One of the most essential components of running a successful blog, brand or business is risk management, but that no longer applies strictly to financial or legal liabilities. These days, it’s also important to protect and maintain a positive professional and personal image. Financial and private scandals influence public perceptions, and they can be damaging to your brand; the proliferation of online reviews and other forums that allow information to be broadcast worldwide in a matter of seconds makes it even more imperative to take control of the narrative of public discourse.
Here are two metrics to keep in
- 80% of potential customers were influenced not to do business with a company due to negative feedback from previous customers
- 68% of consumers are more influenced by bad reviews than good reviews
Whether you’ve been the victim of a smear campaign or you simply want to monitor and control your public image, here are five ways to spot potential problems, do damage control and turn almost any situation into a positive reflection of you and your business.
1. Google Yourself
One of the first things that a potential customer is going to do is search your business online, whether they’re looking up your website or reading customer reviews. In order to maintain a positive reputation, take the time to look at your business through the eyes of a consumer. You should make it a practice to Google your business at least a few times a week, even daily, if possible. Check for negative mentions in public forums, unfavorable reviews and false information.
While you can’t have negative information removed from search results, you can mitigate those negatives by creating a positive online image that will eventually sink any negative mentions lower in the rankings.
2. Take Control of Your Business Profile
While you’re in control of business information that you place on platforms like LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook, there are other online consumer information sites and mentions that you have little to no control over. Platforms like Yelp and independent customer reviews may also be using false information that you can petition the site manager to correct or remove. Another great way to accomplish this, is through claiming your business in Google.
It’s a good idea to try and counteract negative mentions by engaging with the source directly, correct erroneous business info and to try and clear up any misunderstandings and make amends with customers who have had a negative interaction with you or your business whenever possible.
3. Choose Your Battles Wisely
It’s an unfortunate fact that some people live to create controversy and stir up trouble for their own amusement. Online trolls are never going to go away, and entering into a debate with them will only draw attention to what they’re saying and increase their presence. If someone has a legitimate complaint, address it quickly and diplomatically. However, when someone’s just out to make trouble, avoiding direct engagement will often diffuse the situation. People’s online attention span is short, and the occasional troll bait will disappear from the public radar as soon as the Next Big Thing takes its place.
4. Spend Time Creating Good Will
Social media isn’t a replacement for an intelligent marketing plan, but it is a great plank to add to your overall public relations platform. Businesses that are proactive and engaged online can head off potentially negative interactions by creating and maintaining an active social media presence. This will give you an opportunity to hone your public image while allowing the public to see you as a company who cares about its customers.
Setting aside even an hour a day to engage your customers, respond to their concerns and show appreciation for their patronage will go a long way toward creating a positive public perception of you and your company. It’s also a vital line to direct communication that will alert you to potential PR concerns early on and allow you to take a proactive stance to diffuse the situation.
5. Deal With Problems Honestly and Immediately
No matter how much of an effort you make toward fostering good will, you can’t make everyone happy. There will always be someone who is dissatisfied – whether or not they have a legitimate concern – and it’s up to you as a conscientious business owner to address such complaints with integrity and in a timely manner.
Even if you are at fault in the situation, taking the time to address it honestly will show that even though you’re a business owner, you’re also a human who sometimes makes mistakes, and you’re real enough to own them.
So, what do you do if someone is slamming you or your business online and you can’t handle the problem yourself? There are several companies that do nothing but perform damage control for their clients. For example, professional damage mitigation practices, like Reputation Defender tweets and others, are proactive measures that can help you head off or neutralize problems; you can also hire a full-time PR person. However, the best solution is to remain aware that anything you say or do publicly – even privately, in some cases – can come back to haunt you, and conduct yourself accordingly. Cyberspace can be a lot like Las Vegas: whatever happens there stays there.
To learn more about protecting your personal name, blog, brand or business online, I also recommend you take a look at these 97 reputation management resources that were recently featured on Zac Johnson’s blog.