Online Presence Management is Key
This morning, we were notified of a blog post that was published yesterday that said our company gives poor advice to bloggers and citizen journalists, and that we said a lot of things that were untrue in our blog post.
Disclaimer: We are not going to mention names of who wrote the blog post, or provide a link to it, as a precaution. We do not want to provide additional reasons for these people to continue their work.
Although this is a new situation that's still developing, we're going to use this event as a lesson to help others that might end up in a similar situation, and provide guidance in how to respond to negative press or negative blog posts. We also want to note that this does not refer to a negative review on a site like Yelp or Angie's List, as that a different set of steps are required to handle that situation. This is a how-to regarding blog posts, articles, press releases etc. that could potentially harm your business and its reputation.
Step 1: Assess the Threat
Just because you can across one blog post, doesn't mean that it's the only one out there. Do a little research to find the extent of the press, and if possible, who is behind it. It could be one unhappy customer who has to let the world know of his/her bad experience. It could be a competitor who's using unethical tactics to get ahead. However, the threat could be much worse, such as a series of articles or websites about you, especially if they are found on top news sites or publications. Document what's out there and the extent of the damage.
Step 2: Ignore It if the Threat is Small
If it is one person, who in the long run poses no threat to your business i.e their opinion will be washed out or not considered a credible reflection of your company, then don't respond. Don't show this person that you've affected them, that his/her tactics are working, or any inkling that you could be guilty of anything. Instead, focus your efforts on doing the right thing, such as providing great product/service to customers and building a trustworthy brand. By doing the right thing, it'll be hard for a negative portrayal to have any solid standing.
Tip: Check on the threat from time to time, making sure the situation doesn't change. You don't want to ignore it only to be caught off guard later on.
Step 2.5: Come Clean if the Threat is Larger
Make sure to come clean in as many places as possible. Don't just post something on your blog or website, leaving your social media presence for others to control (which was exactly what happened to BP during the big oil spill). Take control of content and the message as best you can, in as many places as you can.
Tip: Be as respectful and diplomatic as possible. If the tone of the negative press is harsh or accusatory, then using a similar tone doesn't make you any better or different from the press of which you are defending.
Step 3: Be Honest
Yes, if you do have to address the threat, the whole thing does turn into a public relations campaign. Public relations may be all about spinning the situation to make you look good, but do that without lying. If your company is being accused of X, Y, and Z, then be honest on how your handling those allegations, or at least show that you are willing to give a statement or provide a comment, even if all you're saying is that you are doing to do your best to figure this out and to fix it. Show that you care and are taking responsibility.
Step 4: Boost Your Own Online Presence
The absolute best way to get ahead of a situation as this one is to boost your own online presence, and to make sure that your SEO and online reputation are solid enough so that a single blog post or incident doesn't ruin everything. You want to boost, and to continue to boost, your own online presence with blog posts, social media profiles, and other content that you create, optimize, and share with the world. Essentially, this ensures that everything that comes up in search results under your brand or company name is your own work, not the negative press. By consistently and successfully managing your online presence from the beginning, it'll be tough for others to destroy what you've taken months, maybe years, to build.