How the public views your business can determine whether you succeed or fail. According to Carol Kinsey Goman, an author and international keynote speaker, most people form strong opinions within seven seconds, and once they do, these opinions can be difficult to change. Although a public image policy and proactive measures are often effective at preventing situations and issues that have the potential to damage your company’s image, it’s vital to have a “Plan B.".

Be Transparent and Truthful

Situations that can harm your company’s image include poor service or quality, lawsuits, internal theft or fraud, a workplace accident or a natural or man-made disaster. The University of Illinois recommends that for situations involving legal matters, you don’t allow your attorney to determine how you’ll respond, because most often his focus is on mitigating the legal outcome, not on improving your public image. Be as transparent and as truthful as you can be, admit your mistakes and immediately begin doing whatever is necessary to re-establish your business’s credibility.

Implement an Emergency Communication Plan

Issue an official statement in which you address whatever issue or issues your business is facing. To make sure this happens sooner rather than later, you should have an emergency communication plan ready to implement at a moment’s notice. The plan should state who is responsible for drafting an official statement, identify the company spokesperson and identify key actions, such as notifying key personnel and responding to telephone calls. In addition, the plan should describe how your spokesperson would deliver a public message.

Act Immediately

Improving your company’s image takes time and effort, so start working as soon as you possibly can. Connecting with your target-market customers and the community at large is a good place to start. For example, donate to a charity or other worthy cause or sponsor a community event. Implement a media relations campaign that replaces neutral or negative publicity with positive things that you want the community to know about your company.

Create a New Public Image

Your company’s name should be one of your biggest assets. Although changing your name isn’t a practical solution, changing how customers feel about your name is essential. For example, you might modify your company logo to include a motto or statement that uses words or phrases from your mission statement. Incorporate this new visual statement everywhere, including your employee’s name tags, business letterhead and marketing and promotional campaigns. Implementing and following through on promises made can go a long way toward improving your company’s image.