Winston Churchill is often quoted as saying, “You make a living by what you get; you make a life by what you give.” It’s a profound message that speaks across national boundaries and has a universal appeal. It’s also inaccurate. Churchill never actually said it but my guess is that the people who share it do so without first doing a fact check. It’s probably a harmless error. Records of speeches that Churchill really did make reflect the values in this misquote and he would likely not mind too much. It’s the principle, though. Putting false words in dead leaders’ mouths and other viral memes with the wrong attribution speak to a larger issue of social sharing and how that relates to your business reputation. Anyone can say anything he wants about you, your products, your services and your company name online and it is unlikely readers will do the research to see if the claims are valid. In short, you simply cannot control what is attributed to you or who readily accepts it.
So what can you do?
The best line of defense against online negativity focused on you or your brand is a good offense. Going head to head with a disgruntled customer on a review site, through social media or even on your own site, is unadvisable. For one thing, you are drawing more attention to the complaint and giving it more credibility in terms of page rank. Depending on the size of your company, it may be impossible to respond directly to all complaints anyway. Build up a stellar reputation for your company in advance of specific problems through a keyword-rich website and secondary sites like blogs. Even social media accounts that are consistently updated can bump out, or at least lower the page rank, of any brand negativity. Flood the search engine page with sites you commissioned to combat any that are out of your control. While you are at it, build a positive user experience on the sites that you own.
It seems like common business sense, but you should also make sure you have strong customer service policies. It is a mistake to wait until something unpleasant arises to come up with a game plan. Strategize ahead of time and put yourself in your customers’ shoes. What might make them complain? How can you get ahead of it? What authority do your employees have to head off potential reputation disasters? You need both preventative and emergency “doctors” on staff to ward off and heal the most wounds.
You will never be able to control what other people “say” in cyberspace but you have complete power over your own releases and approaches to customer service. Spend your time bolstering your reputation from within and accepting the outside factors that you cannot control. In the long run, it will boost your business clout.
What is the key component of your offensive strategy online?
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