‘Reputation Management’ Category:
Posted in: Public Relations, Reputation Management
I love getting positive feedback or a review from people who have worked with me or enjoyed reading my articles. As human beings, we all like to be praised and validated for our efforts, while it also is a positive endorsement to others who may be considering my services. In turn, I like to sing the praises and give positive reviews for people who have delivered a great product or service to me.
However, I feel strongly about giving fake reviews or testimonials. From a personal perspective, false reviews go against my values. As a PR consultant and journalist working with women entrepreneurs and leaders, false reviews can just do more harm than good.
A recent post on a Facebook business group asked people to give fake reviews of each other’s websites or Facebook page. The post to date has had almost 1.5k comments and most in favour of giving each other false reviews. The popularity of that post has led to similar posts and shout-outs for fake reviews.
I was one of a small number of people to speak up against false reviews. The reasons I included were:
- You’re damaging your reputation and potentially causing a public relations crisis for your business if word gets out you’ve been conjuring up reviews.
- Search engines and social media platforms can penalise you for trying to beat the system. I have written a post on this topic – it forms part of what is known as “black hat tactics”.
- Made up reviews are dishonest, unethical and a reason why people have less trust in marketing. (Research the many articles on this topic)
- False reviews go against best practice. You may want reviews but as the old saying goes “Rome wasn’t built in a day.” Do the hard work and earn reviews. In the long term, your business will benefit from the trust you’re building.
My views are supported by leadership coach, author and keynote speaker Sonia McDonald, who is known as a social media influencer with a large following on LinkedIn and other platforms.
We’ve been working with Sonia on her brand marketing strategy and public relations. She has an impressive amount of positive reviews and testimonials, regularly updated on her website, social media and other marketing collateral.
She says fake reviews eradicate the essential trust needed in business and their leaders.
“You eventually disregard all the real reviews businesses get, making customers trust less,” she says.
“Reviews mean you’ve worked with someone and helped them – they’re incredibly precious.”
“Fake reviews can damage your business if any of your prospects find out and contribute towards a complete disintegration of you as a business and leader.
“You get income by offering a unique solution to someone else’s problem and by having legitimate and real conversations that turn into sales.”
She says she has built up such strong reviews and a following on LinkedIn and her other social media channels through her work and engaging with her audience over many years.
“I have built up my following over many years – there are no real quick solutions and I can honestly say I don’t focus on vanity metrics such as followers or likes on a page or post.
“I’ve had great results from just being ‘social’ on social media, engaging in groups, answering questions, being curious, commenting and sharing posts.”
My speciality of public relations is maintaining and protecting a person or business’s favourable public image. Building a successful business takes time and work. There are often no quick or easy solutions and fake reviews will do more harm than good in the long term.
Posted in: Reputation Management
No one likes to have their work criticised and as a business or professionals, we want to maintain positive reputations. I’ve always been a particularly sensitive person by nature. However, the rise of online reviews has made it more complex to control our reputations. Dealing with a negative review has become an important component of any public relations or marketing strategy.
Recently, I met with a highly experienced medical specialist. She is renowned in her field, intelligent with a very kind, nurturing mannerism which no doubt serves her well as a doctor. She had received positive reviews online but there was one which was particularly negative.
“I can almost pinpoint the patient and why it happened,” she told me. “They wanted a treatment which I just didn’t think was indicated and upsetting for them to hear.”
The patient wrote a review criticising this doctor for being rude and not listening to their needs. The review was unsettling for the doctor, even though she had tried to put it in perspective.
A friend of mine, who owns a successful food eatery was asking my advice too recently In their many years of operation, they hadn’t received a negative review so a harsh one about coffee being cold and their food menu hit hard. My friend was upset and said it had given her an uneasy feeling in the pit of her stomach.
She had her suspicions the anonymous review came from someone connected to another eatery, which had opened nearby. Whatever the reason, a mistake, miscommunication, even unfair attacks by a competitor, at some stage you’ll get a negative review. However, how you handle that review will be a sign of your character as a brand or professional and further affect your reputation.
