Online Reputation Crisis Management 101

By Jane Garfinkel - Review Response Specialist

Even if you take every precaution to protect your brand online, reputation crises can still happen. They might stem from an angry former employee, a misstep in the media, or a poorly received social media post. Regardless of the reason these issues occur, it’s vital that you respond properly to mitigate damage. In this article we discuss the fundamentals of online reputation crisis management. 

1. Recognize that a single negative review is not a crisis

Negative reviews might feel like the end of the world, but they aren’t something to get overly concerned about. A single, honest negative review can even be beneficial. Unless a reviewer makes multiple posts containing crude or libelous language, there is no reason to stray from your standard response protocols. 

2. Stay on top of the news

If you’re going to handle a reputation crisis, you need to hear about it first. Create a Google alert for your company’s name and any other related terms. Should your business make an appearance in the news you will be made aware of it quickly. Similarly, it’s important to practice social media monitoring and keep a close eye on your Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram pages in case someone starts bombarding them with inflammatory comments.

3. Plan ahead

You can never anticipate when a PR crisis will occur. Having a plan in place will prevent unnecessary panic and resulting poor decisions. To start, create a response team in charge of managing communication efforts in the event of a crisis. As a team, run through a variety of potential scenarios and determine the best path to take for each. Finally, appoint a spokesperson to speak on behalf of your company if ever necessary. With enough preparation, you will be able to respond to any issue quickly in a professional and polished manner.

4. Pause all scheduled posts

Concerned customers are not interested in learning a fun fact about your company’s mascot. If your business is in a crisis period, every message sent to the public should be appropriately serious and demonstrate that you are focused on the issue at hand. As part of your plan, delegate someone the task of pausing all future social media posts until the situation is resolved.

5. Pick your battles

In certain situations it’s important to defend yourself against accusations. Other times it makes more sense to accept the blame and issue an apology. That decision is up to you, but recognize the goal of crisis management: limit bad press and return to your regularly scheduled program as quickly as possible. Be willing to swallow your pride if that’s what is best for your business in the long run. 

6. Be realistic about outcomes

Even the best crisis management response may not win back every customer, and you shouldn’t expect it to. Don’t waste energy on the people who choose not to return to your business. Instead, focus on getting back to serving your loyal customers. While it may take some time for your reputation to rebound, remaining patient and level-headed will ensure that it does.

7. Always stay above the fray

Though it can be tempting, you should never respond to libelous or insulting claims while you're still angry. A knee-jerk reaction can result in saying something regretful and upsetting additional customers, so take the necessary time to prepare and proofread a public statement. For extra security, hire an outside reputation management service. They help take emotion out of the equation and ensure that your business is represented in a professional light.

8. Ask for help

At Widewail, we specialize in online reputation management. Our team constantly monitors online reviews, Facebook posts, and Google Questions and Answers to ensure that our clients’ customers receive the best possible service. If any larger issues arise, we will alert you and provide advice on how to proceed. For more information on how partnering with Widewail can benefit your business, click here. 

Jane Garfinkel