What Ryan Lochte Reminds Us About Branding

Sorry folks, I know you can’t check your social feeds or turn on the news and not see the name Ryan Lochte, but there’s a lesson here for brands of all industries – not just celebrity athletes. There is little doubt that the “Ryan and pals debacle” has public relations repercussions on USA Swimming, Team USA and the USOC. Each of these organizations has, and will continue to handle the scandal differently, but it is perhaps the City of Rio that has been the most forthright in protecting their brand by assertively telling the world, “we will not tolerate attempts to tarnish our reputation.” Is your organization as prepared and organized to have the same swift reaction to a potential scandal? Is your brand solid enough to withstand events outside of its control?

The making of a strong brand

Any company or organization is vulnerable to unforeseen events that impact its brand. However, it is the strength of that brand that determines how big of an impact will be made. To build a strong brand, organizations first need to KNOW their true brand. This is not just the brand attributes it wants to claim, but also the brand attributes that truly define the organization. What is the essence of the company or organization? Next, organizations need to communicate that brand to its stakeholders – primarily its employees. If employees do not know what their words or actions are supposed to communicate, they cannot LIVE the brand. Third, organizations need to MEASURE how well they are performing against the brand expectations. This is a never-ending process which will reveal gaps from time to time. Organizations that follow these steps and nurture strong brands are much better positioned to weather a “Lochte event” of their own.

Plan for potential scenarios

Nonetheless, even strong brands are vulnerable to events outside of anyone’s control. A crisis communications plan provides brands a proactive toolkit to help mitigate repercussions from such unforeseen events. By identifying a crisis response team and documenting the process and the prioritization of certain scenarios, companies and organizations can act swiftly and with confidence – regardless of the event. How you respond is directly related to how well you will withstand the event and its potential impact on your organization.

Are you ready to get started in evaluating your company’s brand? Give us a call for a Brand Audit and/or a Crisis Communications Plan.