Managing Negative Brand Hits - Radiant

The Radiant Blog

Posted by Andrew VanderPloeg

So last week, Ray posted the conversation-starting post called, PC vs. Mac - Round 1: Let the Battle Begin! As anticipated, that post generated a number of comments with people passionately weighing in on both sides of the debate. One comment by a contributor named Pastor David, however, spoke not to the PC vs. Mac debate but rather called into question the inclusion of a photo and some terminology from that post, and a previous one, that he felt was inappropriate for a ministry-based website.

David’s comment especially surrounded his concern of how the AdvancedMinistry brand and by association his Church’s brand, would be affected as they (and we) seek to witness to a lost world.

To be sure, we want to be careful to not become embroiled in a debate over the interpretation of Scripture and what it means to be a good witness, as that is so often a fruitless endeavour amongst believers, and in fact, results in the very negative brand implications that hurt our witness which David is concerned with.

However, given that we want to honour David’s comment and had in fact, already intended to post on both the image in question and the use of words that might be offensive to some, we’ve decided to do a two-part response. Part one, is all about managing negative brand hits.

The image in question is a picture of Ray and I pretending to urinate on the Apple logo. Admittedly, it’s a somewhat crude photo that was in fact, never intended to be something that could ever find its way onto the public side of the Internet. But it did.

About a year-and-a-half ago, this image not only got posted on the web, but then proceeded to get picked up by dozens of news sources as a funny hook for their articles about Apple or the PC/Mac debate. Within weeks, a search of my full name on Google returned a result set that included a number of instances of this image on the first page. This is obviously a problem from a personal brand perspective. Employers around the world now make it common practice to perform a Google search on an individual’s name before they consider hiring a person. Given that much of my expertise is in marketing for Churches and Ministries, it follows that this could become a real issue for me in the future if I was ever to look for work elsewhere. And that doesn’t even communicate the damage to our personal brand with friends and family.

Turning the attention off of us, it’s safe to say that at some point in the future, especially for those of us that are really engaging the web and the ideas of social media, something bad will get out there and the challenge with the web is that once it’s out there, you can’t get it back. This image of Ray and I will be on the web for good. The question becomes then, when this happens to you, how do you deal with this kind of negative brand hit?

Our suggestion, and what we’ve tried to do here, is to manage the damage of this image by giving it context.

Anyone who knows Ray or I would likely have a great laugh at this picture because they know us to be men of integrity and strong faith in God. But let’s face it, humans do judge books by their cover. As such, we wanted to incorporate this image onto our blog so as to give it the context of all of the other things that we say, do and believe.

How does posting this image fit with our blog mandate? Well, it actually accomplishes two important things:

  1. It allows us the opportunity to manage a negative brand hit by communicating a bit more about who we are as we tie this one rogue piece of the puzzle in with the rest.
     
  2. In dealing with that negative brand hit, we are given a great case study of what it means to manage a personal or organizational brand online. By sharing this experience with you, our hope is that if, or more likely when, you come up against your own brand challenge, you’ll have an idea of how to respond.

Learning from our mistakes, or those of another, is something that we humans have a hard time with, but we hope that our experience will help you in time to come.

Part 2 of our response will come tomorrow and will deal with the use of terminology that might offend.