Fri 19 Jun 2009
When the news of a public relations problem breaks, it doesn't take long for information to spread. PR issues involving corporate scandals, employee-customer relations, and bad business practices are not as rare as one would like to think. If you own an internet-based business, fighting PR fires is even more difficult. The problem with owning and operating an online business is that each and every one of your customers can quickly become a critic. Whether it is blog posts, customer reviews, or a quick email to friends and family, online customers share their experiences like wildfire.
Here are some important factors you should consider when a PR issue arises that is related to your internet-based business:
Know what is being said about your business and who is saying it. You might need to enlist the help of other employees to comb internet pages looking for tidbits attacking your business. Make sure to access a variety of online resources, from social networking sites like Facebook to online discussion forums like Craigslist and Yelp, as well as private blogs. Create a file that includes what is being said about your business and who is saying it. These are people you will need to include on your contact list once you issue a formal statement.
Tell your customers what the facts are. Issue a formal statement that contains as much hard evidence and fact-based argument as possible. Be matter-of-fact about the details and be genuinely sincere if an apology is necessary. Contact the customer(s) who have been directly impacted by the crisis prior to releasing the statement and deal with their concerns one-on-one.
Revise policies and rebuild your reputation. Throughout a crisis, you will be able to identify breakdowns in certain areas. This might mean you need to adjust certain policies regarding customer service, best practices, or things like refund or exchange policies. Revise your policies in a directed fashion to try and eliminate the same mistake from happening again. Look for ways to repair broken relationships and reconnect with your consumer base.
The most important thing to do when fighting a PR fire online is to act quickly and amicably. Do not take allegations that are made about your internet-based business lightly. With millions of readers all over the world, anyone looking at negative PR materials is a potentially lost customer.