Why Online Reputation Management is an Important Part of Your Online Marketing Strategy
With the global connectivity of the Internet, rarely anything a company does goes unnoticed. Managing your online reputation is obviously important - you don't want customers or other businesses to see you in a negative light. But are you covering all your bases? Aside from maintaining a great website that is easy to navigate, looks good, and has good content, with Web 2.0 you now may have to maintain a Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter account, as well as deal with bad reviews on other websites. With so much to take into consideration, how can you manage it all?
The most important aspect of managing your online reputation is being prepared. If you're prepared to handle negative situations that are inevitable to arise, dealing with these issues will be much easier and less costly in the long run. With the speed that news is spread over the internet, negative publicity can pop up seemingly without warning.
A Lesson Learned from BP
Your company may not be as globally recognized as BP, but there is much to be learned from their oil spill crisis and how they dealt with it. While you and your business (hopefully) will never have to deal with a crisis on such a large scale, there may come a time when you have some issue to deal with that could mean disaster if not handled properly.
BP made a mistake early on by attempting to underplay the impact of the spill. After much ridicule and negative press, BP tried to fix their reputation through various social media, including their Facebook page, Twitter account, and Flickr photostream. Since they weren't prepared, the effort made to clean up the bad publicity cost the company a lot of time and money, and may have still been too little, too late. After all, how many of us currently have a positive opinion of BP?
How to Prepare for Dealing with a Crisis or Negative PR
One of the most time consuming steps is to establish trust and credibility. If your company has a good reputation for being ethical, reliable, and responsible, then when a crisis arises, people will be more likely to listen to your side of the story.
Equally important is setting up a crisis team, who will be in charge of cleaning up any negative PR. This team should include an online media spokesperson, who will act as the voice of your company on your social media sites, blogs, and anywhere else online PR is required. Your team should also include advisors whom you can consult with before reacting to a crisis or bad reviews.
While negative press could pop up with lightning speed, your reaction to it shouldn't be so hasty. Taking time to consult with others, and carefully think out your response can save a lot of headaches and having to deal with more bad publicity.
Dealing with Negative Reviews
For instance, some business owners might be angered by a bad review, and want to strike back. While we'd like to think that most people can hold their temper and act in a professional manner when dealing with business issues, this isn't always the case. The best way to respond to a negative review is to apologize to the person for their bad experience and defend your business in a calm, respectful, and professional manner. Don't attack the reviewer or call them a liar. If they happen to say something about your company that isn't true, simply clear up the misconception by explaining the truth. An angry or disrespectful response will only make you and your company look worse than the negative review itself.
Once your crisis or PR team is in place, you can have them search the Internet for any bad press or reviews, and handle each one with grace. This will make your company look more professional and will show that you care about your customers and the experiences they have with your company. Interacting with customers online, even disgruntled ones, can help build your reputation as a compassionate and professional company.
If your company is too small to have its one crisis or PR team, make sure the person you put in charge of online reputation management is someone who is capable of handling these situations in a courteous and professional manner. Hiring an SEO firm or public relations professional can also be a good way to manage your online reputation. After all, you've put a lot of time in building your business, and your online marketing strategy. You don't want to throw away all your hard work over one crisis or a bad piece of PR.