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BizReport : Research archives : November 12, 2009

Internet Marketing 101: How to prepare for bad press

They say a happy customer will tell one friend about their experience. But one unhappy customer will tell one hundred others. Which is why brands need to be in touch with the customer base - so that the brand's reputation isn't harmed. However, no matter how much preparation goes into brand management, the unthinkable can sometimes happen so it is important to have plans in place to address problem issues quickly and efficiently.

by Kristina Knight

Take the recent coverage of United Airlines, which has lost the luggage of a customer not once but twice. The customers ">'United Breaks Guitar' video has catapulted him to Internet fame in the past few weeks, causing problems for the airline.

"The initial incident, with the guitar breaking, is that [the customer] wasn't hearing from United Airlines. So he took it to the social media landscape to share his story. The difference for organizations is that, in the past, he could have complained at the help desk and it would have stopped. Now, he writes a song and it goes viral and the airline is all over the Internet for not reacting to the consumer," said Blake Cahill, Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing with Visible Technologies. "Now, things happen. The airline business is in a tough position. But, other airlines are in tune with what consumers are saying and are avoiding these situations. Hopefully if the brand has policies to addresses these issues they can do right by the customer. It's inherent on the brand/company to get involved in the space so that they can get involved when things happen."

How to do that? Blake says the first step is to be in the social marketplace and cultivate relationships with consumers.

"[Brands] can cultivate the online community so that in the event that someone says something disparaging the community base is there to help defend them. If you build the proper community, a community that is loyal and understands the brand, [those consumers] will be the first out to protect the brand," said Cahill.

The second step? Don't send one employee to monitor the entire social space. In today's marketplace, brands need a dedicated customer service department and these department employees need to check in on social networks, in addition to answering phones or checking email.

"It takes the whole village," said Cahill. "If the brand is getting thousands of messages each day there is no way one body can care for those messages. Brands must spread the responsibility out. For example, Best Buy has 'TwelpForce'. All of those workers can take customer issues and respond to them across the entire organization. It is important for brands to monitor the [social] market. Reputation is being melded online by consumers from product reviews, comments, Tweets/status updates without the control of the brand."

The third step? Mind your search engine optimization (SEO) strategy. Because consumers are using search to find and research product purchases, brands can help meld reputation by having a strong SEO strategy. This strategy, in turn, can turn the tide when unfortunate news begins flying around the Internet.

"When the Domino's Pizza fiasco broke [a few weeks ago] the company put a video up on YouTube which pushed search results and got their message out there without waiting for television, newspapers or radio to catch up. You have to be engaged in the channel and be ready to manage proactively the issue at hand," said Cahill. "If you open a stream of data like consumers do by posting in blogs or Tweeting it transforms what happens in the search engines. The only way you can change search results is to have relevant content and something more powerful than the other content out there."

Brands are never 100% safe, even in the offline world. But by putting strategies in place to deal with problems before the issues happen brands are in the better position to save reputation and keep awareness at a positive level. And customer service is never a wasted effort. Having dedicated staff who can answer questions and bring the proper attention to problems that happen is another sign that the brand cares about the consumer - and isn't that what the consumer wants?

Tags: brand awareness, brand management, brand reputation, customer service, Dominos Pizza, search marketing, SEO, social marketing, United Airlines, Visible Technologies

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  • Thanks for this post Kristina.

    Huge companies really need to take care of their reputation so it is essential that they know how to handle bad press. One bad move from them and they will be tomorrow's youtube sensation.



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