Crisis Management

Crisis ManagementIn this business we do a lot of Crisis Management along with a partner in the public relations business.  In most cases if the crap really hits the fan, you need a PR Firm that specializes in crisis management and a reputation company like ours who can handle the heavy lifting online.  There are several firms out there that specialize in crisis management, but not too many package what we do.  This is not a pitch, but a suggestion that if you have gotten a lot of bad press with the crisis, you will be best served by making sure that the firm you hire has both skill sets within their resources.

The Public Relations Side

The Public Relations side begins immediately putting together an action plan of trying to bury the garbage with good news about the firm or you if it’s personal.  Our side begins buying EMDs (exact match domains) to start throwing up some WordPress blogs with the search terms in them that are being searched for your name or company.  it’s really an art form if it’s done right and it’s a constant communication between the PR firm and the reputation marketing or management firm.  In many cases, we try to give the clients several scenarios and we often let them listen to our “sausage making” as we hold some lively debates as to what the next steps should be.  heretofore, all of our clients have loved to sit back and witness these discussions.

I think when we get really opinionated and heated on our conference calls, our clients seem to love it because it’s the first time they have had a little levity since their crisis, but it’s really not designed for that reason. We just like to let the client make the final decision because they are the ones that may be looking at jail time or getting fired or being destroyed online. We run the gambit from Tech Companies, to National Associations to Fortune 500 companies to small entrepreneurs who have made a mistake while trying to survive in a competitive marketplace.

The nice thing about our crisis management team is that Scott Sobel of Mac Strategies has over forty years experience and degrees in media communication and public relations. He was a reporter for a major television station in Denver for years and really has a lovely temperament for this kind of work.  I think to be good at this, you need a mix of experience, empathy and courage.  If you don’t have empathy for your client, you shouldn’t be in this business.  I remember a line from my grandmother when I was young when she would see someone less fortunate than we were.  They may have been handicapped, or sick or living on the street.  I always remember her saying: “There but for the grace of God, go I”.  If you don’t think you are one Scotch, one employees misstep or one mistake away from the client you are serving, then you are destined to someday being on the other end of the phone call.

Crisis Management Work

You must have the courage to tell your client the truth about what you see happening because it is never more important to managing a client’s expectation than in crisis management work.  The next thing you need to prepare for is to be their confidant and very shortly; their psychiatrist.  We have to ask these folks the tough questions and you have to do it in the worse times, but if you don’t have the fortitude to care enough to ask, then this business isn’t for you.  The nice thing for us with this kind of work is that in many cases, you become long time friends.  After the smoke has cleared, if you did your job, you will remain friendly for years to come and that isn’t bad for meeting someone in the worst circumstances of their lives.

Protect Your Online Reputation

Protect Your Online ReputationI read an interesting article about how you should forego buying a summer house or new boat until you protect your online reputation.  It was written by Chris Abraham; a competitor of mine but I had to give him credit because I had never heard anyone before that really communicated the dangers that lie out there on the web.  He writes a compelling case for spending thousands of dollars to protect your online reputation because after the litany of anecdotes he wrote of, he made a great case for “None of us will ever get out of here unscathed”.

He wrote about the damage on the web by the hand of an unscrupulous competitor, (which I’ve written about previously) a personal breakup where your mate goes nuts online about your shortcomings.  He wrote about a psychotic former employee, an unconsolable patient, a really upset client and my favorite was the person who decides that you will be their personal jihad. I loved that one, but it did scare the hell out of me and I’m in the business!

Pay Me Now Or Pay Me Later

There’s no need to go on and paraphrase his article of over 1350 words, but it was nice to read someone in my industry that is of the same mind when it comes to deciding whether to protect your online reputation or not to protect it. There used to be an old Fram Oil Filter commercial that became part of the nomenclature; “Pay me now or pay me later”.  It was a great commercial but this industry is very similar.  You can start protecting your online reputation now or spend a fortune after the proverbial you know what hits the fan.

