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Crisis Plans for Reputation Management Now a Must

By admin | Submitted on February 15th, 2011 0 Comments

As we progress through the beginning of the 21st century and social media takes a larger and larger role in our daily lives, we’ll become more and more open to attack. This is especially true for public relations in business, as social media gives an entirely new platform for building (and losing) reputations online.

Recently, one of the readers of our book “Online Reputation Management,” contacted Herb Tabin and I regarding crisis management. This person’s business had become the target of a local social media campaign by a political activist group. The attacks were focused, coordinated, and ultimately devastating to the business’ reputation on the Internet.

Months of mobile and local Internet marketing were destroyed and Google rankings were compromised as blog posts and news stories about the supposed nefarious deeds of this business appeared in search results.

The business is still recovering and the details are unimportant for our discussion here. The point is, over a year of concerted marketing by the business was destroyed in just a few days by an organized, malicious reputation-based attack. The business suffered because, as our reader pointed out, “We had no plan to counter anything like this. It hit us broadside and we went down like the Titanic.”

Reputation Management Should Include Mitigation Plans

Just as businesses drill for fires, earthquakes, robberies, and other emergencies that could potentially cause them or their employees harm, so should they work on plans for online reputation emergencies.

Contingency planning and crisis management should be core to any public relations plan as a rule. What do you do if your carefully planned PR campaign backfires? In our example above, the trouble began when the business began a PR campaign based on a charitable partnership with a group that the attackers were opposed to. So the attackers began a counter-campaign that was better organized full of sensationalism.

Building a Contingency Plan

To counter attacks such as this, a contingency plan for reputation management should include the following:

A Pullback or Community Response Strategy – some kind of strategy that either pulls you out of the PR campaign that’s backfired or responds to attacks with a strong community base of supporters to counter the attempt to sink your campaign. Neither is as easy as it sounds, but both are a must and will be possible if you follow the next piece of advice.

Use a professional for your PR – someone well-versed in online reputation management. Using interns or a random “social media guru” will likely sink your ship. A seasoned veteran with a strong knowledge base will be able to pull you out of most scrapes quickly and may even turn some of them to your advantage.

Build fire drills to anticipate and counter attempts to torpedo your PR. If you’re using a pro, this will likely be part of the marketing plans anyway. Everyone in your business, however, from the head office on down should be part of both the campaigns and the mitigation strategies you’re drilling for.

Using those three techniques, nearly any attack on your reputation can be downplayed, halted, or even turned around. It all hinges on being as professional about your online reputation and PR as you are about your more traditional marketing.

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