The internet can be a double-edged sword. On one hand, it opens up a world of familiarity and opportunity, sometimes with just the click of a button or a perfect post. The other side of its power, though, is just as fast and twice as deadly. A negative article, photo, or review can easily catch fire and spread quickly through shares and likes, sometimes before the affected party even has a chance to realize what is happening. In the worst case scenario, online negatives can spread to mainstream media outlets, and severely damage a company’s reputation.
The best defense against a bad online reputation, of course, is to have a great product or service, and support it with outstanding customer service. Even then, a customer who gets disgruntled at the slightest perceived slight can easily send out a Facebook post or a Tweet that starts the negativity snowball rolling. It is crucial to closely monitor your online business reputation in any case to see how prospects might view your company, and also to promptly respond to any negative comments or questions. If your business has been harmed or criticized online, here are a few online reputation repair strategies you can use to try to right the ship again:
- Be Aware: Look up your company, product or people on a search engine and see what kind of results you get. Set a Google Alert to notify you or your crisis manager when information about your company is posted online. Have somebody who is responsible for reviewing your social media sites and responding to questions, negative comments, or poor reviews. That person needs authority to make certain decisions and offer possible incentives to make the situation right with the customer.
- Have a Plan in Place: The worst time to create your online reputation repair strategy is in the midst of a PR crisis. Create a strategy in advance that you can roll out as soon as the first negative comment hits. Designate one person who will be responsible for being the public face of your company.
- Apologize When Appropriate: There is no force as strong as the wrath of someone with righteous indignation who feels they have not been heard or valued. If your company or employee was clearly in the wrong, it is always best to offer a sincere apology and try to make the situation right. Post your apology on your website and all of your social media outlets so people Googling your company have a chance to find it and learn both sides of the story.
- Balance With the Positives: Negatives should not be the only thing people can find about your company online. Make sure you present and promote all the positives your company provides. Strive to have a steady stream of good news that can outweigh the bad. Continue to build, establish and maintain the strong online presence you can control.
- Keep to the High Road: While it may be tempting to swap put-downs with the nay-sayers, that strategy does not paint your company in a very positive light. Always take the high road and stress that your company adheres to certain values, and tries its best to keep customers happy.
- Promote Results: Surely not every customer is dissatisfied with your product or service. Find those that are enthusiastic and ask them to provide positive reviews that you can use on your website and social media. If they are willing to record a video testimonial for you, display it prominently on your YouTube channel and other outlets. Perhaps your PR people can even put out a release or story about the positive event that motivated this customer to share.
- Watch the SEO: Know what keywords might be used to search for your company and this particular comment or incident. Make sure your positives include the same SEO so that they will also appear in the results.
- Link Removal: It can be a long and tedious process, but if you do find information that is defamatory, incorrect or slanderous, you can ask the posting sites to remove the information or take down the page. This can be difficult to control, though, if something has gone viral.
- Bring in the Professionals: You might need to bring in an online reputation management company to try to minimize the spread of the malicious content. These companies can assist you with such services as crisis response, brand preservation and strategic public relations.
In short, the best online reputation repair strategies are planning, persistence, and positivity. You certainly want to assume that everything will run smoothly for your company, but have a plan in place in case something does not turn out quite as expected.