"Cringeworthy." It's the word that comes to mind
for PR, social media and marketing folks when we see an action by a brand or
person that is unlikable (at best), goes viral and is then mishandled.
It's enough to make you feel shock, embarrassment, even
anger. All natural emotional responses—and ones that are now commonly expressed
through public social media outlets.
Take, for example, the now-infamous Applebee's incident. On
or around January 25, a server from one of the franchise’s St. Louis locations posted
a photo of another server's receipt where the tip had been zero'ed out with the
comment: “I give God 10%. Why do you get 18?”
Most will agree that the customer's action was rude, while
many will argue that the employee's response was unwise. But it's a safe bet
that everyone—at least in the marketing world—will maintain that Applebee's
wasn't prepared for how to handle the situation.
Think this couldn’t happen to your brand? Think again. We
live in what feels like an increasingly graceless world. Instead of mannerly
actions, we can choose to attack, rebuff, sneer or just generally stir the pot.
Everyone has an ill-tempered side; that's part of being human. And, humans are
your customers and clients.
What people say about your brand is not fully within a marketer's
control. What is? Your attitude, your response and your counselors. You
about the Applebee's incident elsewhere,
but at Balcom Agency we want to remind you that you can make the best of a bad
situation like this, should you find yourself in one, by avoiding these
You don't think anyone will pick up on the
Ignorance isn't bliss. You can't predict what may be coming
your way, but you can be engaged in ongoing discussion about your company and
public perception. Don't be out of the loop; just about anything can be
newsworthy or sharable. People care about personal experiences, and company
actions often make the news.
You don't have a 21st century plan in place to prepare
for negative posts, comments, emails and tweets.
The formal complaint letter mailed to headquarters is long
gone. When someone is upset, they can let you know in just a few minutes. Be
sure to keep real-time knowledge of your Facebook page, Twitter feed,
comment/suggestion email box and blog comments. Responding quickly, and honestly, to concerns
can keep a situation from getting out of hand—and it's just the right thing to
do. Communicate like a real person (instead of engaging in corporate speak),
and be respectful, even when the kindness isn’t returned.
You don't have a third-party marketing partner to advise
It's hard to be the master of every trade. As a business
owner, division leader, manager or employee you may not have experience in
crisis communication or social media management. Be sure to hire the right
partner to advise you. You'll need them to be up to speed on your business
prior to a difficult situation, so consider a PR and/or social media retainer
(we offer both at Balcom) as a best practice for your company.
And remember what they say about an ounce of prevention. Get a plan in place ahead of time so you're not scrambling to keep your reputation afloat if and when disaster strikes.
PR can drive web results, just like advertising, social media and other endeavors. It's all a part of the right marketing mix. In fact, it's actually one of the best ways that PR can make an immediate, and traceable, impact on your company or organization's communications efforts. Each PR tactic you undertake—from pitching a story to media to pursuing speaking opportunities—can lead people to find out accurate information. It also can lead to immediate decisions.
How many of us have read a story in a newspaper or magazine—and then immediately Googled the product we saw? I know I have (tactic used: media relations). Think about the last time you listened to someone speak well about an issue you cared about. Did you not go look up their organization and consider a donation or membership (tactic used: speaker's bureau)?
So which PR tactics should you consider? Each of the following could be a part of your plan:
Targeted media relations. Before you pitch an idea to any reporter, you should know what they write about and why your company/organization is worth their time. But when you find the right outlet, a reporter who "gets" it, and a product, service or human-interest story worth telling, the result can be beautiful—both online and offline.
Researched blogger outreach. People who write blogs want to share information—but like reporters they prefer to talk about things that are relevant to their content area of coverage. If you come across a blog talking about a subject you have an answer to (such as a product or service solution), you should be able to pitch them on a future blog post mention. If they decide to write about your company/organization, chances are they will link directly to your site.
Informative e-Newsletters. Although not strictly a PR function, e-Newsletters are ideal for communicating directly to interested parties (persons who have opted-in to receive them). A monthly or quarterly e-Newsletter sets you up to deliver relevant content right to consumers. If you use imbedded URLs, you can lead readers to additional information on your site.
Speaking opportunities. Qualified speakers are often welcome at organizational events around town. Prepare a great presentation on a topic of interest in your field, and be sure to inform people about the need that your product or service solves. Don't oversell them—but lead them to your website for information on why you and your company may be a good solution to their problem. Those who are really interested will look you up.
The above suggestions are only a few web-driving ideas that you can consider that are grounded in public relations. But whatever marketing ideas you choose to try, keeping public relations as a part of the mix can help your company or organization taste online success as well.