinson (11:55):

Um, you see a negative review. Um, you might be on social media and people aren’t talking very highly of the brand. Um, and, and uh, you know, long gone are the days where brands can just bury their head under the sands or individuals as well. Um, you know, you’ve got to face those things head on. Now, these things don’t just disappear overnight, stick around and the longer you wait to fix it, the worse it’s gonna get, um, it’s much easier to deal with one negative situation rather than let that compound and feed the next issue that arises. Um, so with brand damage, I mean, those things I’d mentioned to really the symptoms of the problem. Um, the first thing that we’ll generally do when we’re in assessing brand damage is try and look for what the root of that problem is

Darren Moffatt (12:49):

Great. And what’s the typical type of client that would come to Wilkinson Butler, like know, I’m sure that you you’ve got different types of clients at different sort of sizes and a market capitalization and so on. But, uh, and I know that you deal with some individuals as well, but maybe just paint a little picture for our listeners here and the typical type of client that you work with. Yeah.

Sam Wilkinson (13:10):

So quite often, we’ll get clients that have had, um, some kind of crisis happen. Um, a good example of that might be, um, um, that there has been a fire in a factory, um, um, you know, staff may own and may or may not have been hurt. Um, but it’s something that the business should have been equipped for, but wasn’t fully equipped for, um, certainly a lot of businesses that are small to medium. Um, don’t really have staff or communication staff that are properly trained and equipped to deal with a crisis that happens. And so what you get is a flurry of activity, um, and, and the leadership team wanting to deal with and manage a crisis. But at the same time, there’s an unprecedented amount of communications challenges. You’ve got the media calling you’ve quite often got some level of engagement from, um, politicians, if it’s a large enough issue.

Sam Wilkinson (14:14):

Um, you’ve got, um, obviously the, the worried and stressed families, um, of, of the potential victims in a disaster like this. Um, and, and what these companies need is really a well-equipped team to come in and manage all of those facets so that the leaders can just focus on fixing the problem and looking after their staff, which is the most important thing and looking after the victims obviously. Um, and so that is a good example of a crisis client that we’ll get. Um, and generally we will be called in at the last minute and it all happens quite quite quickly.

Darren Moffatt (14:56):

I also ask Sam what he sees as the main causes for a brand damage event that business owners should look out for. He also shares some real life examples of brands who have died, and those who have recovered and why

Sam Wilkinson (15:11):

Really clients that are suffering brand damage, um, have that damage because they haven’t met an issue head on, um, every company has something go wrong. Um, it’s really about how you prepare for it and how you handle it. Um, so if it, if it is something that manifests in the form of a negative article, it’s about assessing whether the article is accurate or not, if it’s not accurate, you can try to correct the facts. You can go down the path of defamation if that’s applicable, if you can’t do that, it’s about looking at the issues that are caused or mentioned in that article. And it’s about fixing the root of the problem to make sure that no future negative articles are gonna come out. And once you’re confident that you’ve overcome that stage, um, to actually then clean up the reputation, um, it’s really about doing, um, proactive media engagement, um, which speaks to the new version of you. It speaks to what you’ve done to overcome the problems it speaks to your values, and therefore it invalidates something that may have been up there previously. Um, it’s about, um, being proactive with creating social media assets and having positive content that goes out there that actually engages, um, with the stakeholders. And it’s about making sure that you’ve got, um, websites and other assets that you own that are ranking quite highly in Google that are really showing you off in your best light possible.

Darren Moffatt (16:52):

Great, great. I know, I, I think an interesting thread that’s just runs through that answer is the digital realm, right? So, you know, back in the golden era, the seventies and the eighties and the pre-internet age, like if someone got into a bit of trouble or there was some sort of crisis or whatever, it was a lot easier to install because, you know, there was only really broadcast media, TV, print, radio, and so on. So I would imagine back then it was a classic kind of PR media strategy. That’s pretty much it, but nowadays as you’ve alluded to there’s the internet, and once that gets published on, right, it’s a permanent record. Right. So how much of your work, um, as, as I know, that’s what you do personally, that’s your focus, but within the agency, how much of that focus is on, you know, eradicating that permanent digital record or at least trying to mitigate it?