‘The Economy of Trust’ & power of online reviews
We’re living in an age and marketplace fuelled by reputation and trust. Rachel Botsman, an academic and writer focusing on how technology is changing the way we work and consume, uses the term “Economy of Trust”.
In a now famous TED Talk, Rachel speaks about the shift of trust from corporations or governments to people. This new era of trust, which Rachel terms reputation capital, is transforming how we do business. At the centre of this Economy of Trust is online reviews.
BrightLocal, a reporting platform for SEO professionals needing local SEO data, shows just how powerful online reviews are in their recent study on the subject.
Key findings include:
- 86 per cent of consumers read reviews for local businesses (including 95 per cent of people aged 18-34).
- Consumers read an average of 10 online reviews before feeling able to trust a local business.
- 40 per cent of consumers only take into account reviews written within the past two weeks.
- 57 per cent of consumers will only use a business if it has 4 or more stars.
- 91 per cent of 18-34-year-old consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.
- 89 per cent of consumers read businesses’ responses to reviews.
Their Local Consumer Review study also revealed:
- Positive reviews make 68 per cent of consumers more likely to use local businesses.
- Negative reviews stop 40 per cent of consumers wanting to use a business.
No wonder many business owners and professional service providers are particularly nervous about online reviews with such statistics. In this fast-paced digital world, the speed at which information and content can spread including reviews is phenomenal, meaning it’s important to implement a strategy to monitor and respond to reviews.
My policy is to ensure clients have a crisis management plan (see earlier post) in place because at some stage they’ll be involved in a situation that could potentially impact their reputation, operations and financial stability. Managing reviews is part of this plan because people have many avenues to express their grievances and with more intensity than ever before, severely damaging targeted organisations.
However, the impact of negative reviews on reputations can be minimal if handled with professionalism. Indeed, a negative review handled well can even have a positive impact overall on the reputation of a business or professional service provider.
One of the first points I make to clients is to try not to panic about negative online reviews, as they are just a part of a digital economy and often all positive reviews about a business are not good anyway.
Typically, users want to see a mix of good and neutral reviews when researching a business or service because all five-star reviews on a site look a little ‘contrived’.
I’ve even seen a business owner respond well to a bad review from a disgruntled client and turn them into the greatest evangelist for their business. Here are eight steps to deal with a negative review.
1. Stay calm and don’t respond hastily.
You work hard in your business or profession and a negative review will, of course, stir up all sorts of emotions, including anger, frustration and disappointment. However, you should remain calm and avoid these emotions showing up in your response.
Look upon a negative review as an opportunity to further build your reputation. If someone is critical, don’t react with haste or be rude in response. A negative review will hurt but are an inevitable part of doing business. As the old saying goes: ‘You can’t please everyone all the time’. By having a review strategy in place, this will guide you towards a calmer, consistent approach.
A strategy doesn’t mean using the same response to every review as each should respond on its independent merits. However, you will have guidelines and a system in place to follow.
2. Have one senior person investigate & respond.
Online reviews and reputation have become an important component of ‘The Economy of Trust’. It’s therefore, crucial to treat these reviews and responses seriously. To maintain consistency in messaging only the business founder or authorised person should respond to the reviews. I’ve seen the mistake where juniors or marketing people are often in charge of monitoring and managing social media or reviews because the business owner thinks they have more understanding of the technology.
Often, the business owner isn’t even aware of the negative reviews or responses issued. While a junior person or marketing people may alert you to a negative review and have good suggestions for a response, it should not be their responsibility to respond without your input.
3. Respond promptly but thoroughly investigate first
If you take too long responding to a negative review, it may look like you’re trying to ignore your unsatisfied client or customer or hoping it will go away. However, while responding promptly demonstrates your responsible and attentive, you should investigate the circumstance of the complaint and not respond with haste.
Work to obtain as many details as possible about what happened leading up to the negative review. When you have gathered as much information as possible about the situation, then write out key points you don’t want to forget to start formulating your response.
