In my opinion, public relations is all about getting people’s attention, and responding to what they have to say about you. Today, I want to talk a little about the second part, which is for the most part known as reputation management.
Defined: As related to the media, reputation management is the process of tracking other’s opinions and comments about a company’s actions and products, and reacting to those opinions and comments to protect and enhance the company’s reputation.
If your company currently does not have a reputation management strategy in place to monitor and respond to company mentions in social media, I recommend immediately signing up for the following social media services.
I’ve talked about this in a past post, but to summarize, Google Alerts is a service that will send you an email, or report to your RSS feed, when any mentions of your company name, your name, or any keyword become indexed on Google.
Why is this useful? If you were Dell, wouldn’t you have liked to have been immediately notified when a laptop that you made spontaneously combusted at a conference? In today’s era of social media, there would have been tweets, blog posts, and photos of it online within thirty seconds of the first flame.
If some extremely negative or extremely positive comments are made on one of your products or your company in general, you want to be the first to address it so that any potential problems will not escalate.
TweetBeep is sometimes known as the Google alerts for twitter. It’s the same concept- except you are notified when your keyword is mentioned in any tweets on Twitter, and in real time (within one hour of the mention, you will be notified).
Twitter is evolving as a real time search engine, so instead of getting notified hours or perhaps days after your company’s product explodes, you’ll be notified immediately, allowing you and your company to immediately begin to formulate a plan for addressing the issue and managing your company’s reputation.
What to do after your notified
I am by no means a PR professional, but I can tell you that consumers don’t like to be lied to, and don’t like to be “talked around.” My best advice on this topic is to respond to any negative press timely, honestly, and up-front. If your product was faulty and is now considered dangerous, admit that you made a mistake instead of blaming the problem on the plant you outsourced to, for example. Take responsibility and address the issue. People care about you fixing the product, not who you point the finger at (for the most part). The ‘problem’ is much more likely to stay a simple complaint then to escalate into a full-blown crisis if it is addressed immediately.
Also, be sure to not release a short press release or statement talking around the issue, saying things like “we are doing everything we can to solve this problem,” and simply leave it at that, with no further communication as you actually address the issue. Or else, the fact that you are handling the situation poorly will become the focus of the ultimate conversation going on in the media.
Remember- your entire company and every step you take will be under scrutiny once an issue arises, so handle yourself appropriately.
If you’re feeling ambitious
If you’re not completely comfortable with social media yet, but are feeling ambitious, then create an official company Twitter profile. This way, when somebody talks about you on Twitter- you can immediately respond instantly to that individual or the mass twitter audience, in a short and sweet message of 140 characters or less.
Public relations professionals should be using social media tools such as Google Alerts, Tweetbeep, and Twitter to monitor company mentions in the media to most effectively manage the company’s reputation.