Sam Wilkinson (17:43):

Yeah, I mean, well, once something’s up on Google, it never disappears. And so, you know, there are some, there are some people that, um, they have quite a low profile online and if that’s the case and something negative is written about you and the press, um, that article is going to stay on the front page of Google for the rest of your life. I’ve had clients that have had articles from, you know, 15, 20 years ago that was sitting at position one or two, and this is, um, you know, fairly innocuous stuff from a time long in their past. Um, and you’re completely right in the old media world, that’d be a headline and that’d be a front page if it was really that serious. Um, it, as time would pass, um, people would move on and that just doesn’t happen these days.

Sam Wilkinson (18:33):

So it’s it’s really important that people understand that you have to be loud and proud about who you are and the good things that you do. And if you fly under the radar, um, and you like to be a private person and that’s completely fine. Um, um, if, if something does happen and you are named in an article and that article may not even be correct, um, there’s very, very little, you can do, um, um, to get that completely removed. And so really the only solution, despite what many online websites may say about completely removing content, the only real solution is to build out assets that you want to build out websites that talk about you, about how you engage with the community about how you better support you and your staff about, you know, any, any other potentially philanthropic things that you do.

Sam Wilkinson (19:34):

Um, but really, really stuff that talks, talks about you that can counteract, um, anything that may be inaccurate online or maybe old news online. Um, and so it’s just about being proactive, you know, having, having profiles on social media that are active and are current and do therefore index quite highly in Google, um, you know, a lot of the strategies that we do, um, implement focus on, you know, engaging with media about, you know, the positive things that these individuals or businesses are doing. And so I think, you know, it’s, it’s an important distinction to make that, you know, it is completely fine to bury your head under the sand digitally and, and, and not really have an enormous profile, but it is also an immense risk.

Darren Moffatt (20:22):

Okay. So that’s a really interesting point. The fact that senior business leaders, or a lot of CEOs or business owners who are of a certain age, maybe you sort of, you know, past 50 or whatever often won’t have much of an online profile. You know, they won’t have been very prolific users of social media. And what you’re saying there is that that is actually a risk

Sam Wilkinson (20:42):

Completely, completely, and I completely understand people’s aversion to not to have social media profiles. Um, you know, whether, whether you’re a private person or you just can’t keep up with the speed of, of posting. It is something that is immensely useful as a tool to be vocal about who you are, what you stand for. Um, and, and so I think, you know, it’s, it’s one of those things where you just have to, I mean, a lot of people that have reputational issues online can after the fact create ithese profiles, um, and, and can start engaging with people, um, about, regarding who they are,

Darren Moffatt (21:29):

You know, just to take it out of the theoretical realm now and sort of make it a little more concrete for our listeners. What’s an example of a company that has, has really died from brand damage. It’s just, you know, they suffered an event and, you know, it’s just, they weren’t able to recover.

Sam Wilkinson (21:48):

Um, look, I think in Australian folklore, there are some massive companies that quite obvious, um, I think Dreamworld is a good example of that and NAB and AMP, um, and, and more recently Rio Tinto, with the whole Duke and Gorge scandal, I mean, blowing up these 40,000 year old rock caves, um, that have this huge, significant amongst the huge significance amongst the indigenous population. And I think really there is just some, some obvious symptoms that carry through all of these examples. Um, you know, they take a long time to respond when they do, they don’t actually apportion blame to anyone. They’ve got weak key messages, they’ve got bad company spokespeople, um, and their values are completely out of line, um, with the expectations of the public.

Darren Moffatt (22:44):

So I’ll stop you on that point. Cause I think that’s actually a sorry to cut you off, but that is, I think the real key insight there, that a lot of, a lot of the, the response of these big companies that find themselves in trouble seems to be very arrogant. They think they can just push them, push past it, you know, don’t need to worry about, um, public perception or, you know, we’ll ride this out and so on. But, uh, in some of those examples that you mentioned, I think it’s very much the case that they’ve misread fundamental change in the community and in the values that the community now expects. So what might’ve been possible to ride out, you know, five years ago, 10 years ago is suddenly it’s a deal breaker.

