Spontaneity can be a fun aspect when creating social media posts but when it comes to reputation management a spontaneous reaction is not what you rely on. All businesses of every size need a thoughtful plan to manage the brand reputation of the company and the personal reputation of its principals. The following five steps cover the basic aspects of such a plan and provide a great place to start. The point is to get started. Don’t put this off thinking it’ll never happen to you or your company. Just like the game of Battleship, you’ll never know when someone will hit a chord with a bad review or a scathing blog post. Eventually every business has a bad day or a misunderstanding with a client. It’s best to plan for the inevitable and not leave it to chance. So, let’s get started…
#1 – Make a Huge List of the Possible Damaging Scenarios
Take the time to create a list that includes the most outrageous sitatuions. If you give some thought and let your imageination run wild you will capture everything from a negative post on Facebook to an entire blog dedicated to how much your company sucks. The most common problem is the negative review complaining about a specific case where a customer misunderstood a policy.
Go through these types of scenarios and think about all the places those comments could appear and how you would respond. Review sites like Yelp and Angie’s List are obvious places, but also consider blog comments on your site, their own social media, and forums.
#2 – Create a Prepared Response
Now for each of these scary scenarios, think about what would be an appropriate response. Really get into the shoes of your customer who is upset and the other customers and prospects who are watching. If a customer gives you a bad review on Yelp you should reach out to them personally and try to resolve the problem. Then ask them to consider editing their review or writing a new review as a follow up. The customer may not be happy to hear from you at first, but if you stay positive and don’t act defensively they will appreciate the effort to make things right again. Even if it is a misunderstanding on their part, find a solution that works for all parties. It’s worth the goodwill to make the customer happy again. Make it public that you are responding. If the matter is on Facebook for example, respond publicly that you are willing to resolve this since your company usually doesn’t operate this way. Explain that the person should reach out to you and give an email or phone number for the person to respond. The rest of your audience will see that you were listening and that you care about your customers.
When creating responses also consider a chain of command for notifications. When a new problem crops up with customer service or complaints how are people notified and who needs to get involved?
#3 – Keep a Constant Watch
Be vigilant about monitoring. There are some passive ways to monitor your reputation where you get notifications like Google Alerts. Go to google.com/alerts and set up an alert for your brand name, your own name and the keywords or names of other company stakeholders who may fall prey to an irate customer. You can also use your social media dashboard tools like HootSuite and save searches that monitor those same terms being used in social media. In addition, native tools with some channels can help detect posts by using hashtags or services like BrandYourself.com.
In your planning make a list of review sites or online forums where your company’s customer may hang out or have already left reviews in the past so you can monitor those as well.
#4 – Leave the Monitoring to Others
Delegating monitoring can be done if you have several staff members already handling communications like Facebook as part of their job. One person can coordinate everyone else. This makes the job less daunting and it keeps each member sharp enough to catch everything. Just be sure to document the procedures and plans for responding so that everyone deals with negative comments in the same manner. Be clear in your process so that staff fully understands what you expect. If you don’t have a staff chances are your presence won’t need several people monitoring it. The tools mentioned above can help automate the monitoring so you can check in easily as part of your marketing routine and be notified in real time when a crisis happens.
#5 – Take the Time to Tell the Good Stories
This final step is one that most people miss. Our businesses do lots of things right otherwise we wouldn’t be in business. Take the time out to let others know about the good things your company is doing and the positive results you achieved for clients. It’s about being proactive instead of reactive. Ask for reviews on a regular basis instead of waiting for a bad one and then trying to pile on the 5-Star Reviews after the fact. This just looks like a knee jerk reaction versus one person who wasn’t happy. Most people understand that negative reviews do not mean a company is incompetent. Unless of course, that’s all they see. Look at Amazon. Every product has good and bad reviews. Most of us will take it with a grain of salt if there are 20 good reviews and two bad ones.
Plenty of businesses outsource reputation management to companies that specialize in it since they have tools and experience to handle all types of issues from a negative review to a full-on Public Relations crisis.