The Tour de France has had it’s share of scandal for the last few years. Doping allegations, disgraced champions, the absence of reigning champions, struggles about how to govern this flagship cycling competition. It’s been a rough road for them, to be sure.
Versus, the cable sports network that covers the Tour, has taken matters into their own hands to try and motivate cycling and Tour lovers alike to Take Back The Tour. The TV spots are unapologetic and in-your-face. And they’re effective for an evangelist like me that loves the sport, loves the race, and wants to see the world’s greatest bike race regain its former glory.
So what’s the lesson here to be learned?
Brand tarnishing happens to the best of the best. In today’s market of interconnected and superconnected online networks, referral- and review-minded consumers, and customer-driven branding, it’s inevitable that the negative will creep out amongst the positive. And whether it’s a small smudge or a giant smear campaign, nothing can be gained by hiding amongst the trees and hoping it will all blow over. (Jusk ask fans and users of Twitter these days).
Engaging those that are talking to you and about you can do wonders for healing – even improving – a brand’s reputation. Yes, it’s scary sometimes and it can sting to take a few blows. But your credibility is heightened when you speak in your own voice and try your best to have a dialogue with those criticising you. Companies are populated by people and a human face is critical to meeting adversity with credibility.
And if you’ve been the unfortunate victim of bad apples spoiling your bushel like the Tour de France has, take back your brand by denouncing bad behavior and reaffirming your commitment to your company and your customers. Skip the corporate-y crisis press release and put out real, human responses by real people. Get out there and engage with your loyal evangelists, and rally them to the cause. Apologize for your mistakes. Commit to correcting them. Thank your community for caring enough to be angry.
After all, isn’t your personal Tour de France worth defending?