By Samuel Thimothy, VP at OneIMS.com

Building a reputable brand takes a lot of time. You can spend years trying to craft a strong brand image for your business. But when something goes wrong, that brand image you've invested so much time and effort into creating can become tarnished in just a few minutes.

Unfortunately, even with the right precautions in place, you can't always avoid a crisis. Things happen that are outside of your control -- and you need to be prepared for that

If you've experienced a crisis -- or you just want to be ready if one happens -- here are a few things you can do to help prevent your brand reputation from taking too hard of a hit.

1. Act quickly.

When something goes wrong, you might hope that it will just blow over. Unfortunately, this is rarely the case. Your audience won't forget or ignore what might have happened -- they'll wait for you to do something about it.

Be ready to act quickly. You want to get a message out there about what happened, what went wrong and what you're doing to make things better. If possible, get it out there within 24 to 48 hours.

2. Admit your fault.

If you or someone on your team made a mistake, own up to it. When something goes wrong, your audience doesn't want to hear excuses or listen to you push blame on someone else -- they just want to hear what happened.

Admit what you could have done better to prevent the crisis from happening in the first place. Apologize for what went wrong, and let them know what you're doing to prevent that from happening again.

3. Do what is right.

An apology is a great place to start, but depending on what happened, it might not be enough. You need to do what you can to set your audience relationships back on the right path.

Getting back on your customers' good side will probably involve a bit of investment. While you can do things such as offering discount counts or free services, you might need to do more than a one-time deal.

4. Avoid social media fights.

If audience members, past customers or even people completely unassociated with your brand start talking about your business on social media, it's easy to get defensive. You may want to start fighting back to defend your reputation.

Unfortunately, this doesn't help. It might feel good in the moment, but it can actually damage your reputation further. Instead, choose your arguments wisely -- offer to talk through an issue offline, or urge unhappy customers to connect through other customer service channels.

5. Plan for the long haul.

Reputations stick. When you have a strong reputation, that can be a great thing. But when you have a bad reputation, it can be hard to shake. It's going to take time to turn your image around.

Create a plan beyond just today, this week or even this year. Be realistic about the damage that has been done and what you need to do to repair it -- no matter how long it will take.

6. Get your team on the same page.

Everyone on your team needs to know and be on board with your reputation improvement plan. Hold a teamwide meeting to get everyone on the same page.

Make sure that your team has messaging they can use when asked about the crisis and that they all understand what happened and how you're working to resolve it. Keep your door open to any questions or conversations they might want to have. Remember, brand reputation management is a teamwide effort.

We all hope a crisis within our company will never happen, but that's usually just wishful thinking. Things are bound to happen, both big and small. It's important that you know what to do when something goes wrong. These six steps can get you started managing your brand reputation, but always remember to adjust things as necessary.

Samuel Thimothy is the VP at OneIMS.com, an inbound marketing agency, and co-founded Clickx.io, the digital marketing intelligence platform.