One of the major issues at the social media panel I was a speaker of has been online reputation management. While I prefer the more proactive ways of reputation building instead of the emergency like reputation crisis management nonetheless most of the businesses not familiar with blogging and social media need basic advice on how to deal with bad press online.
So I decided to collect 8 very simple steps of emergency reputation management. These measures should help in cases where a forum or blog post shows up in the Google top 10 for your product or brand.
Most importantly before we start thinking about fending off a reputation issue we have to agree that we do not want to sweep things under the rug. Many people mistake reputation management for just that. Reputation management is about dealing with negative issues, facing not ignoring them.
- Discover negative publicity early via simple tools like Google Alerts or Technorati Watchlist.
- Reply as a representative of your company. Example: “I work at x and we have lots of clients using y with good results.” Do not make these clients up of course.
- Show that you care. Example: “We have contacted our local dealer to deal with your problems, he should call you shortly.” Contact your local retailer to just do that.
- Be matter of fact. Example: “This seems to be a serious issue you have. We will do everything to ensure your and other clients satisfaction. Please give us some time to deal with it internally.” Then be quick to deal with it.
- Offer a refund if the client is too disgruntled already.
- Offer the publisher a way to test the product or a new version of it if he hasn’t before or the last version failed.
- Link to other clients or positive cases studies, even within your reply.
- Contact the publisher directly to research and sort out the issue, do not rely solely on the published part.
While employing these simple measures always remember that you need to address the real underlying issue. Inherently flawed products or services will make others vent their frustration too so make sure you tackle larger issues not one by one but systematically even by discontinuing a product.
Also do not call your lawyers unless this is a evident case of slander. Silencing legitimate bloggers and consumer advocates will backfire manifold. You might end up with lots of negative publicity.