Work towards taking an impartial approach to your investigation. People who write a review will honestly feel their complaint has a basis, while your employees will, of course, be defensive. Try to maintain a balanced middle ground in analysing circumstances surround the negative review. It may highlight a problem with your business or service, which you should work on overcoming in the future.
3. Prepare for further attacks.
When you’ve gathered as much information about the negative review as possible, you may feel you have a comprehensive understanding of what happened. However, until you’re able to discuss the complaint with the reviewer, you don’t have the complete story. You must plan for both your online and offline response to the negative review along with any further attacks by them upon your reputation. There are some important points to remember including:
4. Use an empathetic and personable tone.
When writing a response validate the negative reviewer’s feelings and feedback in a way which shows you are genuinely respectful of their experience. Don’t lose control of the conversation. No matter what your opinion is on the situation acknowledge and validate their concerns and don’t get into an argument.
5. Offer to discuss the complaint privately.
Avoid arguing on the review site. Have a response on the public platform which includes an offer to discuss the feedback privately, for example, please contact us to organise a time to discuss your concerns.
While in the public domain, responding to a negative online review isn’t all that different from handling other conflicts you may experience in your business or profession. Be prepared and remain authentic to your professional or brand voice.
6. Try to drown out the negative review with a positive one.
Encourage clients and customers pleased with your service to provide a review, which can push the negative review further down the feed. NOTE: This doesn’t mean getting your family and friends to write reviews or having fake reviews. Australia, like many countries, has legislation to protect consumers from misleading or fake reviews, see ACCC online review guidelines.
7. Request a site to remove a review.
Most review sites have a Terms of Service, where they list all things allowed or not allowed on their site. If you believe a review is in violation of a site’s Terms of Service, then you may have grounds for it to be taken down.
8. Seek Legal Advice
If you feel the situation surrounding the negative review is complex and could have further repercussions, then seek further advice. This can be crucial legally, especially for professions such as health and medicine. If you feel a review is defamatory then consult a lawyer, legal action may also be able to be taken. Unfortunately, I think the international nature of digital media and rapid changes in technology means the law is still lagging to catch up. However, there have been cases of successful legal actions taken in regards to negative reviews which have damaged reputations.
For most people, it can be hard to deal with criticism. It’s important not to blame yourself but at the same time be accountable. Investigate what happened to see if you can prevent such an incident happening in the future. Sometimes, what happened may not have been preventable and perhaps you did everything by the book but still got a negative review. As mentioned you can’t always please everyone and you may not even know who wrote the negative review. If you have mainly positive reviews, then this will read well overall. Develop a mindset where every negative review becomes an opportunity to improve your processes and practice public relations skills.
However, if there are quite a few negative reviews and especially if there is a common problem then perhaps it’s time to look at your processes. Take control, recognise and accept the problem then work towards improvement. There have been some great success stories of businesses turning around dramatically by learning from negative feedback. Negative reviewers may even remove their reviews and replace them with a positive one.
Posted in: Public Relations, Reputation Management
No one likes to be criticised, especially publicly so ensuring you feel equipt to handle a situation which can tarnish the reputation of your business is vital. Every business or leader will at one time or another experience a situation that could potentially impact reputation, operations, and financial stability.
In these fast-paced digital times, the speed at which stories and issues can unfold is phenomenal. We’ve seen the rise of citizen journalists who can take photos and videos of incidents on their mobile devices to send instantly to media organisations. Lobby groups and individuals can now report their grievances through social and traditional media more quickly and with greater intensity than ever before severely damaging businesses.
Larger organisations, political parties or public figures have media advisors on their team trained to both avoid a crisis and deal with one if it unfolds. But most of us don’t have the luxury of a PR or media advisor on our team to handle a crisis. We may have marketing people to look at the odd negative review or trolling on social media, but even then you need a more consistent and diligent response. (See our post on dealing with negative reviews.)
The advice here is generic. It’s not intended to fill all needs but outline options for if and when you are in the midst of a PR storm. Be aware of other issues, including legal and financial consequences, must be taken into consideration at this critical time.
