Crisis Management in the Digital Age: 5 Steps to Protect Your Brand Online
The digital age has brought countless benefits to marketers and businesses looking to better reach their audience. But there is no doubt that it has also brought some significant challenges.
Most important among them: the digital public marketplace has made online conversations about your brand unpredictable. Even the most random post could go viral, with potentially devastating consequences. A former employee, a dissatisfied customer, or just someone on a bad day could ruin your brand reputation before you know it.
Fortunately, no brand has to sit by idly and hope the next online reputation crisis doesn’t hit them. Instead, you can take a number of steps to protect your brand’s reputation in the digital age. Consider this your guide to getting started.
Step #1: Conduct a Digital Risk Assessment
First, and as with any crisis management plan, you need to understand the risks your business may face. In this case, that means focusing exclusively on the risks that come from digital channels. Examples of digital risks that could result in a brand and reputational crisis may include:
- Data breaches with either private company or customer data
- Product or service quality issues that could lead to customers who share their dissatisfaction online
- Regulatory changes, like new data privacy laws, that could alienate your target audience if not followed
- Dissatisfied employees that share their grievances with their networks online
Beyond these, there could be countless specifics. For example, any food manufacturer could be devastated by a customer who posts a video about finding mold in their product before the expiration date. The key is outlining as many specific risks as you could realistically encounter, so you can build a strategy for what’s next should they occur.
Step #2: Monitor Social Media Conversations
Next, it’s time to get in the loop on everything your audience (direct or otherwise) says about you on social media. That might include mentions of your products, your brand, or even generally about your industry.
Social listening is a core part of digital crisis management because it’s proactive. It pays to always know what others are saying about you on the topics that matter, particularly as they relate to your best interests. That way, you will spot any potential issues early on, and better understand how to respond to them.
Think of this as an active listening exercise. Yes, you need to monitor your brand and product mentions, but you should also build a proactive plan to respond to them as needed.
For example, an unhappy customer will become a lot less motivated to keep pushing the issue if it’s been resolved to their satisfaction. And when an issue arises that can’t be handled with a simple response, you’ll at least know early so you can build a response plan.
Step #3: Actively Manage Your Online Reviews
Never underestimate the power of online reviews, and their ability to affect your digital reputation. A low Google Review score doesn’t just drop you in the rankings of local searches, but also prompts a significant amount of users to not even click on your business profile. The same is true for industry-specific review sites like Yelp, TripAdvisor, and Angi.
To prevent that from happening, you need to actively manage your online reviews. Prompt happy customers to leave a review with you, which they’d otherwise be less likely to do than unhappy customers. Respond to negative reviews constructively, and offer solutions. Customers who have left a negative online review and received constructive help are actually more likely to become brand ambassadors in the future.
Onlien review management is an ongoing process, but becomes especially relevant during a crisis. As negative news about your brand goes viral, users may flock to leave irrelevant but negative reviews on your profile. Knowing how to report spam reports can go a long way toward keeping your online reputation in check.
Step #4: Use Social Media as an Engagement Tool
Don’t think of social media as only a promotional tool to push out good news. Instead, think of it as a way to actively engage with your audience. Once you establish that relationship, it can pay off big time in times of a digital crisis.
Almost any brand crisis online will find its way to your social media channels. Users will comment on even the most irrelevant topics. And they don’t come to agree with you; reasonable thought from the business they’re angry at or annoyed about is unlikely to be productive or successful.
That’s why your userbase becomes such an important component. If you’ve nurtured a loyal following who will find you credible and trust the information you publish, they can become your brand ambassador in times of crisis. You don’t have to worry about trying to respond to agitators if your loyal followers can advocate on your behalf.
Step #5: Proactively Fight Misinformation
Finally, and as any experienced communicator has experienced, the best way to fight a crisis is to start planning well ahead of it. Especially in the digital age, misinformation tends to run rampant. It’s difficult to know who and what to trust when online users work themselves into a fever pitch trying to pile on.
This is where your risk assessment comes back into play. If you know where the potential for crisis live, you can begin to fight misinformation long before it even happens.
For example, one risk might be a former employee spreading rumors about your toxic work culture. Testimonials, blog posts, and other evidence from current employees who love your culture can be published at any time, helping you build your brand while also protecting against this risk and minimizing the potential of a crisis.
Similarly, a crisis about product quality may be averted if you’re proactive in publishing your quality ratings and certifications. The more you get ahead of potential risks, the better.
Strategy is Key: Managing Crises in a Digital Age
Don’t wait for the next crisis to happen. Instead, plan ahead and build a plan. That way, when the inevitable happens, you have already taken steps and know exactly what to do next to protect your brand reputation and avoid a massive hit on your bottom line.
Yes, managing brand crises in the digital age is tough. But it’s far from impossible, especially when you plan ahead. With the right strategy, which includes the above steps, you’re well on your way to protecting your business reputation and bottom line.
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