Christopher Bazin - Developer and Analyst

Christopher Bazin – USC Grad Student/Webmaster/Sprinkle-Donut Hunter, exploring the technical world and learning how to communicate!

What to do when your brand is thrown under the bus.

Brand under the bus

Don't let this happen to your brand!

It’s not uncommon to hear someone talking about someone else behind their back.  I agree it is bad form, but we all do it.  What happens when that person has a megaphone or worse,  gets on TV to publicly badmouth you or your brand?  Well that seems pretty bad, but it gets worse.  What if the person bashing your brand decides to blog, tweet or even comment in your brand-community.  That one comment can be like dropping a chicken leg in a pool of piranhas (do fish eat chicken?).  If you are unlucky enough to have Google index that comment, then whenever someone goes searching for your brand – guess what? – that negative comment pops up.  It can be so devastating and popular enough that the comment itself could rank above your own brand’s website.

So now what? What can I do to protect my brand? It would be naive to think that everyone is going to love your brand.  There will always be someone who has a problem with your product, your company or your brand. Believe it or not there are a few things you can do to minimize the damage when someone lashes out and, at the same time, make your brand shine.

  1. Should you respond? Take a look at the comment and determine whether or not your response to the comment will make things worse.  If your brand already lives in a community online, you may want to let your brand advocates (those bloggers and commenters that support your brand) bring the comment to justice.  Getting involved and taking a defensive position as the owner or employee may not be what is best for the brand.
  2. If you do respond what do you say? Some comments just require you respond immediately and there is no right or wrong way of responding.  If the comment is about customer service then responding in a public forum shows that you are on top of your brand and you care.  Depending on the sensitivity of the issue, perhaps a public comment that says something to the effect of “I would love to resolve your issue, please contact me directly at XXX-XXX-XXXX and ask for Christopher.” Giving the office phone or using the office email is always a great way of verifying your authenticity online to people looking at the community.
  3. Be authentic,  honest and  kind. Those three adjectives pretty much sum it up.  You need to be authentic when defending or communicating your brands position.  Don’t pretend to be someone else and respond to a comment.  You should treat people online as you do face to face.  You, of course, may need to error on the sweet side since we all know that people read into text written messages.

So now you know how to respond (or not respond) to negative posts, comments or tweets.  But how do you even notice these comments being posted.  Who tells you?  Good question!  If you are lucky enough to have a community manager or a PR team monitoring the internet for brand mentions or industry mentions then this would be less difficult but if you don’t then it’s time to get cracking!

In most cases it is better to offer a place for someone to provide community discussion in a space that you control.  It makes monitoring much easier and that way the commenter has to play by your website’s code of conduct.  You can read more by clicking here.  Still you are going to want to monitor the web in general.  How the heck to do that?  I wrote another article on setting up Google Alerts.  What Google Alerts does is it allows you to use Google to monitor when your brand is mentioned.  When it shows up in its index list you are emailed with an alert notification and a link to the actual article.  It’s not difficult, but it’s not easy.  The best part is that it just runs in the background.  You never have to touch it again.  You may, however, want to tweak it a little from time to time.  I almost forgot to mention – it’s free!  Twitter has some third party tools that allow you to monitor twitter feeds that accomplish the same thing.  These tools work more in real-time then Google Alerts do.  That way you can respond in real-time.

In general, the most important point in all of this discussion is first find out what they are saying about you.  If you don’t know they are talking about you then you just won’t be able to respond to it.  You need to be quick and determine what the correct action is.  Remember, sometimes “no action” is the best action.


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