Sam Wilkinson (23:30):

Yeah. I think, um, I think a really good example of that is the me too movement, right? Yeah. So when this happened there, and it’s a perfect example of, you know, a shift in values, um, that it, uh, there was a complete shift in expectations, um, on one side and it happened rapidly. I mean, for most people like you and me, it it’s something where we were already there, but for how that was perceived in the media was it went from, you know, on some scale of accessibility to completely not acceptable and it just dropped. Um, and so you had a lot of these, I mean, particularly with some of these old dinosaurs, um, a complete lack of correlation with their values. And so what happened is, um, boards had to act extremely swiftly when allegations were made that, you know, were truthful upon inspection. They had to get rid of these dinosaurs straight away. And so what you had was when companies can realign their values very, very quickly in line with the expectation of the community, they will survive. And if they don’t do it, um, they’ll burn. And so what you’ve got now is you’ve got, um, you know, um, people that have been able to make that shift or people that are yet to be fired. Yeah.

Darren Moffatt (24:55):

Yes. And, and the court of public opinion, once it gets going, particularly with the whole, um, amplifier now of social media and the movements that have sprung up, as you mentioned, the me too movement is, is one. Um, it really makes it quite difficult for these companies to get back, get back on top of it, to use the, the, um, the tortured cliche to put the genie back in the bottle, so to speak. But on the flip side, what’s an example that you can think of, of a company who has successfully recovered from brand damage, whether it be Australian or international.

Sam Wilkinson (25:29):

I mean, the lovely thing about companies that, that do it well is you don’t really hear about them too often. Yeah. Recently QBE had an issue where a young woman in the company had filed a complaint against the CEO for being inappropriate, um, the board acted swiftly and by swiftly, I mean immediately, um, that jumped on it straightaway. They had engaged, um, a number of external agencies as on standard, um, to, to be that external lens, which counteracts, as you said before, the, the arrogance that, that some of these larger companies can have in, in, in feeling immune from the pressures of the outside world. Um, so suddenly you’ve got an external agency giving them real talk. Um, and what happened is very quickly, the CEO got the flick and unlike, you know, um, examples, like some of the major banks, um, he lost all of his shares. Um, I believe there was a payout, but that was to do with, um, accrued holiday pay or something like that. But, um, I think, I think given the expectations that most Australians have around how companies like QBE

Sam Wilkinson (26:45):

Have been acting, um, it was, I think something that stood out for me and certainly some of my colleagues as surprising in a good way.

Darren Moffatt (26:54):

So if you’re an entrepreneur, how do you mitigate the risk of your business flaming out due to unforeseen events? John Michail from the image group has some compelling answers.

Jon Michail (27:06):

Well, I have, I definitely have a crisis management plan system in place before any of this starts. Yep. Yep. That’s you know, that includes also social media policies. Yeah. What you can do, what you can do. I mean, it’s just essential. If somebody somebody’s going to be whoever’s representing the brand has to be part of this. They have to sort of lean in because if they don’t, if they don’t then basically are they creating risks themselves? Yeah. Now in the unprecedented crisis, and this is an unprecedented crisis for all of us in peace time than we’ve ever experienced. Yeah. If you haven’t got some sort of plan and if you haven’t got one now quickly create one, right. You still got time. Okay. Uh, you know, at least that plan gives you a bit of security from the point of view can control what you can control.

Jon Michail (28:03):

Yeah. Some things we just can’t control what the government does, you know, where this thing ends up with. I know no idea. Okay. So, but you can control your emotions yet. You know, you can control aspects of your being, including your finance, your finances, hopefully. Right. So you’re going to look at all the things you can control. Okay. And I think from that, you know, as part of your system, personal or business, you got an opportunity then to ride through ride through this. But if you get the opportunity to create a plan, do it. Now, if you haven’t got one,

Darren Moffatt (28:43):

Great. I think that’s great advice. And what systems or processes should a company use to manage a brand or reputation crisis. So let’s say that, you know, they had a plan, but it’s something still happened. Anyway, once that event is out there, what systems can I use to manage it?

