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Nigella’s reputation re-launch provides lesson in crisis management planning

January 7, 2014 by Jonathan Hemus

The new year presented Nigella Lawson with an opportunity to begin a new phase of reputation management for “Brand Nigella” following a challenging 2013.

With last year’s court case behind her and a new TV series about to begin in the US, Nigella transitioned from crisis communication mode by seizing the opportunity to set the media agenda with an appearance on ABC’s Good Morning America.  Please take a look at this interview on the BBC News Channel for my view on how she performed: 

All the evidence so far seems to indicate that “Brand Nigella” is well on the road to recovery. Here are three reasons why:

1)  A pre-crisis stock of reputational goodwill

Nigella’s successful crisis management was due in no small part to the reputational goodwill she built in the years before the court case.  Her persona successfully connected with both men and women, engendering trust, admiration and affection.  These were invaluable assets as her character was called into question during the trial.

This principle applies equally to brands and businesses: invest continually in relationship and reputation building during the good times. It will serve you well when the chips are down.

2)  Pitch perfect messaging and positioning

Communicating engaging messages and creating the right impression are major challenges when damaging details about your life are laid bare.  But, once again,  Nigella has been pitch perfect.  She has managed to combine dignity and strength with a tinge of vulnerability, which was a subtle yet authentic development of the brand she had built before the crisis.

For businesses, your behaviour in a crisis must be both consistent with what you professed before the issue and also appropriate to engage your stakeholders.  Actions or words which contravene this guideline are likely to make a bad situation worse.

3)  Be honest

Nigella’s honesty in admitting to infrequent drug use at times of severe personal stress only served to make her a more credible, sympathetic and appealing individual.

The same applies to businesses: if you make a mistake, admit it quickly and take steps to both rectify it and prevent it from happening again.  But beware: serious problems lie ahead if you are found to have been less than truthful in your admission or if you become repeat offender.

All the evidence indicates that Nigella Lawson is in good shape to preserve her reputation in 2014. Businesses undertaking crisis management planning this year could do worse than mirror her approach to issues management.

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