How to use PR to Manage Your Online Reputation
Over the past several years social networks have become the dominant way people connect, stay in touch and share information with one another – many times at the delight, and sometimes dread, of small business owners. Indeed, one way businesses have felt the pain of the so-called mobile social revolution is how it can impact their online reputations. Today’s customers use smartphones and tablets to share opinions of businesses at the very moment of their experience. Negative reviews leave businesses scrambling to manage customer perception gaps and/or do their best to address actual shortcomings to make the experience better. Fortunately, with a little help from PR, you can polish out any scratches to your online reputation. Here are some tips that have worked for my clients in the past as they seek to manage negative reviews and promote their brand awareness:
While not strictly PR, blogging can achieve similar results by helping you control the message about your brand with multiple posts addressing past criticism. You can talk about your customer service department and how you take all customer experiences seriously up to and including ways you make it right for aggrieved customers. You can also highlight new offerings and happy customer stories to provide an alternative narrative to offset a negative review.
Sometimes businesses get defensive when faced with criticism but PR tells us to turn the other cheek. If there is a chance you did provide less-than-perfect service, then it’s far better to take the high road and admit you’re trying to make improvements. Blue Bell Creamery, faced with listeria outbreaks earlier this year, announced it would remove ALL of its stock from all groceries and other outlets like hospitals to make sure the public knew it took the crisis seriously. In short, own the mistake or it may own you.
Push inflammatory criticism down Google or Bing search results by issuing press releases and posting them to your website. You can also distribute press releases using PRLeap, PRWeb or PRLog.org to get more search engine optimization (SEO) in the form of backlinks to your website. PRLeap and PRWeb charge for their distributions but PRLog.org does not.
Burnish your brand and counter any negative criticism through a PR campaign that shows off your products and services in local and/or national media. Getting a write-up in print or online or an interview on the local TV news often trumps negative comments in search engine results. "Breaking news" from legitimate media outlets is typically listed at the top of search engine results (after paid ads, that is).
You can subscribe to Help A Reporter Out, a free and premium paid service to receive frequent interview requests from mainstream media outlets and blogs of all kinds. A friendly quote (and corresponding backlink) from various media will serve to build a bubble of positive press around your online brand identity.
While not technically in the realm of PR, social media branding can give your brand a boost if you share good customer experiences, new innovations and general news about the business. Plus, if you secure some media coverage, you can share it with your social network to expand its popularity. There’s nothing like a ringing endorsement to win over new customers. Recap: Be sensitive to the criticism, take the high road, go the extra mile, engage all marketing and PR resources available to your brand and you will always come out stronger than ever.