High-Profile Hack Job Shows How Not to Engage in Brand Reputation Management

If there were a universal manual for how to approach brand reputation management, you can bet that not railing against your customers in a public forum would be covered in chapter one. For added emphasis you might encounter a graph illustrating the inverse correlation between a business’s unpopularity and its bottom line. The conclusion: the Internet increasingly shapes consumers’ decisions, so use it wisely.

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Whatever you make of the recent hullabaloo over Amy’s Baking Company, the Arizona restaurant that found infamy after a horrific appearance on reality show “Kitchen Nightmares” and its subsequent social media disaster, the resulting case study would make a fine addition to any brand reputation management textbook. But it was following the airing of the episode featuring Amy’s Baking Company, in which notoriously prickly host Gordon Ramsay called off the rescue, that the real theatrics played out.

An unscripted American horror story

Much like the TV show, the resulting wave of social media response wasn’t pretty. In fact, it rapidly mutated into every business’s nightmare. Past customers, and presumably a good number of people who’d never heard of the restaurant before the show aired, criticized the owners for spurning Ramsay’s tough love as well as opening a whole buffet of grievances from past experiences at the restaurant.

Not only did the owners miss a golden opportunity for customer experience improvement, they squandered just about any chance of salvaging their brand’s reputation. Their response on social media outlets like Yelp, Reddit, Twitter and Facebook was about as well calculated as a caveman’s approach to cooking. Needless to say their scorched-earth strategy didn’t win many converts, and it certainly didn’t do much to boost customer loyalty and retention.

Some of the comments that appeared under their names read as if they were written by an eight-year old who just tripped over his own shoelaces on the playground and couldn’t handle the laughter. And while they later claimed that their social media accounts were hacked – not an impossibility by any stretch of the imagination – the damage had been done.

Your rebuttal . . .

protecting brandThe Internet can be a fickle mistress for businesses: one minute you’re riding high on a wave of popularity, the next you get that sinking feeling in your stomach because of a few bad reviews. The key is not to run from the negative comments – which every business with a brand reputation worth managing encounters at some point – but to address them head on.

No, that doesn’t mean lashing out in anger as so many business owners have been tempted to do. The best response is a measured one, a choice made with the bigger picture in mind. Consider the speed and efficiency with which a noteworthy comment can go viral; that is, spread like a virus and inflict serious damage on your brand’s reputation. And unlike a negative write-up in a newspaper, which gets buried in an avalanche of later editions, a bad review online can live forever.

Choose your words carefully – with the help of a brand reputation management expert if needed – and you’ll find that most customers change their tune quickly. Often times they just want to have their voice heard and, where possible, their concerns rectified. Use social media and online review sites as a way not only to encourage kind words in the first place, but also to transform bad into good – show that you’re serious about customer experience improvement by acknowledging problems and offering solutions. A careful response can also help win over other visitors, who appreciate seeing the human side to a business rather than a stuffy response couched in legalese.

Part of successful brand reputation management is knowing when to practise restraint. When all else fails, the only thing left to do is to turn the other cheek. Savvy web-surfers and social media users will recognize ridiculous user comments for what they are: the provocations of sad little trolls. In this case, silence is the only strategy that makes sense.

GoalLine Solutions helps businesses maximize customer loyalty and retention through a series of intuitive tools and white-glove services. boostCX, a comprehensive software program that offers social media monitoring, customer satisfaction surveys and more, can be your best friend in the critical and never-ending job that is brand reputation management.

May, 27, 2013