Chris did say one thing that rang true and should ring true for any of us: “Reputation hates a vacuum”. That is so true.  If you have built the web assets to occupy page one of Google with the type of information about you through blogs, websites and social media, then you get to fill that vacuum before the naysayer beats you to it.  I’ve been preaching for over a year now that the new breakout industry on the web will be all about how to protect your online reputation and how to manage that in the future.  The horror stories are endless and the carcasses of good companies are strewn from coast to coast.  We have had two clients change their names in order to get a clean start because of a competitor and an ex wife.  I’ve said it before and will reiterate it until I’m blue in the face: “The first liar wins on the web”.  It’s a terrible expression but it aptly captures the dilemma.  Should I protect my online reputation with a concerted effort or should I keep my head in the sand and never know how much damage that negative content on page one is doing to me, my company, my career and my family?

Should Protect Your Online Reputation Be The Same As Insurance?

It may be similar to buying insurance.  Answering the question of should you protect your online reputation may be the same kind of question when it comes to buying insurance. You hope you don’t need it, but the odds are that you will someday.  That’s why we pay premiums every month.  The thing to keep in mind is that to attack you is free for the enemy.  They don’t have to spend a dime and it’s therapeutic for them.  They get to rid themselves of some venom and you spend thousands and thousands of dollars trying to repair the damage of one tirade.

Great Reviews; How to Get Them

I was looking at some reviews written about one of our clients and realized that if you want to know how to get great reviews, it may be simpler than you think. This client has been with us for just short of ten years now.  They are a law firm and a class operation.  They have grown from two people to a very substantial law firm. The important thing Great-Reviews; How to Get Themto understand is that there are lots of “tricks” to get clients to write great reviews, but there is no trick to getting great reviews.  It’s cultural.  If you are sincere with your customers and staff, you can build a culture that will get reviews that are so good, that I have actually blushed reading a couple of them. I was in awe of some of the things that their consumers wrote without a request or prod from them of any kind.

If you treat your staff and your clients with respect, they will usually treat you the same way.  I realized that the people who wrote these reviews were incredibly sincere and took the time to write some pretty lengthy accolades.  The other thing that surprised me was that they called the attorneys by their first name yet referencing them with such a standard of regard, that you’d swear a professional writer spent hours to write these reviews.  This firm gets great reviews even when they lose a case.  Think of that.  They lose the case and the clients are trying to comfort the attorneys by telling them that it’s okay but more importantly, a common thread is the clients saying that they got their self-respect back. Can there be a finer compliment than to say thank you for getting my self respect back when writing a great review?

Create A Culture of Great Reviews

These kinds of reviews can only be sincere and knowing this firm for the past ten years, they are well deserved.  Do you know why?  Culture, people.  They have created a culture of self respect and caring that can only produce the kinds of testimonials that are exceptional because the firm is exceptional and so is their leader.  So, next time you’re trying to figure out how to get great reviews about you and your company, why don’t you work to create the environment within your company that can only get you great reviews? Be exceptional in how you treat your staff, your clients and they will beat a path to your door.

Reputation Marketing Services

I’ve spent the better part of the last year writing, speaking and researching the merits of providing reputation marketing services to our clients. I have done SEO, provided content and basically walked everyone through the processes that entail reputation marketing services, but to date I have never really defined them.  I have a website that explains some of them, but I thought it high time to lay out exactly what I mean and maybe even more important, I need to put down in writing an outline for me of what it is we exactly do.  We do several different things depending on the situation, but I have not ever had a “step 1, 2, 3″ for all of us to check off when we go to work dealing with a new crisis.

Reputation Marketing ServicesLet me start by clarifying that we have found that the needs are usually different for every crisis, but there are some services that are always needed.  Let me start with the basic reputation marketing services and move on from there. You all need to own your brand on page 1 of Google. You need to own 1 thru 10 on page one for your brand name! That is a given and when my phone rings, it is the first time anyone realizes the necessity of this advice. Own your reputation!  I cannot prevent bad things from happening, but if you have created enough web posts and optimized them on several blogs, websites and 2.0 sites, you can prevent the bad press from hanging around very long on page 1 as it will not have the SEO strength to last.  So, step one is always to “own your brand”.

