Bad brand reputations seem to be a dime a dozen these days, and every PR nightmare is broadcast to the world on social media in a relatively short span of time. If you’ve taken a stroll through a brand’s YouTube or Twitter comments or @replies, you have probably noticed that commenters are ruthless about calling out companies when they see fit—and now more than ever, they have multiple online platforms for doing so. The comment section can suck, but with strong reputation management, you can find smart ways to respond to any PR hiccups.
We’ve watched through our fingers as big businesses such as Uber, Pepsi and United Airlines have embarked on their own PR train-wrecks with varying degrees of recovery. While we agree that bad press sucks, sometimes it just can’t be avoided (okay, in the case of the aforementioned brands, chances are most of the nightmares could’ve been avoided). But if you’re a company who is experiencing the lingering ill effects of a muddied reputation, we’ve come up with a no bullsh*t guide of best practices for reputation management. Follow these tips and chances are you can mitigate some of the damages.
If criticism or disaster strikes, be prepared to react quickly, politely and earnestly. Research demonstrates that addressing any issues and getting a message out as early as possible lessens the impact a crisis will have on a company’s reputation. As soon as you hear word of a news story or viral post that could negatively affect your brand, make a public statement addressing it, and be as genuine as possible. After all, insincere apologies suck.
United Airlines CEO, Oscar Munoz, reacted tepidly to the dragged passenger incident. The combination of corporate speak and an apparent lack of remorse drew criticism and further worsened the company’s reputation. If you or your company are being criticized fairly and truthfully, take responsibility. Explain how you expect to change things in the future to prevent a similar problem from occurring.
Manage Your SEO
Search engine optimization (SEO) is crucial in today’s online universe. Scandals and bad messaging will turn your Google Search results into a swamp of bad press. The last thing you want is for your brand to be associated with keywords like “bad service” or “rip-off”. After a PR crisis, you should try to clean up your Google search results by creating new content. Aggressively cultivate positive, highly-searchable content, either through your own blog or as a guest writer on another popular site.
Use Google Alerts
Set up a Google Alert for your company name or brand. If you are mentioned in a positive or negative comment, an alert will come straight to your email inbox. This allows you to address any issues as quickly as possible, hopefully before they become a bigger problem than they need to be. Spend some time thanking positive commenters and cultivating strong online relationships with your reviewers. It’s important to be reactionary to the good and the bad, to help promote positive engagements with your company and demonstrate that your customers are a top priority across the board.
Ask for Help
There’s no shame in not knowing how to address a PR mishap. Emotions may interfere with your ability to react cordially and professionally—which makes sense, given that the Internet can put brands through a proper (and sometimes undeserved!) lynching. When in doubt, hire a PR firm to help you manage the incident. Sure, this will cost you, but your brand’s reputation is a priceless asset that must be protected above all else.
The proper management of a compromised reputation is vital to the lasting appeal of your brand. You want your customers to feel reassured when choosing your product or service. Using the tips above, you can avoid major PR pitfalls.
If you want to speak out about reputation management, angry commenters or bad press, a .SUCKS domain is a great way to join the conversation.
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By SFIO CRACHO, Shutterstock / GaudiLab