We all know how important word of mouth is, and negative feedback must be dealt with effectively as, unfortunately, it tends to spread a lot faster than the positive. An effective digital crisis management strategy helps you to prepare yourself for those times when you need to act fast to control these situations.
A digital crisis occurs when you have a few negative comments spreading virally across social media networks or developing into a range of heated discussions, causing others to question your business’s integrity or quality of service. You need to get the crisis under control before it affects your brand too badly. This is digital crisis management.
Once the crisis has been controlled and its impact minimized, you will also need to implement social damage control to repair the damage done and recover from the crisis.
An effective digital crisis management strategy involves the following:
- Constant monitoring
It’s important to monitor your brand consistently so that you are immediately aware of what people are saying about your brand and can react accordingly.
- Have a plan in place
You need to know how you will deal with situations before they arise, so that you can react as quickly as possible without wasting time trying to decide how to proceed.
- Immediate response
You can’t waste time when responding to a digital crisis, as it is likely to escalate more and more the longer you leave it. Even if you can’t actually do anything about it straight away, make sure you let those involved know you’re looking into it and are not ignoring the problem.
- Be consistent in your response
You may have to deal with the crisis across several channels and it’s therefore important to keep your message consistent. You don’t want to undermine your integrity by sending confused messages to those involved in the various discussions.
- Prepare your employees
Make sure that all your employees understand the position your business is taking in a crisis, so that they can react appropriately in any associated communication they are involved in, whether at work or not.
- Be honest
Don’t try and hide things from the public as this will just exacerbate the problem if they find out. Admit any mistakes your business has made and let them know what you plan to do to fix them.
- Keep listening
Once you’ve responded, you need to keep listening to what is being said in order to know whether or not more needs to be done to resolve the problem. Continue to take part in the conversations with customers as effective communication is one of the best ways to regain trust.
- Follow up regularly
Make sure those involved in the discussions are kept up to date with what you are doing to resolve the issue. Give specifics, rather than just telling them you are dealing with it. Continue to do this until the situation has been completely resolved.
- Appeal to loyal customers
It may be worth getting some of your loyal customers involved in the discussions (if they are willing), as their responses may be taken more seriously than yours, as long as their messages are both sincere and in keeping with your business’s position on the issue.
If you create a digital crisis management strategy based on the above before you actually encounter a problem, you’ll be in a strong position to react immediately to resolve any issues before they get even further out of hand. Being prepared is key to minimising any damage done and recovering from it as quickly as possible.
Last week I discussed online reputation monitoring, but knowing what people are saying about your business is just the beginning of managing your online reputation. Whether positive or negative, you need to take action based on what’s being said. You may also find that no one is saying anything about your brand at all, in which case you need to start building your online reputation.
In order to do this you need to start influencing positive conversations related to your brand, products or services.
Here are a few ways you can do this:
- Answer questions and offer helpful advice when consumers ask questions about products or services that your business provides.
- Respond to negative comments with a positive one by publicly thanking the customer that complained for their feedback and letting them know what you are going to do about it.
- Implement a service recovery strategy if possible to earn back customers and create loyalty.
- Start conversations yourself by creating and publishing interesting information that is of value to your audience and which provokes meaningful discussions.
- Get loyal and satisfied customers to provide positive reviews and testimonials online, perhaps by offering them an incentive.
- Keep conversations going by communicating regularly, following up on previous conversations and providing regular updates, especially when an issue is being resolved.
Best practices when building your online reputation:
- Protect your name by reserving it even on social media sites you’re not using yet.
- Keep your branding consistent.
- Continue building your community.
- Establish authority and credibility by sharing your expertise and offering helpful advice.
- Be accessible and respond to questions or feedback immediately.
- Keep users engaged with valuable, interactive content such as videos and podcasts that they can comment on.
- In addition to giving information on your own blog and social networks, actively participate in conversations taking place on blogs and forums related to your industry.
All of this will take time and you will need to keep at it even when it seems you’re not having much effect. Eventually, with consistent effort, you will reap the rewards and build an online reputation to be proud of.
There is a lot of discussion about Online Reputation Management, but before you can begin to manage your online reputation you need to learn how to monitor it. This involves listening to online conversations about your brand and setting up alerts to notify you when your company is mentioned on the web.
Social media has provided customers with a means to easily share their opinions on your products and services with the world. This can be useful for capturing positive feedback to share with others, though unfortunately people do tend to be more vocal about negative experiences than positive ones.
What you should be monitoring
As far as social media is concerned, you should be monitoring the following:
- Company name and brand
- Products and services
- Personal names (including any senior executives and spokespersons)
- Marketing messages such as taglines and slogans
- Your competition
- Your industry
- Your intellectual property
Where to monitor
You should be monitoring your online reputation on any of the following that are relevant:
- Search engines
- Google Places
- Discussion forums
- Review sites
- News sites
- Social networks
- Social bookmarking sites
- Media sharing sites
A good tip to help target your searches is to add modifiers such as “sucks”, “fail”, “scam”, etc.
Monitoring rating and review sites
Just by clicking a button consumers can add and read reviews on just about any product or service on review sites and they also appear on Google Places listings when someone searches for a local business. A few worth checking are Blagger.com, ConsumerReview.com, Epinions.com, MeasuredUp.com, PlanetRate.com, RateItAll.com, Sutori.com and Yelp.com.
Once you are monitoring your online reputation it becomes a lot easier to manage it and build the kind of reputation your company wants to portray, so it’s well worth investing the time involved.