Reputation management can depend on responding to other people’s comments about your business in just the right way. Sometimes, you should ignore what’s being said. Sometimes, you should respond.
And if you do respond, the way that you respond really matters.
You don’t want to be thinking about these things in the heat of the moment, when some blatantly inaccurate piece of content is making your blood boil. It’s better to think through these issues when you are calmly preparing for the future.
That’s why it’s important to develop a written, focused response policy.
Identify the types of people you’ll be dealing with.
A recent Huffington Post article took a look at the Air Force’s response policy. One thing the Air Force takes the time to do is identify the type of poster that they are dealing with by defining their intent or post type.
You might not want to use the Air Force’s categories for this exercise. Your categories might look more like this:
- Legitimate customers: positive content.
- Legitimate customers: negative content.
- Third parties with good information (bloggers, news outlets, etc.)
- Third parties with erroneous information (bloggers, news outlets, etc.)
- Those who are engaging in defamation for any purpose.
Each type of post requires a different response from you.
Plan your responses.
There are really only a few good responses that you can make if you choose to speak up at all.
You can choose to stick to addressing the facts of the post if those facts are incorrect. And if the situation being described is really your fault, then you can react by trying to fix the customer’s problem.
Make sure that your plan addresses how you will craft these two types of responses. Should fact-check responses require citation links? What kinds of discounts or remedies might you offer to a customer who has a legitimate bone to pick with you? Will you ignore people on Yelp or The Ripoff Report no matter what, as a matter of strategy?
If the content is defamatory you’ll want to ignore it or have it removed. If you ignore it, you’re going to need to work on burying it so very few people see it.
Have a purpose for each response.
A heated, defensive response on the wrong site can do as much harm as the original post. When you initiate your plan and start responding to content online you should always know what you’re trying to achieve. Are you trying to retain a customer? Are you trying to correct someone’s facts? Are you thanking a customer for supporting you?
Your plan should outline acceptable purposes or reasons for why a response might be called for.
Plan to get help if you need it.
Sometimes your response policy just won’t be enough to help you deal with online reputation problems. Sometimes, attacks start coming at your business in a fast, furious way that can seriously threaten your livelihood. So don’t forget to build reputation management services into your plan. Know when enough is enough and when the plan calls for you to seek help. Eventually, getting this help may be your only viable, cost-effective option, and it pays to know when that moment has arrived.
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