Whether you’re working in corporate affairs or the press office, or you’re involved in any other department that may interface with the public, the value in protecting the online reputation of your organisation and its key personnel is increasingly important, particularly in regard to social media. Let’s have a look at four straightforward tips that can help keep you on the right side of the digital divide.
There is a wise internet saying: “Where do you bury a dead body? On the third page of google results.” So, while it is extremely damaging for your organisation not to have a credible online presence, you also need to be aware of the dangers of limitless online exposure. After all, the amount of rear-guard action and firefighting needed to address a PR crisis can be a lot more than is needed to actually stop the crisis occurring in the first place. Let’s ask digital consultant Eoin Kennedy about the steps he recommends.
Step 1: Know what’s out there
“The first thing to do is actually find out the scope and the range of what is being said about you, your organisation or key personnel online,” says Eoin. “This could be in the shape of forums, social media posts or blogs. The tools are out there, so use them, because you can be sure that those seeking to be critical of your organisation are using them.” Sites like topsy and bottlenose and socialmention allow you to search the social media web in particular, so these tools are definitely worth checking out. “There is no need to micromanage this, but it’s definitely worth doing. Even very simple things like setting up a Google alert for your organisation’s name will let you know when you’re being mentioned. Most of it will be relatively harmless, but it is very important to know what’s happening out there.” Knowledge of these platforms is also an asset in the workplace, it’s an asset to know to some extent how the web ‘thinks’ and how people interact, and to utilise the available platforms.
Step 2: Know what others are doing
Find out what your peer organisations are doing online and try to see what kind of resources they are investing in their online presence, both commercial and human. How easy are they making it for the public to interact with them, for example? If they are seen to be doing a good job and you’re not, although you very well might be, then that can cause problems for your organisation. “Again, there are tools out there to help you keep an eye on this,” says Kennedy. “Sites like Klout or Brandwatch can give you a rating based on your influence and level of engagement and can show how you compare with your peers.” This applies to organisations, suppliers or fellow local authorities.
Step 3: Be calm and consistent with your digital voice.
While everyone is entitled to their own private digital life, employees should not express opinions relating to the organisation’s business on their personal social media platforms. When interacting with the public via social media posts, have a clear, consistent and friendly voice. Create content regularly too, whether it’s with your social media postings or with blog articles etc. An active and consistent presence shows cohesiveness and reliability.
Step 4: Don’t ignore the bad news
While you don’t want to give oxygen to a bad news story, it’s also very dangerous to ignore it. Reply to criticisms and complaints in a calm and measured way. If the abuse turns threatening, don’t be afraid to inform the relevant authorities, nobody should ever feel threatened. Be reasonable when writing your responses and don’t feel rushed. If you have access to information to disprove the accusation, take your time to collate it and release it in a timely fashion. A social media presence that is confrontational or aggressive will do you no favours, one that is cohesive and calm can in itself help diffuse and address any negative press. Make sure you retain control of your channels and use them to the best use of your organisation. If there’s something negative out there you can’t just ignore it, but if it’s a comment on a forum on a site, you can react to it by driving other constructive content online. Post more comments, write a blog, anything that provides a fresh perspective on your side of the argument, so when people search the name of your organisation, there will be positive material there too. So the takeaways here are react to an event quickly, be polite and be proactive.
In conclusion; “there is no need to be obsessive, that can be very apparent and also creates a bad impression,” adds Eoin. “Think of what you would want to read if you searched for yourself or your own organisation. Be constructive and creative in the digital voice you create and you will benefit from it.”