Jon Michail (29:05):

Well, first of all, why, you know, you need to communicate as quickly as you can. The truth. Yeah. If you try to play games around that you will be found out eventually. Yeah. So, and also, you know, whoever’s going to be leading the charge here, the meeting spokesperson, for instance, make sure they’re damn good at what they do. I guess, a great communicator, hopefully as, um, natural and authentic as possible. Right? The reason I say that, because it’s not always easy to get that in, in what I’m talking about it with comms people, there’s like, there’s a lot of predetermined thinking around what that person should be and what they should do in solving. But my approach around that is, you know, get the right spokesperson. Yep. Yep. I’m not a talking head, make sure they’re smart. They real, uh, and basically face your challenges with courage and honesty, you know, and, um, make sure that you stick to the foundations, your whole business is built on like, you know, you will, you will basically get through most things in life.

Jon Michail (30:20):

You know, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had clients get through a lot of this, but then we’re very proactive. Okay. Um, and in a crisis, by the way, does not mean always, you know, you call your lawyer first. Okay. In my experience with some clients and by the way, for my legal friends that are listening, I love you. Okay. But basically some of them have created actually worse problems. Cause I’ve, might’ve legalese and took it away from the human nature of human beings to connect. And I, and I’ve seen serious failures that some of my clients failures is because it became out of my hands and it became a legal issue, you know, sometimes it can become, you know, and I say that, because again, I’ve seen small business get destroyed here. It can become a legal issue when it had nothing to do with legal.

Darren Moffatt (31:09):

Yeah. Whereas if that were more human right from the start, it wouldn’t have got to that point.

Jon Michail (31:12):

Yeah. If, well, then you can negotiate, you know, talk things over. Okay. And hopefully create some sort of win-win there for everybody, you know? So just, I suppose we’ll just be careful around how you do that. Um, but you can, you can certainly, you can certainly get over it with the right system.

Darren Moffatt (31:33):

So John, um, we now come to another recurring segment at nerds of business cold. So this is super power. And now you are the personal branding, the reputation and crisis management nerdy, obviously know this is your, uh, very, very, uh, strong area of expertise. Um, what I’d really like to learn here is if you had to identify one quality skill or attribute about yourself that really gave you that edge, you know, gives you that advantage in the market. What, what is it

Jon Michail (32:15):

You’re talking about me personally.

Darren Moffatt (32:18):

Yeah. I’m talking about you personally, as it relates to the work you do.

Jon Michail (32:22):

Okay. If that’s the case, then it’d have to be contrarian

Darren Moffatt (32:27):

Contrarian. Yep. Yep.

Jon Michail (32:30):

Uh, if I could pick one word, you know, but, but you know, that’s, that’s will be my number one word because I’m the type of guy when a hundred people saying this

Sam Wilkinson (32:40):

I’m the guy that says why. Okay. You know, and it comes from a very Socratic dialogue perspective. Okay. Yeah. So that’s nerdy. That’s very nerdy.

Darren Moffatt (32:52):

That’s nerdy that you’re talking about. Socrates is the, uh, the Greek philosopher there. Um, we, we haven’t had had that come up before. Um, so, uh, yeah, you, you, um, you’ve really hit a home run there, but we love the nerdy stuff here at nodes of business. Um, so yeah, it’s coming from, um, a, a Socratic place. Uh, tell us a bit more about that.

