Maintaining a positive brand image and reputation is crucial to any business, and marketers are used to drawing on their expertise to create robust and engaging content to facilitate and bolster this aim.
But once a strong brand image has been established how do you go about maintaining it and protecting it from negativity?
In today’s consumer-focused world, the dialogue between brands and consumers is more dynamic – and transparent – than ever. We enjoy speaking to and about the brands and businesses we care about, often via social media, discussing goods and services in real time.
These highly visible conversations are happening 24/7, creating a steady stream of content that can be posted and shared with millions in an instant.
While this kind of commentary can be a powerful way to amplify brand messaging, keeping control of these online conversations and forums present real challenges for marketing professionals.
As one of the UK’s leading reputation agencies we have been tracking the impact of these postings for several years.
In 2014, we launched our first set of Business of Reviews research looking at how UK brands and marketing departments were being affected by the issue of reputation management in all its forms.
It revealed the scale and impact of the negative content online but just as importantly, highlighted fears and uncertainty over how to tackle this for marketers.
Our recently-released 2016 follow up shows the problem is still here – fuelling worries about how to create and enforce a great review strategy.
So almost one in three (31%) of those asked admitted that finding ways to monitor and manage negative content is becoming increasingly important to their customer service/marketing strategy. As a result they are now looking to invest heavily in this area.
Sadly, another one in eight of the UK brands and businesses that we spoke to are leaving themselves open to attack by not having any kind of strategy in place.
And as the 2016 research reveals, the consequences of ignoring this potential marketing time-bomb are huge.
According to our data, the number of managers who feel bad reviews have the power to make or break their business has risen from 17 to 21% with more than half affected by negative reviews in the last 12 months.
It’s important to acknowledge feedback publicly but move to discuss issues in-depth away from the public eye
More specifically, 52% experienced a commercial slump because of unfavourable comments posted about the brand online, while 47% have seen their brand hit by malicious posts and trolls.
So how should marketing professionals respond? What is the best way to allocate time and resources to tackling the problem? And is expert help always required?
Igniyte suggests taking the following first steps:
1. Ensure continuity of response across all channels
With feedback coming in from sources including direct emails, public forums and social media, it is essential to ensure customers receive a consistent response – adopting the same tone of voice regardless of how they approach you (for example, whether they have contacted you personally via email or publicly via Twitter).
This reinforces a sense of continuity and a professional brand image.
2. React in a timely matter
To stop negative comments escalating, ensure team members respond quickly, using the brand’s tone of voice.
An angry customer who posts via a public platform like Facebook is more likely to post follow up material if they feel ignored. This increases the chances of other customers reacting to their comment, fuelling the fire.
A speedy response can help damage limitation and allow you to stay in control. When the brand is at fault, a sincere apology posted online, is a good starting point.
3. Consider Public vs. Private
It’s important to acknowledge feedback publicly but move to discuss issues in-depth away from the public eye. Asking customers to send you a private message to discuss their case further is an easy way to do this.
When issues are completely resolved, you may choose to reply to a customer’s original post, showing that your business is prompt and proactive in addressing feedback.
4. Consider all feedback
Only in extreme instances – such as where a person posts comments that are profane or offensive – should customers’ comments be deleted from public view.
Using the steps above to resolve issues and close cases, is a more positive way forward; allowing companies to learn from mistakes and demonstrate they are aware/open to feedback and happy to acknowledge fault when things go wrong.