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For PR pros who have been trained to control the message, 2016 is a messy, messy place to be indeed. Like it or not, anyone can write anything about your brand and share it with the world. This matters because, according to the Opinion Research Corporation, 84% of Americans say that their buying decisions are influenced by on-line reviews. And it’s not just reviews, anything from a negative Tweet to a low star rating can impact how people perceive your brand. How can you protect your brand’s reputation in this Wild West like atmosphere? Here are a few critical tactics.
You can’t react and respond to reputation impacting information if you don’t have it. Keep in mind that free monitoring services like Google Alerts only notify you of certain types of content on a limited number of channels. To truly understand all of the talk around your brand, you need software designed to capture every mention on every channel, especially social media ones.
Respond Thoughtfully, Not Defensively
If it hurts your feelings when someone says something awful about your organization, that’s OK. It is fine to be emotionally invested in your work, but don’t let those feelings cloud your judgment when it comes to replying to negative comments. People appreciate authentic, customer-service oriented responses. If the poster has an ongoing problem, try to pull the conversation offline and resolve the issue. Keep in mind that you are writing not just for the original poster, but for all of your customers and prospects who may see the exchange.
Share the Love
For every unhappy customer, you probably have many more who are satisfied or delighted with your products and services. (If you didn’t you’d likely be out of business.) The challenge is that people are much more likely to spontaneously share their negative experiences as their positive ones. If you want people to tell others why they love you, you generally have to ask. Your goal is to have enough positive sentiment out there to overwhelm any negative comments.
Own Page One
If you want to hide a dead body, where do you put it? On the second page of Google. (That’s right folks, I’m hear all week.) Joking aside, creating content that outranks pages with negative mentions of your brand is an effective (and legitimate) way to improve your reputation. For example, the highest ranking page for the search term, “Reviews of Your Brand Here,” should be one that you own and control.
PR teams are rarely the group that works most closely with customers and prospects, so you are reliant on other folks to provide the great service that compels people to become raving fans of your brand. It is in your best interest to help those who are, understand exactly why brand reputation is important and how they can contribute to the organization’s success by making every interaction with the brand enjoyable.
Modern reputation management isn’t easy, but it isn’t impossible either. The fact that people can share their experiences and opinions can either be detrimental or hugely advantageous for your brand. To a large extent, it’s up to you.