Sam Wilkinson (33:17):

Well, it’s, it’s, you know, it’s basically a questioning dialogue perspective of, you know, you don’t know all the answers, you haven’t got all the answers, OK and you basically unearth by asking great questions. Yep. Okay. And it’s essential. And, you know, even in business, as you know, Darren, that’s a great skill to have because, you know, because it gets you back to the foundations,

Darren Moffatt (33:45):

Sam from Wilkinson Butler has some further perspectives on this. Listen to what he has to say about the concept of reputational credit and the importance of online reviews, especially for small business, I was going to ask you how can companies mitigate the risk of brand damage. But I think that was, that was a perfect answer right there.

Sam Wilkinson (34:05):

Yeah. Well, I think, I mean, it, it just comes down to reputational credit, right? I mean, if, if, if you have a complete vacuum of information about you online and something negative happens, um, or something negative is written about you, that that may or may not even be true, um, um, or it could be completely exaggerated that that is the only thing that people are gonna know. Um, but if you are extremely vocal about all of the positive things that you were doing, um, for you, for your staff, for the community, um, for charities, um, you know, and, and you really develop a personal brand and an online profile that, um, you know, shows everything that you do, um, it is going to be the ying to the yang if you like. And so it means that, you know, if someone has a negative review of you online, um, you’re going to have 200 positive reviews that completely negate that. Yeah. Um, and so it’s really just important to build up, um, this reputational credit early on, um, um, so that you can absorb these bumps along the road

Darren Moffatt (35:19):

And there will be bumps and, and people, most people are reasonable. You know, like I know myself when I’m looking for, you know, to bring this down to sort of the local level, you know, if you’re looking at a restaurant and you’re looking at reviews where you art for, you know, um, Saturday night, assuming you, you can go out in this COVID world. But, um, you know, and if you’re seeing a restaurant in the last review is bad, you know, and it’s, it’s, it’s, it’s, it’s a stinker, it’s like a one, one star review and someone’s having a massive brand, um, which is kind of entertaining in itself. But, but then, then you, you look beyond that and you say, Oh, hang on a minute, like four and a half stars generally here. And there’s dozens or hundreds of other positive reviews. Clearly that person either had a bad night, they got unlucky, or they’re just one of those whingers that are just going to find the negative in anything, right.

Sam Wilkinson (36:18):

With, with reviews, every company needs to be prepared for, for negative reviews. Um, if you’re really, really good at what you do, you’re going to have several competitors go online and trash, your reviews to begin with. Um, and you’re going to pick up a stink and it’s going to seem really, really unfair. And you’re going to realize very quickly, there’s not much that Google or Facebook or any other platform will actually do to remove them. Um, and so given the fact that you understand this, you need to be really, really proactive, um, with your customers about engaging them about asking them to leave reviews about maybe having collateral or signage. If, if you’re a store in your store saying, you know, we’re a small business, we thrive on reviews would really love it. If you could leave one for us, you know, something innocuous like that, you know, um, these kinds of things are fairly low touch.

Sam Wilkinson (37:14):

Um, you know, you can do it similarly in some kind of newsletter format as a follow up, maybe even with the little survey of, you know, how was, how was the person that, um, you know, handled, um, handled your inquiry today, or, you know, you know, how did you find our service at the restaurant this evening? Um, something like that is quite easy to set up. Um, and, and really what you’re going to find is that if someone’s had a good experience, um, and they ask quite politely, if they can spend 30 seconds to leave a review, they’re gonna do it. Um, and so having some small processes like that set up, I mean, that means that over a year or two years, you can bed down, you know, two, 300 positive reviews. Um, and what you’re going to find is even if you get, you know, 21 star poor reviews, it’s, it’s going to be very, very small bump date thing I failed to mention before was, um, if, if you ever have a negative or positive, and for that matter of review, um, it is really, really important that you respond to them.

