Effective Public Relations in an Online World

How is your business perceived on Yelp? Facebook? Twitter? Google? Amazon?

Managing your online reputation should be a priority for your public relations team. Setup a workflow to track — and most importantly — respond to online reviews, comments and ratings. Remember, just one bad review can be enough to sink your business. You can’t stop bad reviews, but you can lessen the negative impact to your online reputation through a series of steps.

MONITOR YOUR ONLINE PRESENCE

Reading Facebook comments once a week isn’t cutting it. To be effective, you need staff in place actively monitoring customer interactions on a daily basis. You also need a detailed plan of best practices to optimize your responses to benefit you and show your customer base that you are an engaged and open brand.

Our free white paper — Cyber Identity Guide: Managing Your Company’s Online Reputation — outlines three common online reputation tactics:

  1. IT’S NOT ENOUGH TO SIMPLY have a Facebook page — you should be using it to promote events, post pictures, and reply to customer comments or feedback.
  2. COMMENTS ON REVIEW SITES SHOULDN’T be left to sit unanswered — thank people for their positive feedback and work to resolve any complaints so others know you’re committed to their satisfaction.
  3. CONSIDER SUBSCRIBING TO POPULAR message boards where your brand, products, or services, are discussed. If allowed by that particular forum, participate in discussions regarding customer experience and establish a rapport with other members. These people have the power to become brand ambassadors or your worst enemies.

BAD REVIEWS ARE GOOD

Don’t panic when a customer posts a bad review. Instead, react. Respond to every bad review with a professional response. Don’t try to respond to the specific complaints or offer excuses on a public forum. Instead, apologize and post a phone number or email reply stating that your company wants to make it right and discuss the issue with the customer in private, offline.

Bad reviews serve another purpose — legitimizing your online reputation. Brands with overwhelmingly positive reviews are often accused of having fake reviews. Legit, negative reviews can actually bring a sense of trustworthiness to a brand.

Be professional but stay on brand with all interactions. It sounds simple enough, but you would be surprised how often brands panic and break good practices when interacting on reviews, comment threads and message boards.

WHAT IS YOUR ONLINE REPUTATION WORTH?

The tendency to ignore bad reviews or handle them incorrectly can ultimately ruin your reputation and your profits. Think about how much a single lost customer can cost you. Consider this situation:

Scenario A: A customer is eating at a restaurant and they find a hair in their meal. They contact the server, who brings them a new meal and apologizes.

Scenario B: A customer is eating at a restaurant and they find a hair in their meal. They contact the server, who brings them a new meal and apologizes. The manager/owner comes over to apologize again and takes care of the bill.

Scenario A likely ends in a bad review on Yelp. Scenario B, on the other hand, may or may not result in a review. If it does, it will certainly be a more favorable rating but will certainly mention the free meal.

So, what is your online reputation worth? With Scenario B, paying the customer’s bill probably prevented a negative review, and at worst, other potential customers will see that, despite the hair, the restaurant paid for the meal, too.That free meal could prevent multiple customers (and multiple meals) from going elsewhere.

Effectively managing your online reputation is an important — and often overlooked — step in the world of digital content marketing. First contact with a brand is often looking at reviews and ratings. Prioritizing the importance of your online presence in your overall marketing and brand strategy is key.

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