Is it possible to bounce back from an public relations problem as bad as the one facing Rio de Janeiro, the 2016 Olympics host city? News stories of poverty, Zika, and lackluster facilities are shining the absolute worst possible spotlight on the Brazilian city, potentially keeping Olympic audiences (and athletes) away.
While your small business’s image problem isn’t as bad as the Olympic city’s, you may be struggling with negative reviews, social media postings, or press that can hurt your business and keep customers away. To give your business an image makeover (or even just an image boost) here are five tips:
Who does public relations well?
Start by thinking about your favorite brands and what sets them apart from their competitors. Make a list of descriptive words about your favorite brands such as comforting, reliable, or quick. Then, list the descriptive words you hope customers will use to describe your brand—words reflecting the emotion you want your brand to evoke. Does your business still invoke those emotions? If not, when and where did it take a turn for the worse?
If consumers are saying something bad about your business, there’s a good chance it’s been said online. In the most recent BrightLocalLocal Consumer Review Survey, 92 percent of consumers surveyed say they regularly read online reviews. One bad review can spiral out of control if you don’t address the issue immediately. To make sure you stay on top of your online reputation, you need a tool to monitor your social activity. Monitoring tools like Trackur and Naymz send you notifications whenever your brand is mentioned across different social networks. Naymz also tracks your social influence and gives you a RepScore so you know how you compare to other businesses in your industry.
Mitigate the situation
Once you’ve tracked down the source of the negativity, your next step is to make an effort to appease and repair the situation. Do not get defensive or vengeful. Be sure to take the discussion offline: The worst thing you can do is battle it out for the entire online world to see. Answer your critics with facts, not emotion. Offer your best solution and weigh whether or not it’s worth it to give in and make the customer happy or let them walk away angry.
Do you have a crisis management plan?
As the situation in Rio shows us, it’s a good idea to have a crisis management plan in place so you can address any public relations issues without skipping a beat. Whether or not the crisis is your business’s fault, you need to deal with it complete transparency, explain the situation, and tell your clients and customers what steps you’re taking to fix the problem. Since you are likely the face of your business, the message needs to come from you.
Respond in a timely fashion
When you’re pitching a new client or customer, you wouldn’t dream of delaying a return call or email. Unfortunately, many businesses get lazy after the sale is made, which can create a negative impression, especially among customers trying to get in touch with you. According to the Consumer Reports National Research Center, the number-one consumer complaint about customer service is not being able to get a person on the phone (75 percent). Social media customer service standards are high too: A whopping 60 percent of consumers who reach out to a business on social media expect a response within one hour.
- Building a reputation as a company that’s responsive to consumers goes a long way toward repairing your image and creating a favorable impression for your customers.