Reputation Management: How to Un-trash Your Brand – #Pubcon Liveblog

Tony Wright and Simon Heseltine
Tony Wright and Simon Heseltine

What happens in Vegas may stay in Vegas, but what happens online spills into the real world and affects brands and businesses in a major way. Live from Pubcon Las Vegas 2015, Simon Heseltine (@SimonHeseltine), senior director of audience development at AOL, and Tony Wright (@TonyNWright), CEO and founder of WrightIMC, are giving an example-packed presentation titled “Reputation Management: How to Un-trash Your Brand” on the ins and outs of online reputation management.

Heseltine is up first, and he’s going to share the way people and brands fail at online reputation management, before he turns it over to Wright — who will share how to combat the fails.

Trashing Your Brand – or, Online Reputation Management Fails

Heseltine opens with a quote from journalist Jon Ronson: “In the old days people used to say the Internet is not the real world. I don’t think anybody believes that anymore. Because something that happens to you on the Internet can impact your life in the real world.”

How People Trash Your Brand

People often have no common sense and share completely inappropriate things, like the chef from Chili’s posing shirtless in the restaurant’s kitchen. People like him get fired.

Posting a racist tweet that has nothing to do with your job? You’ll get fired.

Posting “I hate my boss or job” under accounts where you’re using your real name? You’ll get fired.

And even if you’re using a private account, other people can share those inappropriate things you’ve shared.

These are the reasons why, when you apply for a job today, some applications actually ask, “Is there any adverse information about you that we could find on the web?”

Other examples of reputation management fails? Community managers can sometimes get their wires crossed and post what’s meant to be a personal post on their public profile. Sometimes they have egregious typos that align your brand with unsavory things. Take the Associated Press, for example, tweeting that Yogi Bear had died when, in fact, they meant Yogi Berra.

Take Jared Fogle, for intance — when he was arrested, the No. 1 trending topic on Twitter was Subway, even though he’d been let go a long time ago.

How Your Brand Trashes Itself

Brands fail when they don’t pay attention to timing. Hot Topic sent out an email with a subject line reading: “These Dead Animals are Adorbs,” promoting animal skeleton characters on their teen clothing … the day after Cedric the lion was killed by the infamous dentist.

Companies also fail when they ignore the context of a post: “A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving.” This quote from Lao Tzu is not bad at all. But it’s bad when Amtrak tweets this quote.

Answer in a timely manner. VitaminWater changed their flavor. The Internet was upset and posted many, many comments to their Facebook page. It took VitaminWater 24 hours to respond. #Fail

Zales had an important sale on Sept. 11, then had signs saying “Ask us about 9/11.” #Fail

Benefit Cosmetics used the hashtag #MakeaMovieaFatty. There’s no reason for a brand to use a hashtag like that. #Fail

Untrashing Your Brand

Tony Wright is now going to tell us how to untrash your brand. His talk “isn’t about removing negative items or doing proactive reputation management,” he says.

One way not to fix your brand reputation? Injecting illegal code into hacked websites.

Trying to “remove” bad listings from the SERPs? You’re doing it wrong. ORM is truly the management of your reputation, not the controlling of your reputation. Anyone offering a quick fix is lying at best — they may even be conning you. The only way to combat a bad online reputation is to create a better one.

  • Are you monitoring your online reputation frequently? With an adequate tool?
  • Are you telling your side of the story now? (When a crisis hits a blank space, the blank space doesn’t win.)
  • Do you have relationships with influencers in your space?
  • Do you have a social media policy for employees in place? Do they know what they can and can’t post about your company? Some of the worst things that happen are when a crisis hits a company and then the employees take to social media to defend the company — this can go really mad really quickly.

“Trying to do PR during a crisis is like trying to eat a salad during a heart attack.” — Wright

The New Tenants of Online Reputation Management

  • Always tell your side of the story and make sure it shows up.
  • Make sure your side of the story is palatable to your target audience.
  • Seed the SERPs — don’t expect to replace them.
  • Use proper channels for response to negative items.

Know Your Audience

  • Brands can take a stand in what they believe in IF they know their audience will support them.
  • Not knowing your audience will multiply the effect of mistakes.
  • Investing time and money in knowing your audiences is one of the best things you can do for all your marketing channels.

We Messed Up. Now What?

  • Don’t believe your lawyer — they’re only thinking about litigation, rather than your brand reputation. Hire a crisis consultant.
  • Don’t admit guilt until you know the whole story.
  • Don’t kneejerk. Today’s news cycle moves fast, but most of the time you don’t have to move as fast. The current time of a news cycle is two weeks. Example: When’s the last time you thought about Cedric the lion? People get angry and then they go on to the next thing to be angry about.

Things to Do During a Crisis

  • Be transparent.
  • Tie your CEO up in a story.
  • Start your impact analysis.
  • Monitor.
  • Consult your lawyer but don’t let him/her dictate the plan.

Remember: The more you put out there, the more you exacerbate a storm. Don’t push it by apologizing if you don’t need to, Wright says.

Large brands typically don’t feel any impact from social media or online crises.

Small consumer brands can be damaged quickly but not permanently.

B2B brands are at risk of permanent damage from online reputation fails.

Kristi Kellogg is a journalist, news hound, professional copywriter, and social (media) butterfly. Currently, she is a senior SEO content writer for Conde Nast. Her articles appear in newspapers, magazines, across the Internet and in books such as "Content Marketing Strategies for Professionals" and "The Media Relations Guidebook." Formerly, she was the social media editor at Bruce Clay Inc.

See Kristi's author page for links to connect on social media.

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