Online Reputation Management – Around the World in 8 Seconds

One of the fun movies of my childhood was “Around the World in 80 Days.” Set in the early days of automobiles, it highlights the huge challenges of circumnavigating the globe. Today, I have to laugh that we can circle the globe online in more like 8 seconds–a little faster than back “in the day.”

Just as transportation now moves at multiples of the speed of sound, your company’s reputation can zip to almost every corner of the world and back at light speed, picking up fans or foes along the way. That is why Online Reputation Management is SSSOOOOO important for the most global or the most local of consumer-facing businesses.

I’ve tested the Social Management perimeters of a couple of companies of time and found gaping holes in strategy and tactics.  When I found a piece of plastic in my freshly opened Coke Zero I talked about it on Twitter. When Coke tweeted back the same day I gave them a thumbs up. However, their process began to suck when they referred me from person to person without ever asking the golden customer question, “How can we make this right for you?” Instead I wound up talking to an insurance company on VERY legal looking letterhead claiming they were not at fault. All I wanted was, “We are truly sorry,” and maybe some product and a baseball cap. I never had intentions of legal action, which is obviously what they were fearing. That fear, and a few lawyers, drove a PR process that left a bitter taste in my mouth.

Another bad experience is still in play at my local Golds Gym, where my membership is up for “possible’ renewal in a few months. I’ve been tweeting and facebooking to seek their attention on poor club maintenance (mold in showers along with mysterious grey and brown goo; chronically broken equipment, etc.). Apparently, nobody’s home, or at least no one is monitoring their online reputation .  Stay tuned on that one.

Contrast this with one of our PR clients  the benefits of PilmerPR’s Online Reputation Management with real customer satisfaction increases, as measured by Toyota, from 93 to 98% satisfied. Yay! Here’s the case study to learn how they did it.

Stewart Gandolf at Healthcare Marketing Exchange published a list that I like for the basics of reputation management. We make a few edits when we assume that first responder role for clients, but this is a good start:

1. Begin by saying, “I’m Sorry,” and mean it. These two words immediately recognize that the patient believes they have been slighted, hurt or somehow wronged. It’s not an admission of fault or assignment of blame. To simply acknowledge their feelings opens the door to finding a resolution.

2. Listen for understanding. This is a diagnostic step. Be sure you first understand “what’s wrong.” Strong feelings and angry thoughts can easily mask relatively simple issues. By allowing the person to let off some steam and express their frustrations the core concerns can be revealed and, quite often, easily addressed.

3. Ask how they see the solution. Their expectations could be unrealistic, but asking about solutions reveals a direction and what they think is needed to make things “right.” What they have in mind to solve the problem might be far simpler and easier than you realize.

4. Let them know that you can help. This kind of reassurance tells the patient, client or customer that (a) there is a solution, and (b) you are their ally and not an adversary in resolving the issue.

5. Say “Thank You.” The simple courtesy of thanking the patient says perhaps that you appreciate seeing that there was a problem, that their cooperation helped solve the matter or that you appreciate their business. Mentally, saying “thanks” provides a final closure to the matter.

Your after-action bonus tip…

6. Learn and adapt. There is a temptation to quickly “put out the fire,” assume that the patient’s issue was important only in the moment, and that now that it’s resolved, everyone can get back to doing business as usual. But seemingly isolated and trivial patient concerns and complaints can reveal significant problems. Take the time to look for reoccurring issues and root causes that can be repaired or avoided in the future.

About the Author:

As founder of PilmerPR, John Pilmer, APR serves as a PR and marketing communications advisor for both emerging and established companies. He offers customers more than 20 years of results-driven business PR and marketing experience. John and the firm have provided PR consultation and campaigns for clients such as Mozy, Novell, AdvancedMD, Certiport, NextPage, ElectraTherm, Altiris, Avamar, EmergeCore Networks, FSLogic, INVISUS, 10x Marketing, MWI, Project Insight, REIC, Seastone, US Synthetic and Funding Universe (now Lendio), among others.
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