People often ask me, as the chick from BrandsEye, about what to do about the negative conversations (happening online relating to your brand)? My answer is usually Tim Shier’s simple rule of three: preserve life, prevent further harm and promote recovery.
ORM is a strategic and tactical response tool that allows brands to close the feedback loop by bringing to light both problems and successes relating to their brand online. What you do with that information (if it’s good or bad) is then up to you. You have the option of making a quick response or passing on the data to market research.
By knowing what’s being said, brands can engage in conversations and either reinforce positive mentions or deal with negative conversations and engagement. This is achieved by giving those who are clearly dissatisfied immediate attention – to prevent them from snowballing into major issues. I’ve outlined some tips below which cover how and what you should do if you’re facing a potential (or fully blown) crisis.
The key question is how to guide conversations properly, how to put the information back into the business’ systems and further influence – or rather guide – conversations.
It’s quite simple – make use of online assets (which include sites that a brand has control over) that can be used to dominate search rankings. These may include corporate sites; company blogs; product sites; partner sites; and corporate communications such as press releases and articles. All of these can be used to ensure positive mentions in the first few rankings of the search engine results.
Get stuck in
Brands can also influence online conversations by being actively involved in them providing the opportunity to improve perceptions of the brand. Brands should actively take part in industry conversation by becoming regular contributors to blogs and forums within the industry and leading the conversations about their brand. This will aid in keeping a positive spin on online conversations.
Preserving the brand’s reputation is vital
Brands must do what they can to slow the development of a crisis but understand they cannot put their foot down and stop it. Secondly, brands must do what they can to stop additional members of the community from joining the assault to prevent further harm. Lastly, systems need to be created to share the information required for rapid and full resolution.
By acting fast, brands can keep the effects of negative conversations to a minimum. If a crisis arises, how a brand deals with the negative conversations will help to keep its reputation intact. Pro-active communication is key to maintaining and improving reputations. Through monitoring, analysing and influencing online communications, brands can ensure the ongoing success of their products and services.
Case study: Kenneth Cole
A household name in the fashion industry, Kenneth Cole, had a close encounter last week which may still cost them today. He tweeted the following:
“Millions are in uproar in #Cairo. Rumor is they heard our new spring collection is now available online… -KC.”
The use of the hashtag #Cairo was not taken lightly by the community with a surge of negative tweets. Kenneth Cole then responded in the form of a tweet in what seemed to be a weak and cold apology which further aggravated the public. What then resulted is a Facebook post once again signed by “KC” with a formal longer apology. This is something that should have been done in the first place (though the damage was already caused with more negative responses to the Facebook post). Regardless, the incident proves that despite the growth in Social Media and the digital space, there are certain traditional values and principles we still need to adopt:
In the past, we’ve seen good concepts being poorly executed, though this particular incident was a true example of a weak idea. Not only was the concept poor and uncreative for a brand of their stature and class, but it was insensitive and inhuman. The online industry encourages openness and freedom of speech, though our ethical values as a human race should take precedence and not be compromised and commercialised in the process. The community was definitely in agreement that the tweet was offensive and they responded with direct attacks at the brand.
Respond immediately and smartly
The damage caused by the tweet may have been reduced if the response time was quicker. One of the issues in participating in the online space is that one needs to be ready to respond in the dead of night. Furthermore, if you’re going to be smart and witty with your content, you also need to be smart and creative with the repercussions. Choosing the right platforms in the event of a “crisis” is important. A 140 character response is not ideal and reflects badly on a brand, as was the case above.
In most blunders, people always divert to the interns or lower level management who may not have much experience. However, in this case, we saw the CEO “apologising” for a tweet HE generated. His response was a tweet which was believed to have no sincerity to it. The negativity did not stop after this, with a further backlash calling the brand insensitive. This resulted in another apology from Kenneth Cole himself on the Facebook page, which consumers generally negated as well. Being genuine is extremely important because consumers are looking for a brand with personality and feelings. In order to gain credibility and trust in the market, don’t apologise as part of protocol but rather because you mean it.
“Once is a mistake, twice is a habit”
This was not Kenneth Cole’s first incident; they have in the past made a similar comment, not only on politics, natural disasters but sensitive topics like abortion as well. As consumers gain more autonomy they’re looking for brands that they can treat like friends and family, brands that are trustworthy and those they can communicate with openly. Brand product is very important, though due to increasing variety and consumer involvement, brand reputation and brand image are the main driving forces. At the end of the day, learning from your mistakes and those of other brands is extremely important. Bring some personality and genuine emotion into it and consumers will forgive and forget easily.