Collecting Reviews

Step two is also the same with every client (unfortunately we don’t always stress this enough because we are too busy putting out the flames) and that is to make sure they are collecting reviews from the their customers or patients.  Now attorneys and professionals usually are uncomfortable with this process, but we have designed a simple way to encourage their patients or clients to volunteer a review whether it is good or bad and we have also devised a way to make sure the venomous ones don’t hit web; more about that in another post but I probably will never explain it all as I don’t want our competitors to copy the process.

Reputation Marketing Services Next Steps

Now the next steps for Reputation Marketing Services vary by circumstance and I will try to list all of our experiences here and what we have had to do in each case.  I will have to be general to avoid compromising any of our clients, but I can be specific enough to form a basic list of needs.

If you have been arrested or indicted, we have to clean up the first page of Google, but also need to start publishing press releases to drown out the sabre rattling by your competitors and clients who now find fault with your previous services.  And it always happens, especially if they think they can get out of a contract or get some money refunded!  We’ve had clients sued for money back after the job was completed and they had received glowing endorsements from the client for the services provided.  Look out for school boards and city councils.  They are notorious for this cute move to grab some more dough and votes.

The next one is to change public opinion. Most times the newspaper articles online have a place to post comments and the vultures inevitably circle and start picking at the bones. When that happens, we begin organizing supporters to drown out the negativity.  There are several ways to do it that we won’t share as it is one of our trade secrets, but the result is lovely.  If the loudest and most prevalent remarks are positive, the newspaper removes the comments field because if it isn’t poisonous, it doesn’t sell. This usually takes about 24 hours and the posts are removed.

The last thing that is always needed when providing reputation marketing services is building websites.  I love to take the heart out of the detractors.  Sometimes this is harder than others because if you have a very aggressive competitor that has been eating your dust for a few years, they usually try to take advantage of your misfortune and bury you with all kinds of lies and 99% of the crap they publish is just that. This is where we buy a bunch of domains with your negative remarks on page one in the URL and then post the side of the story we want you to read and optimize those sites in order to beat back the competitor.  I don’t think there has been one client in the last 18 months where we didn’t have to create a few blogs in order pushdown some vocal detractor.

Now here are some of the other Reputation Marketing Services that are what I call “one offs”. They aren’t always needed but can be useful in some cases.  The first is adding chat to the websites so that you can answer questions and deal with the detractors.  We usually just kill them with kindness until they just can’t spout anymore.  It always works and our 24 hour a day Netreps do a wonderful job at diffusing the anger.  You just agree with them and tell them that we will pass on a copy of this conversation to the person who deals with this.  Sometimes, if they won’t give their name ( and they usually don’t) we just mention that we have their IP address and we’ll attach it to the chat and someone will be back to them within a few hours.  Most times that sends them running to the hills, but our client makes that call.  However, our chat software always records the IP address and in many cases we can track it back to the person on the other end of the chat.

The last thing we do is empathize. We have all been through bad times and we have all made mistakes.  The problem is that when it happens, many times we think it’s the end of the world and we are in shock.  We’re scared, embarrassed and angry.  Most times, we’re angry at ourselves and are trying to find something to anesthetize the pain. Now is when we step in with walking a client through what is going to happen next so that every time this seems to get worse, they are prepared for it and not thinking about suicide which we have been told more times than we care to say.  I can say that to date, nobody has ever taken that drastic a measure but we have had clients that have gone to jail.

I guess that about lays out for the first time what I see as the basic Reputation Marketing Services. There are several very fine points that I will talk about in the future.  I can write a lengthy post just about press release marketing that is an art form on its own. Don’t be afraid to post your comments.  I read them all.