Sam Wilkinson (38:21):

Um, a positive review is incredibly easy to respond to, you know, thank you, Andre. It was lovely having you, the saving, um, you know, please come, please come back again soon. But if you have a negative review, um, you know, you’ve got, you can in three or four paragraphs, you can quite thoroughly, um, explain if it is accurate, what happened on the night and provide the yang to the Ang if you like. Um, but, but if it is completely inaccurate or completely unfair, um, and you know, you’ve tried to get it removed, but quite often, Google is, um, very, very difficult to get. Cause you can’t like quite often, they can’t prove who’s right or who’s wrong. Um, and so you just need to really pick it apart and say, you know, we’ve investigated the issue that happened this evening is how we, here’s, what we understand actually happened. Um, and if you’d like to come in again and actually speak to us, um, you know, my name is this and you can, you can email us, um, you know, here, et cetera, et cetera. And, and you got, you just got to treat every review fairly, but if you respond, anyone is going to say that, okay, the person who has left a negative comment, they’ve now got an option. They can respond to that and actually resolve whatever the issue was.

Darren Moffatt (39:41):

Yeah, absolutely. And one thing I think it’s really unwise when it comes to reviews and I’ve seen this happen. I wonder if you have as well where someone’s left a bad review on a business and the business owner has really attacked the reviewer

Sam Wilkinson (39:57):


Darren Moffatt (39:59):

Yeah. They’re just gone on a massive rant. He’s called the, the reviewer all the names under the sun and that, that can’t help. Right? Like that that’s gotta be sort of rule 101, not to attack the negative reviewer. Yeah. Yeah.

Sam Wilkinson (40:14):

Completely. I mean, it’s of saying, I was saying some businesses get completely named and shamed for it. Um, no one is ever, ever, ever going to want to support your business. So go to your store. If you treat people badly, that’s just the end of it. Um, even if you are in the right, even if, even if, even if you are in the right, I mean, you know, it’s just, it’s just, it’s just a basic manners. Um, if, if, if you know someone who’s doing this, or if it’s your boss, or if it’s you, um, hand the reins over to someone else, please, that’s the worst thing he could be doing.

Darren Moffatt (40:54):

Good advice. If you think a drop in sales is the only reason to worry about the possibility of a brand damage event, then I’d suggest maybe it’s time to think again, it can have a huge impact on your people too. And according to Sam from Wilkinson Butler, it all comes down to leadership,

Sam Wilkinson (41:16):

But there are plenty of amazing innovative industries out there where everyone is competing to live out strong values that care for people and want to be the positive change in the world. And I think particularly with, with the, that are moving into the workforce at the moment, that is the number one thing that they are looking for. Um, they’re looking for, um, a career where they can stick with a company that’s going to enact positive change in the world. And, you know, these are young, digitally savvy people that, um, you know, they spend time to research the companies they’re moving into. So when they go and type these companies on Google, they’re going to websites like Glass Door or, um, and they’re trying to understand, um, you know, what it’s going to be like for them working in a company, what it’s going to be like, um, um, regarding the culture, um, um, and the stress, and there are websites out there that have, you know, complete, transparent all for complete transparency for most companies.

Sam Wilkinson (42:26):

Um, and so it’s not about, as I said before, it’s not about, you know, an issue comes up and so you try and build some, um, some websites that, um, you know, um, um, talk about you in a positive light to try and, you know, fix or counteract some of the negative stories. You know, it, it needs to be a really honest process about fundamentally setting your business up from a digital standpoint early on, um, before any potential crisis or issue or negative article article or, or thing happens down the line, you need to have, you know, well-defined values that are transparent, um, that live and breathe through your website that live and breathe through the profile of the people that you have on your leadership team, um, that live and breathe through the key messages that your spokesperson is speaking to. Every time you guys are out speaking with journalists or in front of the media. Um, and, and if you do all of those things, you are going to completely set yourself apart, um, um, from 99% of companies out there.

Darren Moffatt (43:43):

So the problem we set out to solve in this episode was brand damage what to do when your brand turns to shit. Our resident branding expert, John Michael, from the image group has given us some valuable practical tips on how to mitigate brand damage and why that’s so important. And we’ve also heard some fascinating insights from our special guest, Sam Wilkinson from Wilkinson Butler, as entrepreneurs and business leaders. I know we all like to focus on growth, but this episode shows that managing risk is just as important. If your brand is to survive the inevitable ups and downs of business, I hope the wisdom and insights of our guests have given you ideas to protect the brand equity that you’ve worked so hard to build for me, there are three important takeaways from this episode. Firstly, you need to plan ahead. As both of our guests said, prevention is way better than the cure.

