6 Crisis Management Best Practices for a Flawless Online Reputation
Your business is prepared for anything. From hurricanes and flooding to fires, gun violence, and even terrorist attacks, your employees know what to do when a crisis strikes. But are you equipped to manage or prevent another type of crisis that could strike at any time of day or night, right under your nose?
The online reputation of any organization poses both an opportunity and a threat. Establishing and maintaining a positive digital reputation can result in improved sales, greater investment, and new customers. On the other hand, a reputation crisis could take hold quickly and have a devastating impact on the entire business.
Luckily, in our digital age, there are plenty of crisis management best practices from which to draw. Here, we count down six of the top tips for keeping your company’s online reputation on the up and up:
1. Closely control access to your online accounts.
How many times have we read about a company accidentally sending an inflammatory or improper tweet that was meant to be sent from an employee’s private account? A single online mistake can have disastrous consequences, so be sure to carefully consider who should have access to all social media and related accounts. You want to rest assured that whoever is managing these outlets understands the fundamentals of crisis and online reputation management.
2. Establish reputation management alerts.
A wide range of services exists today that will scour the web for mentions of your company’s name and then push alerts to the appropriate people. Simply setting up these alerts can help you proactively respond to negative reviews, social media comments, news articles, and other mentions.
3. Listen and respond to complaints.
Negative reviews on sites like Yelp, a low Better Business Bureau score, and social media complaints can have a ripple effect, turning away scores of potential customers. That’s why it’s so important to closely monitor these sites, listen to your customers’ concerns, and respond in a timely manner.
It can help to have several employees or a full team dedicated to responding to online comments and complaints. Ideally, negative posts should be handled within an hour or two, in a calm and helpful tone, with useful information that will enable the customer to resolve the issue. In the fast-paced online world, quick and decisive action is key. You want to jump in and resolve the problem and redirect the conversation, before it escalates beyond your control.
4. Use a digitized crisis communication plan.
When an online reputation crisis escalates, you need to have an effective crisis communication plan in place to help rectify the situation.
Let’s say a social media backlash spreads or a negative news article goes viral. You’ll benefit from a digitized crisis communication plan, which allows your crisis management team to instantly communicate with other stakeholders, reference relevant statements and checklists, and access other important crisis management information. Look for a mobile crisis app, which allows you to access this data anywhere and at any time using a smartphone or tablet. An app also enables your team to send real-time alerts and notifications to key members of the organization as the crisis unfolds. All of which increase your response time.
5. Establish pre-approved crisis communication statements.
Online reputation crises evolve at breakneck speed, and your team needs to be able to keep up. For many organizations, it’s helpful to draft generic crisis statements ahead of time so that they can quickly be adapted and sent out when they are needed.
Many businesses gather key stakeholders—such as your crisis management team and leadership from PR, human resources, marketing, and legal—to hammer out these draft statements. Then, they establish planned statements for all potential crises, such as a product recall or a negative Yelp review. Finally, they fill in as much information as possible and then gain preapproval from all the necessary parties. That way, when an online crisis strikes, they already have approval to use the statement, which can save precious time and help them respond right away.
6. Flood the Internet with positive news.
As you work to manage negative comments and coverage, you can also take steps to improve the chances that people will encounter positive news when searching for your company online.
Start a corporate blog that discusses company and industry news and trends, submit guest commentary to other relevant blogs, post positive articles and news on your social media sites, and seek out media coverage for any good deeds the organization is involved in. This type of content not only helps tip the scales in your favor, but it also improves your search engine optimization (SEO) for these sites, which may help direct customer traffic away from the negative articles or reviews.
By implementing these crisis management best practices, your organization will be better equipped to avoid an online reputation crisis. Meanwhile, by cultivating a positive brand presence, you’ll also help draw new and repeat customers to your business.