What is a PR crisis?
A PR crisis is any situation threatening the reputation of your brand. There are many examples of PR crises including immoral or inappropriate conduct by an employee or senior figure in your business, a disaster or accident causing harm to employees and/or members of the public. It may also be where the media or general public perceive business didn’t act appropriately. Below are five tips for handling a PR crisis.
1. Select a Crisis Management Response Team (CMRT)
When a situation arises which is perceived to be a PR crisis or possible crisis the first reaction should be for the business head or next in line to confirm all facts relating to the incident and select a Crisis Management Response Team (CMRT). Even if you are a one-person operation, you’re going to want and need advisors, whether that be PR, legal or both.
A CMRT meeting should be held as soon as possible after you become aware of the incident and also include anyone who can provide insight into how the disaster unfolded, such as a witness or employees.
The meeting should:
- Ensure everyone is aware of the seriousness of the situation, short and long-term consequences.
- Establish if an external expert needs to be called in to consult on the crisis.
- Identify who may criticise the business publicly.
- Develop an action plan around what to say and how to inform your stakeholders, e.g. clients or customers and suppliers plus media.
2. Plan for a media onslaught
It’s vital to have a guide for handling the media. The frontline staff of a business will often have the initial contact by phone, email, social media or in person with journalists. How they handle this contact is a reflection of the business and will reflect its media coverage.
Frontline staff should:
- Treat the media at all times respectfully.
- Tell the journalist they’re not authorised to comment on behalf of the business.
- Take the journalist’s details and tell them you’ll arrange for a call back as soon as possible.
- Immediately tell the appropriate supervisor of the query.
- Avoiding giving information to the media as “off the record” or even say “no comment”.
- Treat any information or comment to journalists as going to be used in coverage, even if given in confidence.
- All of your frontline staff should receive basic training on the points listed above even before a PR crisis because often the first you’ll hear about it will be from a journalist seeking a comment.
3. Select a media spokesperson
To maintain consistency in messaging only the company head or an authorised person (decided by the CMRT) should provide comment. Public relations advisors will decide upon the best format for each media response such as:
- Phone call/interview.
- Holding statement (see below) or press release.
- In person interview or media conference.
4. Write a holding statement.
In the event of an incident attracting immediate media attention, it may be necessary to issue a holding statement before all the details are available such as: “We confirm that (state the nature of the incident) occurred at (state place) at (state time). This incident is being investigated and dealt with at the moment by (who). We’ll issue a full statement at the earliest possible time. We appreciate your co-operation on this matter. For further media information contact (details of public relations officer).
5. Have media training before a crisis hits.
When a crisis happens, there’ll be minimal time for training, so its best to ensure all potential spokespeople have media training in your organisation. This training should include information sessions on how the media operates along with role-playing and interview practice.
A public relations crisis will feel highly emotive and the media can be relentless in their pursuit of someone to blame. It is vital everyone stays calm, works together, anticipates possible worst-case scenario interview questions and assists the spokesperson prepare answers to what could be a media onslaught. Avoid knee-jerk reactions by thinking through the worst-case scenarios about what they can say about you or your business then work out a response.
Below is a list of possible questions you may be asked by a journalist:
- Can you tell us what happened?
- Who is to responsible for what happened?
- How long have you known about the problem?
- How could you have not known about the problem?
- Why didn’t you act earlier to prevent the situation?
- How much will this situation impact your business?
- Do you admit negligence?
- Do you admit you were at fault?
- What are you doing to help those affected?
For many of these questions, especially those that may have legal implications such as around negligence and admitting fault, public relations and legal advisors must together to determine appropriate ways for the spokesperson to answer.
If you look at the news daily, you will see individual public figures political parties, companies, schools, health care providers and yes smaller businesses too dealing with a PR crisis. Unfortunately, we can’t make you immune from criticism, but help guide you to “weather the storm”.
