Not everything that appears online about your business is positive. Invariably because marketing is about making choices you will upset someone, somewhere. And often, you are unable to respond immediately to that criticism. This makes managing your business reputation online very tricky.
Social media and communities are easy to participate in. But if a journalist conveys an opinion about your company on a well read news website, you’re stuck with it. You tend not to get an opportunity to respond after the fact.
Its also true of some blogs. That persons opinion is their opinion and the blog their property. If they choose not to allow response then any negative opinions remain. So what do you do?
This is a multifaceted strategy that involves balancing the negative with positive, persuasion, response and litigation.
To balance the negative you need to get your voice out there. Where that persons opinion is negative but from a point of view, correct, break down the criticism. They key here is not to respond directly and draw any more attention to the criticism than it already has.
Structure an argument that tells your side of the story on why you do things the way you do them. Drill into your argument and begin to formulate what part of your value proposition drives your business behaviour. Then write an article/advertorial or advert promoting that part of your value proposition and get it online.
An common example is criticism of service levels.
The argument might be you are a discount business so service is not part of your offer. You’ll provide basic support for the sale where appropriate and the minimum legal protection required. But you won’t go out of your way to do something extra for the customer.
The value proposition is because service adds cost and increases price. But the proposition price is discounted. Someone criticising service levels of discount providers hasn’t understood the tie between price and offer.
Your action is to promote price benefits at basic no frills service. Publishing and then promoting this proposition through social networks particularly will balance negative opinions elsewhere. Done well it will show the criticism to be unreasonable and unreliable.
Persuasion involves winning over the author/publisher to either:
- Allow you to respond in the newspaper/blog by way of footnote
- Allowing a counter point article
- Getting the article removed
This means contacting the author and publisher directly.
Use who you are as leverage. If you are important enough for them to write about you then your involvement in their publication adds value. Reverse this as well.
“We care what you say about us because you are an important media for us. It’s an important environment so we wish to respond in some way”.
Use what you do for them as leverage. If you advertise in their publication, make it known they are biting the hand that feeds them. Editors do not have the independence they used to have and there are few media channels with the power they used to have. You won’t control what they can publish but you can get a hearing if there is an advertising relationship. Simply put, no business is going to advertise in a publication that criticises them.
Leverage factual inaccuracies. Editorial can be changed or removed where the facts are incorrect. This is more likely where it is a blog as most media outlets will fact check before publishing. Most bloggers want to be taken seriously so they have to conduct themselves professionally. This is your best chance of getting something removed.
Some criticism is correct. Take note and change your business. While you make these changes do so publicly so everyone can see you responding to your customer base.
Once the change is made go back to the critics and have them acknowledge the change. Do this by thanking them for pointing out the issue (they’ve done you a favour after all) and detailing the changes and choices you have made. Ask them to publish the changes.
If all else fails remember litigation as an option. If an article is factually incorrect or slanderous and they won’t remove it you need to respond to bad behaviour. Do it with all guns blazing and get it out of cyberspace.
Have a plan
All up protection mechanisms are essential to managing your online reputation. With consumers testing the strength of your offer through the internet you need to ensure you have accurate information out there. Have a plan on how to deal with it so you can respond efficiently and accurately through a considered approach.