An executive drops a religious comment in an interview; hours later, it spreads on Twitter and Facebook, with many fans swearing never to patronize his establishments again.
A woman makes an off color joke on Twitter before getting on a plane to travel overseas; by the time she finishes her 11-hour flight, she has been fired from her job and is the subject of hundreds of death threats.
In our highly connected world, ideas travel as fast as internet signals will carry them. This makes careful and conscious reputation management more important than ever.
With these realities in mind, follow these tips to ensure your reputation helps you and your enterprise instead of harming them:
1. Listen before you speak.
If your brand is going to delve into social media, do not start tweeting or posting before taking time to get to know your niche’s audience. Social listening allows you to learn about the type of language people use, how they are feeling about your brand and ones like it and what is most important to them. Always start by listening. It reduces the chance of expensive gaffes.
2. Be transparent.
Do not remove posts when someone says something negative. This can lead to what is known as the “Streisand Effect.” The term refers to Barbra Streisand’s efforts to get photos of her beachside house removed from the internet. By attempting to stifle online discussion, she increased the photos’ prominence. Savvy web-users can find posts you have removed and will only screen-cap them and angrily post them again.
3. Respond to client complaints.
Survey after survey shows that, when people want a response from a brand when they make a complaint online. It is important to ensure that individuals feel that you have heard them and that you want to help. Plus, a quick response does not just help you win back this individual’s trust. It also helps build your reputation as a caring and responsive brand.
4. But don’t get angry.
As we discuss in our post about crisis communications, it is imperative that you do not go on the defensive. Do not attack the person who complains. Do not post angrily. This only makes your brand look bad. If you feel that individuals working with your company do not have the distance necessary to respond calmly and helpfully, training from a crisis communications consultant can help. They can teach you crisis management best practices and help you turn problems into opportunities.
5. Practice excellent customer service.
Warren Buffett once observed that it takes years to build a reputation but minutes to ruin one. Because of the high speed at which information travels, every one of your interactions with current and prospective customers could be an interaction with all of them. Effective reputation management means treating every interaction as it if is an advertisement for your company. Ensure that there are a minimum of flubs and unhappy customers to bring your reputation down.
6. Have a plan for dealing with missteps.
Even social media savvy companies make mistakes sometimes. The trick is to recover gracefully. A good crisis management plan is key. Do you have a strategy in place to deal with customer anger when something goes wrong? Do you have backup individuals who can handle an issue if the main liaison is unreachable? Both speed and the right attitude matter. On a fast moving platform like Twitter, a couple of hours can significantly affect your brand. While there is no one cookie cutter response that can help every time, a few guiding principles should allow you to navigate any issues. Act with humility. Use self-effacing humor when appropriate. And act quickly, even if your first action is just an assurance that you are aware of the issue and handling it internally.
7. Make the good news rise to the top.
In some cases, the best thing you can do is make the bad news a small speck of information floating in a sea of positive stories. Participate regularly on the channels where your customers are likely to be. This can mean Instagram for a lifestyle brand, LinkedIn or Quora for B2B or another platform that fits your clients’ demographics. Post regularly and interact there. Make sure that people know the good things your business engages in; for instance, if team members in your home office participate in a charity run each year, create stories that show this.
8. Create profiles on a wide range of social media platforms.
Even if all that you put there is syndicated content from another channel, make sure you have a presence on each major social media network. Go through the steps to get verified so that people can see that this is your official presence. Neglecting to do so allows imposters and trolls a way to control the conversation. It is easier for individuals to discern between your brand and someone pretending to be you if you have the most logical handle for your brand and have it verified.
9. Create digital communication policies for people who work for your company.
It’s easier for everyone to do the right things online if they know the rules of the road. Make a list of policies and hold meetings so that workers are clear about what they can and cannot say. For instance, you can ban brand disparagement or political commentary on profiles that are linked to your brand. When doing this, however, be sure to consult human resources and legal to assure that you are on a safe path. It is, for instance, illegal in the US to restriction workers from discussing work conditions.
10. Give people an outlet for complaints.
When people have bad experiences with a business, they want to be heard. Often, the methods available to them are limited to social media and review sites. Make an internal system to listen to customer concerns so that they go to you first. For instance, an unhappy customer at a restaurant who receives a comment card is more likely to get any harsh feelings out of her system by leaving her feedback on the card. If your business is online, create a space where customers can reach out and discuss their concerns. A messaging system or online chat can help resolve issues before the individual goes out to blast your business on any platform they can find.
Now more than ever, it is vital to be aware of how your business is perceived in the community. By watching how people talk and doing what you can to make things right, you can enjoy a better reputation online. Careful reputation management does not just protect you from negative outcomes. It can also improve your business’s profile and help you continue to thrive.
Can we help you?
Building an effective crisis management process that incorporates crisis management, crisis communications, and other functions within your firm is what we do here at Bryghtpath. Such a process can help you weather the storm when you encounter a significant issue.
Bryghtpath has built the crisis management plans and frameworks for many Fortune 500 organizations, non-profits, and public sector agencies. Our firm has more than a century of experience in developing actionable plans to help prepare organizations for the unexpected. Our expertise includes crisis communications and emergency plans/exercises.
Contact us today at +1.612.235.6435 or via our contact form.