Posted in: Content Writing, Reputation Management
My father is the type of man who loves a good conversation. He loves people, hearing their stories, hopes, fears and problems. I grew up in the regional Victorian city of Mildura, and my parents were both very much community stalwarts. Going grocery shopping seemed to take a couple of hours as they’d be chatting to someone in every aisle.
On a Friday night, we’d head for a counter meal at the local pub. It was an opportunity for Mum and Dad to catch up with friends. As part of my dad’s work in policing, he always thought it was essential to remain connected and approachable with the community. He always encouraged all his officers to do the same.
I’ve been reflecting on dad’s approach to community and people very much lately following a conversation we had about connection. “Everyone is always on their phones these days people, and it’s damaging normal conversation,” he told me. “Everyone should get off their phones and talk like normal human beings.”
Dad’s from the old school, and we went on to debate how to build up that ‘know, like and trust’ factor necessary for business development. This morning, on the eve of Australia’s federal election, our conversation went one step further as we discussed the death of former Labor Prime Minister Bob Hawke.
Dad recalled meeting “Hawkie” during his days as a young policeman in Melbourne. Hawke held the ACTU’s top job, and along with other union heavyweights would visit the same pub for a beer. He visited Mildura in 1989, with the local police involved in security.
As tributes flow today for Hawke, dad says there are lessons for us all to remember from the Rhodes Scholar, lawyer, politician, unionist, larrikin and even record-holding beer drinker.
“He was just the same in person as he came across in the media,” Dad says. “He always had time for a chat, would drink a beer with you and listen.”
So, what did Dad mean by listen? “He’d get out among the people of Australia, the ones who he knew would either vote him and the ALP in or out, listen and have a conversation.”
Dad went on to tell me to phone his old mate Gus Underwood, a journalist who inspired me to take my career path.
“Ring Gus and ask him his thoughts on Hawk and ask him his thoughts about bloody everyone on their phone all the time while you’re at it.”
Only about two weeks into my first job out of uni, I was sent to an unfamiliar regional Victorian area to fill in for the local journalist who went on holidays.
With no supervision, nervous and wondering where I’d possibly look to find a story, I phoned Dad and Gus who both gave me the same advice – to go and have a beer at the local pub and listen to what people are discussing (I’d call it to eavesdrop). Soon people were introducing themselves to me, sharing their stories and providing great leads to follow-up.
I phoned Gus like Dad told me to do and asked him to share his memories of Hawke. Gus remembers the Hawke days well and is saying what many are saying today, that Australia’s 23rd Prime Minister was a great storyteller.
“He had the common touch and was able to resonate with the majority of Australian people,” he says.
“He had great people skills and was as much at home talking to the Queen as talking to a bloke in the pub.”
While Hawke was well-loved, his career and private life were not without controversy, divorcing his wife Hazel and marrying his biographer Blanche d’Alpuget.
She has said that the intrusive media of today may have rendered the well-known womaniser and drinker unelectable. However, Gus is not so sure.
“He was always sincere and not secretive, he put his cards on the table,” he says.
“He got into strife, and his personal life may have shocked some people, but he didn’t try to hide away.”
In his first term in office, after what would appear a few celebratory drinks when Australia won the America’s Cup yachting trophy, Hawke told the media that any boss who did not give staff the day off was “a bum”.
While the way we communicate may have changed, understanding and knowing your audience has not. Hawke knew how to tell a joke, be compassionate when needed, be true to his convictions. He had a strong mission and vision for Australia, worked hard and there is much discussion today about his legacy. But perhaps it was Hawke’s ability to be a man of the people and build trust that was his greatest legacy. This trust in Hawke and his policies enabled him to fulfil the legacies people are discussing upon his death, such as forging a path for Australia into the Asia Pacific, advocating for women’s rights, floating the Australian dollar and introducing the Medicare system we have today.
Bob Hawke was an authentic leader. So, what makes you authentically you? What is your mission and vision? What will be your legacy?
Bob Hawke and first wife Hazel visit Mildura in 1989. Photo courtesy of Sunraysia Daily