From terrible online reviews to data breaches and beyond, how you manage a potential crisis can make the difference between potential customers giving your brand another chance and moving on to a competitor.
Just look at some of the high-profile PR nightmares that have happened this year:
- La Croix not using 100% all-natural ingredients in their drinks
- Facebook users’ privacy being violated by Cambridge Analytica
- Ever hear of International House of Burgers?
While these are extreme cases of brands in crisis management mode, it’s important for brands to maintain strong brand management at all times in order to appropriately deal with situations when they arise. It’s very easy for what could’ve been a simple response to spiral into a true crisis.
Take a look at Amy’s Baking Company for proof.
We’ll explore how not to handle negative reviews and what you can do to prevent a public relations nightmare through online reputation management.
A Quick Word on True Crisis Management
Before we dive into specifics, it is worth noting that there are times when negative sentiments about your organization or brand extend far beyond the confines of online reviews.
Some of these can include:
- Sexual harassment allegations
- Claims of fraud or criminal wrongdoing
- Product recalls
These kinds of situations are best handled by a professional team of public relations professionals who will have a crisis management plan ready for such a situation.
In these highly volatile circumstances, among others, the cloud of negativity can attract a ton of attention from others, making an already bad situation worse. Trust that your public relations team knows what they are doing and don’t take it upon yourself to directly respond.
Make sure that whatever statement is made comes off as genuine and concerned. We’ve all seen those apology ads or carefully manicured press releases after yet another scandal. These can end up doing more harm than good in the long run.
No matter what, avoid being confrontational or making excuses. Any kind of hostility will only increase the backlash on your organization.
While not every situation can be avoided, paying attention to what people are saying about your organization online and taking proactive measures to address issues can actually help prevent things from boiling over.
Negative Reviews Aren’t a Crisis
If you are a marketing professional, chances are every negative review feels like a major blow to your organization.
You and your staff have invested a ton of time and effort to ensure your organization always focuses on delivering excellent customer experiences. How could anyone possibly say something negative about your organization?
When someone leaves a negative review about something you care so deeply about, it’s easy to take it personally.
Here’s the reality though: negative reviews are not public relations catastrophes.
Don’t feel compelled to respond right away or make a public statement. This can actually cause more attention to the issue than it would have without a dramatic response.
Like an emergency room examining patients, we recommend triaging, or sorting through potential issues through social media listening, to determine which reviews or posts need a crisis management response. Being able to distinguish what’s a true crisis from a quick fix is essential to keeping your online reputation pristine and your staff happy.
There are extensive resources written on how to respond to negative reviews, but here are some quick tips to help get you started:
- Apologize, even if you feel like your organization wasn’t in the wrong
- Take accountability for the issue and don’t attempt to pass off blame
- Respond briefly and quickly when possible
- Seek understanding by asking questions
- Promise to fix the problem in the future
- Fact check before responding to confirm the review is authentic
- Personally, follow-up after the resolution to ensure the original poster is satisfied
If you follow these rules, you should be able to navigate around any negative reviews that could problematic to your brand.
Once you respond, your next step should be fixing the problems the reviewer experienced so you don’t get another negative review,
What if You Responded and the Customer Still is Unhappy?
Even if you do all the right things in your response, sometimes it isn’t good enough. Ultimately, all you can do is control your response. You can’t make them do anything.
What you can’t do, however, is lash out at the customer.
Remember, if they are unreceptive to your response, chances are they won’t be open to frequenting your business again anyways. Focus your efforts on improving and attracting other potential customers.
Listening to Customer Feedback Can Prevent Public Relations Crises
What’s better than dealing with a public relations nightmare the right way? Not having to deal with one at all!
Through online reputation management tools, you can actually listen to what customers are saying about your business across multiple digital platforms. This makes it easier for you to collect data and act faster on consumer insights.
If you take the time to know what people are saying about your brand, it can help you avoid the pitfalls of a true PR crisis before it even happens. It will also help keep your online reviews looking good for new customers interested in your products or services.
Remember, a negative review is an opportunity to lose or win positive brand sentiment for life. It all depends on how you respond!
Interested in learning more? Here are some other materials that may help:
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