I was recently involved in a conversation regarding the best fit for brand reputation as many legacy PR agencies were arguing that this function should be purely a PR activity rather than a combined, holistic approach to brand reputation. I hadn’t really thought more of that conversation until recently, whilst evaluating potential companies from which to buy a new kitchen from.
As with most people, our purchase process began with research. A simple search for kitchens was the starting point for the purchase, and a number of initial organisations were shortlisted for further evaluation. In the end we decided to bring a couple in for further discussion including Company A. Company A came into present their product and service, and after a 5 hour sales process we ended up suggesting there was a reasonable likelihood of further progress. That was until further evaluation was undertaken regarding Company A.
Such a search however produced a wide range of results, both from generic promotional activity such as Local Directories to the usual republished press articles. However it was the overwhelming response from a number of high profile forums which was the major factor that started ringing alarm bells. It is generally accepted that people only naturally leave comments when they are unhappy with a product or service – however the extent of the feedback was surprising to say the least.
The first 5 results post brand were all review forums, all containing 98% negative feedback regarding the organisation of which 50% contained the term ‘Do not touch this organisation at any cost’ (or variations thereof). Many traditional PR responses are often tailored to one-off responses – however online these responses can manifest themselves within the online brand space for a significant period of time, and can (and do) have a significant effect on both click through rate and ultimately the number of conversions. According to a recent report by Microsoft 9 out of 10 people use the internet for shopping and as a result ignoring these search results is just something that cannot be ignored.
It is therefore surprising little further activity has been reviewed in the circumstances. Certainly PR has its place to play in the whole remediation of this process particularly as the tone of the response in such a circumstance is crucial – and a dearth of 10 best types of kitchens type articles is not the type of response mechanism one should be considering in these circumstances. Instead one should be focussing on:
- Identifying the most vocal contact points. Identify if any brand advocates do exist in these areas. Understand what people are writing about you, and whether there is any truth in what they are saying (honest appraisal is the best approach here)
- Formulate a response where applicable. I would always suggest engagement with a PR Practitioner in these instances as you should only be correcting fact, not entering into a slanging match as this is only likely to compound the problem. Be personable and where applicable personalise this to the target audience – don’t standardise a response – people can tell a mile off.
- Get an Online PR campaign under way. Wires such as PRNewswire are great at hitting touchpoints like Reuters, Bloomberg, Topix and the Press Association (amongst others) – however again it is imperative, you have a good story not just an advert. Keep this regular, a simple one-off will not suffice
- Utilise internal assets. Many organisations have group websites, microsites, subsites etc, all of which could be optimised in their own right in response to such issues. This could allow you to dominate a greater proportion of brand search space than just the typical 2 results (+ sitelinks)
- Engage with social media if applicable (Obviously this will be more applicable to some brands than others), but sites such as Twitter are very quick to respond to breaking news and very viral in nature.
- Work with brand partners. Some of the best instances of such partnerships of this can be found in open source programming areas with hosting providers such as Rackspace providing hosting to PHP.net – saw one recently between Total Jobs and the Home Learning College as well). Often (not necessarily in that last example), these partners can aid with promotional opportunities.
- Don’t forget your PPC. For example, blagger.com (one of the examples in the image above, runs PPC ads at the bottom of the page. Content Network targeting would allow you to run ads on these sites, which via site-targeted would allow you to respond directly to these instances (indirectly)
There are a number of other small things that could be done in these instances, however the main point of this is leaving such feedback to stagnate is not necessarily the best approach. It IS affecting brand perception, it IS affecting your conversion, and it IS affecting your bottom line
Can you really AFFORD to leave it alone?