By Debra Daglish, PR Director at Narrative Communications
In advance of next month’s workshop, Narrative Communications’ PR Director, Debra Daglish, highlights the shift in reputation management in recent years and gives her five top tips for crisis management.
Back in the day, if a customer was really unhappy with your product or service, as a business you would expect a strongly worded letter of complaint to the MD and you’d hold your breath, hoping they wouldn’t follow through with their threat of ‘going to the papers’ to vent their spleen. Even then, the old adage of ‘today’s news is tomorrow’s chip paper’ largely rang true, meaning there often wasn’t a lasting effect on your business.
Today, following the digital revolution, reputation management is an entirely different ball game for businesses of all sizes, as the PR teams at United Airways, Pepsi and Boots would doubtless agree.
If a customer is unhappy, they’re likely to go straight online and voice their complaint on your social media channels, sharing the issue with a global audience and potentially galvanising support from your online customer base.
Whilst this prospect might terrify a business owner from even venturing into the world of social media, the fact is that whether your brand is represented or not, a customer will have their say regardless… on their own profile pages, in forums and on sector specific websites.
By undertaking a planned approach to reputation management, you can reap the benefits of promoting your business online safe in the knowledge that if there is an issue that arises, you’re well placed to cope with the fallout. Indeed, if an issue is managed particularly effectively, sometimes you can even enhance your reputation and increase brand loyalty going forward.
Here’s five tips to help you manage your reputation:
1) Be prepared
Sit down with members of your team from across the business (operations, HR, legal and PR) and collectively agree on a crisis plan. Undertake scenario planning: what would happen in the event of…? Within that planning session you’ll need to agree who your target audiences are in the event of a crisis, what would you say to them, who would say it and what channels would you use?
2) Be a good listener
Listen to your customers online. As part of your social media community management make sure you’re continually listening in to what your customers are saying about your products or services. If there is an issue emerging, you can engage your customers at an early stage, respond and hopefully resolve the problem before it gains traction.
3) Invest in social media training
Warren Buffett said: “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that you’ll do things differently.” Yet, very often it is the office intern who is left to manage an organisation’s social media accounts. Social media community management is not something you can pay lip service to, it’s vital to your company’s reputation. Social media training for senior staff is a must – to understand the risks, the benefits and the potential for your business.
If finances allow, invest in a community manager to handle your social media engagement, particularly out of hours. As professionals, they’re adept at social listening, engaging customers effectively and knowing how to handle issues as and when they arise.
4) Engage your influencers
Build solid relationships with key customers, suppliers, the media and other third parties. Involve them in the development of your organisation. Share your success stories. Ask for their feedback. Then, if a crisis does strike you’ve got a raft of people behind you, ready to voice their support. While facing the media can be daunting, if you’ve developed strong links with them already, you should be able to ensure your voice is heard and represented fairly.
5) Act quickly and with integrity
If a crisis does arise, act quickly. Determine the full facts, pull the right team together and agree a plan of action, your target audiences and your response. To err is human and customers know that. As such, they are generally far more forgiving if you say sorry promptly and genuinely. Outline your plan of action and maintain transparency throughout. Be honest and upfront. If you need to manage expectations, for example explain why an issue can’t be resolved overnight, outline the reasons why. Keep customers updated through all your channels. Show you care. Going the extra mile for your customers has never been more important.
Debra Daglish and Kieron Goldsborough, Managing Director of Narrative Communications are leading a ‘How to avoid making a drama out of crisis’ session at North East BIC at 9.30 am on Wednesday 27th September. Click here to book your place.