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January 3, 2012
How to Repair a Damaged Brand When Disaster Strikes
Are you ready to fight for your brand?
Many brands on their top game suddenly find themselves in a truck full of brand trouble. A scandal, bad judgment, a legal mess, a tragic accident or as the result of just taking your eye off the ball — the brand goes bad.
Beat-up brands can recover.
I look at brands that have fought their way back from near folds and I'm always amazed at the resiliency and dedication I see. In my latest book, Brand Turnaround, I reveal the steps taken by persistent leaders who overcame major brand shake-ups. I call these seven key concepts Game Changers, and one of them is to not give up.
Seems like an easy enough concept, but how far are you really willing to go if your brand undergoes disastrous, brand-killing times? Do you have a plan? How can you ensure that you'll persist? Can you handle the pressure and whatever hand you're dealt — even if that means a trip to jail or a big fat market rejection?
People like Martha Stewart, Michael Vick, and Arianna Huffington are proof of how to make the best of a bad situation. Without going into detail about all of their stories (you can find that in my book), they all have some common traits:
  • Taking full responsibility for themselves
  • Welcoming change and outside help
  • Leveraging what they know
  • Being completely honest and transparent
  • Being resilient
  • Employing a multi-touchpoint tool kit
Now put yourself in their shoes. Imagine you've somehow gotten mixed up with the wrong crowd and ended up making a bad judgment call that landed you in the nightly news. You got a DUI, and this time you're going to jail instead of attending your company’s annual retreat. Your business partners might bail on you, the public may be against you, or your employees lose confidence in you — so it's time to come up with a plan for yourself.
First, you must understand that failure isn't permanent. It’s a temporary event unless you choose to stay there. Even if you've let a bunch of people down, including yourself, regain your composure and find your inner strength. Yes, fear, anger, and shame may feel like an eternal zone, but you can put an end to it — pick up the pieces to move forward.
Whether you're sent to jail, your brand’s reputation suffered from bad judgment calls, or a long series of rejections take you out of the game, stop feeling sorry for yourself, get a grip, and take focused actions to change your course from loser to a top brand that people want to buy and associate with.
If you are incarcerated, you will have plenty of time to reflect and come up with your plan. If you are still operating, but in a big depressed funk, carve out significant amounts of alone time to reflect, shake off the past, and map out your recovery.
Have faith, whether that means reading, meditating or going into your personal spiritual zone. Then visualize where you want to be.
Reverting to old patterns and ways will keep you in the nightmare. Resiliency will return you to glory and make dreams possible.
While you're away physically or mentally, don't let your brand die. This might mean temporarily stepping down from your head role. It's okay to hire a leader to fill in for you or to trust one of your partners to take the reins while you get your life sorted out. Do whatever is best for your future brand. Do remember that the longer you ponder, the further you are from brand recovery.
Once you are back in the game, don't be afraid to ask for help. Reach out to advisors, business connections, or professional firms who can help you reinvent or polish up your brand and reestablish trust with your markets. Leverage community outreach opportunities like volunteering or doing public speaking that relate to your new image or lessons you learned from the bad events that can aid others.
Be honest once you're back in the limelight. Admit to what you did and explain the steps you're taking to continue to make yourself a better person and a respected brand — and to avoid making the same mistake again. Self-deprecation and being able to laugh at yourself could also work in your favor.
Reengage with the public. Even if your former fan club isn't as solid as it once was, people liked you/your brand for a reason. Invite them to be a part of your new life by interacting with them via social media and being transparent about your intentions.
Establish new relationships with positive people. You may have lost some partnerships due to your temporary setback, but it doesn't mean that no one will ever want to partner with you again. In fact, you may find that other successful people have made similar mistakes. Connect with them for advice and strength.
Embrace change. Don't let the past shape your current thoughts or actions. The past brought you brand- and life-damaging consequences, so if you want different results, you must try different actions.
Leverage what you know and are passionate about. Most of the successful brands I’ve seen turn around — especially personal brands — have aligned their core talents and what they love to do with moving their game plan forward.

And finally, don’t underestimate the power of visual communications. How you dress, what your marketing materials look like, and the tools that best reflect the new you — the brand that has turned around — are critical.
This article is based on content from Karen Post’s latest book, Brand Turnaround (McGraw-Hill). This article focuses on personal brands, but the book covers a variety of brands from commercial and destination brands, to nonprofit brands.

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Karen Post, aka The Branding Diva®, is an international branding expert, consultant, and speaker. She has been featured in a broad range of media outlets, including Bloomberg TV and radio, CBS's "The Early Show," The New York Times, The New York Post, NPR, Fast Company, and The Boston Globe. She is also the author of Brand Turnaround (McGraw-Hill) and Brain Tattoos: Creating Unique Brands That Stick in Your Customers' Minds (AMACOM).

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