One of the commonly overlooked aspects of running a business, organization or association is reputation management. In this age of technology, news spreads instantly and attitudes can shift in the blink of a tweet, or a post on social media. Many companies, both new and experienced, are now wondering what the best strategies are for managing reputation. Staying ahead of reputation management is far better than trying to fix it after a crisis has happened. Here are 5 tips for managing your business reputation before crisis strikes.
1. Be Social
In 2019, it is almost impossible to get brand recognition without a social media platform. Maintain a professional, and user-friendly presence on at least two of the following: Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram. When selecting which platform to use, figure out where your customers, members or brand advocates are on social media, and then target those platforms. Spending time and resources on a social media channel where you have no presence as a brand is a waste of time.
Once you select the right platform, remember to update and refresh your website frequently. It is not enough to merely have social media accounts, you must also be active and update them regularly. Keep online information current, regularly update followers on your brand, and engage followers whenever possible. Remember, if you neglect those engaged with you on social media you provide opportunity for other voices to define your business or organization. The only way to ensure that your customers can truly understand who you are and what you do is to make that information readily available to them yourself.
2. When you mess up, say so. Then move on.
It may sound like common sense, but it is incredibly important to get ahead of a problem before someone else can. All businesses, organizations or associations, and the individuals running them, make mistakes, and the best thing to do when that happens is to own up to and communicate the problem to your customers, assure them of a concrete plan of action to remedy the situation, and then move forward. In most cases, you shouldn’t try to cover issues up, or wait for the media to break the story first. If your voice is the first one your customers or members hear, the chances of the issue becoming a crisis decrease dramatically.
3. Be Strategic about Your Message and the Press
Resist the temptation to respond immediately to bad press. Instead of getting defensive or even negative at the first sign of trouble, let your customers or members know that you’re looking into the issue, and then present your statement after you have all the facts and a clear mind. While you should typically respond within 24 hours, you should only post when you have carefully considered your words and actions. Saying exactly what you mean the first time will communicate more effectively to your customers that the situation is under control.
4. Know Thyself
Having a social media presence is a good step in the right direction, but you don’t want to be oblivious to what others are saying about your company. Set up Google Alerts or make sure you search your business daily so you know exactly what people are saying and what others interested in your business can see. You will be more informed about what customers and critics think and what they are looking for, which will help you better manage your online presence. Knowing online sentiment about your business and brand is critical to understanding what others are saying: the good, the bad, and the not so good. At Sinclair Public Affairs we use Agility to monitor and track what others are saying about us, and our clients. It may be worth investing in a similar public relations and public affairs tool like Agility to monitor and respond to social media sentiment about your brand or organization. Platforms like these can help with crisis communciations when you need it the most.
5. Stay Engaged with Your Customers and Members
Lastly, it is important to make customers or members to feel like they’re part of the team. Whether through social media polls, online surveys, a blog that encourages customer or member reviews, or by spotlighting one customer or member every month on Facebook, make sure they know that their opinions and feedback are valued. If you make it clear that customers or members can always reach out with their thoughts or concerns, they will be more likely to continue supporting you in the future, even in the face of crisis.
Sinclair Public Affairs provides public affairs strategy, crisis and issue management, communication strategy, and integrated situation management at locations in Charlotte and Raleigh, North Carolina.