Neglecting your online reputation is a massive mistake. In Japan, it can cost you your business. In America, it can cost you a lot of money. The damage that is caused by poor public relations online may become insurmountable, and quite often it requires expensive marketing in order to recover the lost ground. In the book called “Brand Failures”, the author discovered so many companies that have lost millions of dollars thanks to a rapid build up of negative press online and negative public opinion online, that he dedicated a whole section to it.
What is your online reputation?
Your online reputation is not that dissimilar to your offline reputation. It is the general-public feeling towards your business or brand. On many occasions, your offline reputation will follow you online. If you are known for making very safe products, then people online will also assume that you make safe products.
Where your online reputation differs will occur in two ways. The first is that your reputation offline and online may be in sync for people who know about you, but not for people who do not know you. If someone wants to know about your business, they may look online and find articles saying negative things about you. This will affect their opinion of you because part of your online reputation is pretty bad.
The other way that an online reputation is different from an offline one is that the public consensus may change very quickly online. You may already have a few negative articles about your company online, but they only really affect people who are researching into your company (because they do not know you). Your online reputation online may change quickly as a result of the people who know you. They may start posting negative comments that attract other people with negative comments, and before you know it, people are avoiding your company because so many people online agree that your company is no good.
What is the act of public relations online?
Public relations online is a shield to help guard against any negative press or negative reputation, and it is the sword you strike back with. A good online public relations team will be able to identify cracks in your online reputation, and plug them before too many people start agreeing with the negative reputation (and before too many people join in).
If your online reputation does take a hit, then the online PR people are the ones that try to sway public opinion back in your favor. They can do this in a white way by hosting forums about your company or writing positive articles about your company. Or, they can do it in a murky way by pretending to be everyday web users and making positive posts, or having any negative comments/articles removed from the web.
How can online public relations be improved with social media?
You can set up a question and answer forum on social media, and you can have people come to you directly with their problems. You can brand your forum, such as calling yourselves the “Problem doctors”, and telling people that you can help them with any problems they have with your company.
Hopefully, you will be able to convert a few people back from being disgruntled customers, to being loyal customers. They are also good for showing people that you care about them. Many people may have similar problems with your products, and may be able to see a solution through the answers you have given to other people.
On a more positive, but more surreptitious level, you are also setting up an area in which negative comments can congregate. Instead of having negative comments about your company spread all over the Internet, you can allow them to congregate on your social media profile (where you have control). You can try to convert the customer, or simply delete the negative comment.
How can online public relations be improved within your website?
You set up a helpline, an online help-chat system, and an online troubleshooting section. Any and all of these will help you to improve your public relations by giving people a place to solve their problems. It also makes it appear as if you care about your customer, which is always good for your online reputation.
Public relations stops your company becoming faceless
Your public relations should be headed by people, and those people are able to engage with the customer. Do not make the mistake of calling your PR team “staff” online. For example, if you have a business fan page on Facebook, then allow staff to reply to people whilst using their name, and not by simply calling them staff. Their answers should be professional but not robotic. They should be allowed to express a little bit of humanity and lose their or aloof stuffy image.