Corporate Crises — and Reputational Recovery — Have Changed

Corporate crises — and reputational recovery — traditionally have been shaped like a U. Companies who refocused on their core competences started rehabilitating their reputation within two to three years and experienced a full recovery within three to four years. In today’s polarized landscape, a new type of corporate crisis is becoming more prevalent: the Crisis L. These L-shaped crises are more severe because they are driven by politics and culture wars, and so the long tail of reputation damage is unknown. In such a polarized country, brands that face political backlash can alienate up to half their customer base. Their reputation score does not recover because support from one side has cratered. Those customers refuse to accept an apology because to them it is an issue of values, not of products.

Historically, companies faced crises related to their products, services, or governance. Think Boeing and 737 Max crashes, Chipotle and burritos contaminated with E. coli and Wells Fargo creating millions of fake bank accounts. And historically, these companies’ reputational recovery, as measured by the Harris Poll’s Reputation Quotient, followed a similar U-shaped pattern: Those companies that were able to refocus on their core competences — like Boeing, Chipotle, and Wells Fargo did — started rehabilitating their reputation within two to three years and experienced a full recovery within three to four years.


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