Even if you have complete confidence that your internet team is able to handle a PR crisis, it is still a good idea to have a written plan in place to defend your online reputation. This will remove any doubt about the emergency procedure and define the roles of your employees.
An Online Reputation Defense Policy can be as long or as short as you deem appropriate. Each policy will differ by the company size and niche and every company will have different needs. Here are 5 tips for writing an online reputation defense policy for your business.
1. Identify and Monitor Industry Specific Websites. Potential online reputation problems will vary by business. Niche websites such as Avvo should be checked frequently. Define these websites in your policy and then specify how often your staff should check them in addition to the use of automated listening tools.
2. Determine an Immediate Action. Your policy should include detailed instructions for the person who first notices a problem. Bear in mind that this person is not likely to be the PR or crisis management professional. The immediate action dictated by your plan can be as simple or complicated as you deem appropriate for your business. Consider the following suggestions:
Using the above, one element of your online reputation defense policy may read:
If the comment appears on Twitter and it is a complaint about customer service, respond with: "We're sorry to hear you are having trouble. Please contact 1-800-555-5555 and we will resolve it ASAP!" Then follow the customer so they have the ability to DM. Call the Customer Service Manager if the complaint is identified during normal business hours. If the complaint is on a weekend or after business hours, Email the Customer Service Manager describing the problem and the Online Marketing Director. If a negative comment follows, do not post anything. If more than 1 negative comment follows, or more than 3 people become involved in the conversation, post this response: "Again, we're very sorry. Please contact us at 1-800-555-5555 or DM us so we can help!" If the conversation continues after the second response then call the Customer Relations Specialist on call, no matter what hour. If he or she does not respond within 30 minutes, call the Head of PR using the emergency number.
3. Delegate Authority. Decide what person should evaluate the threat level and whom they should consult based on the nature and seriousness of the threat. If you believe that your PR Manager has got it locked down, then your policy may only give the job title of the person to be contacted, method of contact, and circumstances that must occur to warrant their notification.
If you have several different professionals operating in a large company or corporation, you may want different people to be notified in different situations. For example:
Often, the first person to identify an online reputation problem will believe that they are responsible for dealing with the complaint. This may or may not be true. This is why it is important to have a written online reputation response plan in place, so the first responder is absolutely clear about his or her role.
Keep in mind that you should have a responder who will not be emotional about the complaint. If the critical remark is made about a post that the Social Media Manager has written, a campaign that they designed or a hashtag that they created, they may respond emotionally, or on impulse. This is what the online reputation defense plan is established to avoid. Keep this in mind when designating authority.
4. Dictate Response Guidelines: You may or may not want to establish guidelines based on common mistakes. Some examples include:
5. Make the Plan Available and Workable. Use all of the resources at your disposal to create your reputation defense strategy. You should get input from all parties who may be involved in an online reputation response and be sure a copy of the policy is available to all and everyone is clear about their role in an online reputation emergency.