When it comes to online reputation management, there are two mistakes companies can generally make regarding how to respond to negative comments about them. The first mistake is to do nothing. The second mistake is to unleash the dogs of war at first sight.
Regarding the first mistake, reputation management begins before you need it. Instead of waiting for someone to say something that will embarrass you and then hoping it will go away, you should have on ongoing reputation management strategy that will put you in a position to never need to be embarrassed. That’s not to say it will never happen; it’s just a matter of taking precautions.
Some specific things you can do to ensure that you maintain control over your reputation online on an ongoing basis are:
- Start a company blog
- Engage in article marketing
- Send out periodic press releases
- Do some social bookmarking
- Stay active in a number of social networks
- Participate in forums on a regular basis
If someone does say something negative about you in a forum, on your blog, or on another website somewhere, take the time to address the issue, but don’t be defensive. Tell your side of the story in a professional manner and if you’ve made mistakes, be honest about it and admit them.
The other mistake often made by companies without a solid reputation management plan is to overreact. It is virtually impossible to be in business for any length of time without getting a customer or employee angry at you. Sometimes, people will get so angry that they want to “ruin your reputation” or seek retribution for some perceived wrong. Don’t get wrapped up in the moment. If someone is just blowing off steam it will be evident to anyone watching and they’ll eventually reveal themselves for what they truly are.
Instead, make a reasoned explanation that tells your side of the story without being overly negative toward the other party. Again, if an apology for a wrong is in order or you have made mistakes, don’t be afraid to admit that. Be transparent and address the issue head on without attacking your accuser. Just be honest and offer proof of any statements that need support. The best way to handle negative press is to maintain a daily blog. That way, if people do have something to say about you they can do it on your website instead of someone else’s. You’ll have the home field advantage.
Small Business Mavericks