Every business goes through some form of criss. Whether it is self-induced or purely due to coincidence, the best defense is a good offense. While you are working on correcting the internal issues that started the criss/negative opinions, don't forget to deal with your public. The first thing to do is address the issues before your critics can; don't hide it. Communicating candidly with clients, customers, investors, and the general public before your critics start tearing you down will be your greatest defense for the criss.
To help in regulating and conveying your post criss communication, it really helps to have a solid branding and visual presence with the clients you already have, a dynamic marketing strategy for those you are trying to reach, and a powerful on-line presence that you can use to counter-balance your critics and potential negative publicity. Large corporations have many crisis management strategies in place to deal with the inevitable crises that will arise, but most smaller businesses never even give it a second thought. Let's look at the two items you will need to setup before a crisis happens to help counterbalance negative opinions:
- Passive Criss Management
- Active Crisis Management
Passive Crisis Management is everything you do to protect your reputation PRIOR to any crisis. If you work solely off word of mouth, this is going to be difficult for you to do because you're most likely going to retain a good majority of your current clients, but without a good public image negative opinions can easily drive off potentially new clients, especially when they've heard good and bad and are not sure which to trust. A strong web presence that keeps itself up-to-date with your most recent service projects or clientèle/marketing communication, including a strong, dynamic website with current/achievable content, social media accounts with active postings, and regular email/mail communication with any ever-growing communications database is a perfect foundation for building a solid reputation on top of the terrific customer service you and your company provide your clients.
Active Crisis Management is everything you do IMMEDIATELY after a crisis takes place. Jonathan Bernstein of Bernstein Crisis Management recommends to attack a crisis head-on. "In the absence of communication, rumor and innuendo fill the gap. Either you communicate or other people will communicate for you." Bernstein recommends that even the small business should invest in a crisis plan to prepare them for a sometimes unrecoverable attack from unexpected and harmful critics. Ironically, about 50% of the Active Crisis Management requires the investment in the Passive Crisis Management. By creating "points of presence" - through your website & blog, external blogs, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, etc, you will give your business an immediate and powerful voice during the onslaught of the crisis. It's really all about being optimized for the Search Engines.
Be ready to stick to your plan. Sometimes it take take up to half a year to truly have a positive impact on your reputation, but in the end it is worth the investment.
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