Business owners, whether you have an online presence or not, have to realize that you're being talked about online. This begs the question — what are you doing to protect your online reputation from being tarnished. Being the last one to know what's going on can cause the business immeasurable amounts of damage – damage that's hard to measure, sometimes even years down the line.
The right time to protect your reputation is NOW, immediately. Why?
=> You'll Have to Deal with It Anyway
In general, a business cannot just cross their fingers and hope that any negative remarks on the web will just die down by itself. If you do, you're basically writing a blank check to Lady Luck and hoping that it won't cost you your business.
At some point in your business you're going to get complaints or bad reviews. The key to survival is to prepare and be aware of it while the complaints are still in its infancy. That way, you reduce the damage as early as possible and reduce the eventual costs to you.
Being vigilant By waiting, all you do is create temporary comfort for you and your company at the cost of long-term success.
=> PR Tends to Landslide
One bad comment or negative article about your company can quickly landslide into more negative word of mouth or press for your company.
Take Kryptonite for example. Kryptonite's bike locks had for many years been considered the gold standard of security. Many bike shops carried primarily Kryptonite locks because they had such a strong brand.
This was until a teenager released a YouTube video showing how he could pick Kryptonite's locks using just a $0.50 cent Bic ball point pen.
What Kryptonite should have done was to offer an open refund for the pickable locks and release new locks going forward that were unpickable. Few refunds would actually be taken up and the damage would have been greatly reduced.
Instead, Kryptonite did nothing. Video after video was released of more people picking the lock open in seconds. Wired magazine wrote an article on the subject, further condemning the brand.
Even today, if you Google “Kryptonite Lock” on the front page you'll see an article about the lock's poor security.
Because Kryptonite failed to respond in a timely manner, the PR crisis cost them millions. It's still costing them millions.
This is just one example. There are plenty of examples of brands that didn't protect themselves in a timely manner. Always remember that bad press can and does snowball if it's not handled properly.
=> The True Cost of Bad PR
Remember also that bad press can't just be measured in sales. Yes, a PR crisis might blow over, you'll see a few weeks of depressed sales and then it's back to business as usual. However, damage to a brand cannot be measured so easily.
When people think of your brand, do they think of someone they want to do business with? Or do they think of that person who was involved with that well-publicized fiasco?
Will other people seek you out to do deals with you? Or would your reputation prevent you from doing deals? How will people at conferences respond when you tell them what company you're with?
The long-term damage that a poorly managed PR crisis causes is very hard to measure. It costs sales, but it also costs customer loyalty and future deals with other companies.
The moral of the story is this: If there's a PR crisis, deal with it right away before it can snowball. Deal with it before it can damage your brand and cause long-term damage to your business. Deal with it NOW.