Darren Moffatt (44:43):

So if you haven’t already done it, go away and develop a crisis management plan. It’s a small time investment. You won’t regret. Secondly, if you and your business don’t have a social media profile already now is the time to build one. Remember social media is not just for sales and growth. It’s also a defensive play. As Sam said, a well developed social media profile that communicates your values over many years is perhaps your best protection against a brand damage event. Finally reflect on the culture in your business and identify any toxic elements that could cause future problems. As Sam said, bad culture is at the heart of so much avoidable brand damage. So find it in your organization and root it out before it’s too late. As we heard at the top of the episode with the KFC case study, random events can come from seemingly nowhere to wreak absolute havoc on even the biggest businesses and social media can amplify any negative feedback loop to devastating effect on the brand. It’s a fact of life that things will go wrong in business. But if you have a plan act fast and respond in a clever on brand way, you much as turn crisis into an opportunity that takes your brand to the next level we’re coming to the end. But before we go, it’s time for our regular segment nerd under pressure where a guest has to share one killer hack or tip they recommend for you. Our listeners let’s find out who our nerd under pressure is today. Uh, so John, we’ve got another recurring segment here called

Jon Michail (46:34):

Under pressure.

Darren Moffatt (46:37):

So this is your time under the spotlight, as the reputation crisis management nerd, what’s one killer hack that you can recommend to businesses for overcoming brand damage. Your thinking time starts now

Jon Michail (47:00):

Be real and communicate with, you know, with, with passion, but more importantly with clarity that whatever’s happened, you’re willing to have a go and apologize, say, sorry, whatever. Otherwise, the lawyers are going to tell you, no, sorry. Okay. Do whatever you take. You need to do to take it to the next level.

Darren Moffatt (47:30):

So thanks for listening to episode nine of nerds of business. This brings us to the end of season one and the branding series. As I mentioned earlier, we’ll be back soon with the season two, which I can now announce is on Product Development. Just like season one, we’ll have a rotating panel of nerds. Only this time. It will include product design experts and entrepreneurs who developed and launched a product successfully to market. We’ve got guests from a diverse range of industries, including tech, fashion, hospitality, wellness, and venture capital, whether you’re an existing business owner or an aspiring entrepreneur, I’m confident this new season will help you better develop products and services. You need to grow. We’re in preproduction right now. So for a month or two, between seasons, we’ll be running a series of bonus and special episodes. Look out for some uncut interviews where you can hear more of your favorite nerds from season one.

Darren Moffatt (48:28):

If you’ve enjoyed this episode, please leave a review on Apple, Spotify, Google, or wherever you listen to your podcast. It helps us climb up the ranks and become more visible to other people. Just like you. We want to help as many entrepreneurs and businesses as possible. If you’ve got a question or some feedback, of course we’d love to hear from you. You can engage with us at that’s So feel free to reach out and say hello, or ask a question. I want to thank all the guests who appeared on the branding series. A big shout out to Rachel Bevans, John Michail Neil Luo, Rob Newman, Victoria Coster, Fred Schebesta, Pic Picot, Andre Eikmeier, Ruth Truwhella, Ben Carew and Sam Wilkinson a special thanks to the team at Webbuzz for helping me put this show together. We’ll be back in two weeks with the first of our special episodes, which is an interview with ex-democratic party pollster and data marketing nerd from the United States. Mike Berland. Now, if you have even a passing fascination in the nexus between politics and business, you won’t want to miss this until then. I’m your host, Darren Moffatt. And I look forward to nerding out with you next time. Bye for now.


Darren Moffatt

Darren Moffatt

Darren Moffatt is an award-winning entrepreneur & Director of Strategy & Content at growth marketing agency, Webbuzz. An experienced digital strategist, he is an in-demand public speaker on the topic of digital disruption and online marketing, and regularly features in the Australian media.

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