So your firm has spent countless amounts of money to manage the reputation of your company, your brands, its products, services and people.
And then the unimaginable happens.
You'll be sitting in your office, minding your own business — whatever that business may be — and someone will relive the Hobbian nightmare by taking your lifes work into his primordial vain by saying something brutish and nasty about your company on some blog site.
Within a matter of hours, its all over the web.
Here are a few questions that might run through your mind when this happens.
What do you do?
The knee-jerk reaction to this of course is, well, to be angry - after all, why would anyone do this type of thing, and who is this person doing it?
Is this happening because its become fashionable to bash business on blog sites?
One approach to overcome this gut-wrenching matter - concentrate instead with the matter at hand!
Detaching oneself from the emotional roller-coaster of being the target of some blog author or mystery cybersmearer is not an easy thing.
But controlling ones emotions so as to not minimize issues, or worse, overreact, is extremely important.
The recent leaking of Target's AP Directives, if anything, proves that the bloggers first loyalty is to the blogging community.
Overreacting without carefully deciding on how best to deal with a nuisance blogger can often produce disasterous outcomes.
In the case of Target, bloggers discontent rose with news of Targets legalbot approach, and suddenly the containment strategy of tracking a single mystery blogger and shutting down their practice of disseminating confidential company information resulted in a rapid blogrolling of the AP Directives document on dozens of message boards, blog sites and consumer advocacy/gripe sites.
One thing that you can never underestimate about Web 2.0 is the aspect of blogging allegiance.
Unravelling the complexities and mystery of why people say the things they do are sometimes not nearly as important as dealing with the matter that is at hand, specifically from the standpoint of minimizing the damage to ones reputation.
Whether the unkind words or allegations are being spread by a disatisfied consumer, a disgruntled employee, or a scheming competitor, focus first on what it is that is being discussed.
Listen. Don't make the mistake of minimizing the matter, or altogether sticking your head in the sand. The web-based evidence that the ostrich approach will produce disasterous outcomes is overwhelming.
Admit when you are wrong. This is what the audience wants most. The thing that makes the Web 2.0 the darling in the communication medium is its self-regulating aspects. Meaning that you won't be able to win everyone over with your words, but if your passionate and genuine with your approach to dealing with the matter, some will listen. A few will even become allies, and this could help turn the tide in your favour.
Respond in a timely, concise and focused manner. The subject of one of the earliest posts on this blog site - "tell it early, tell it all, (and try to) tell it yourself." Bringing an arsenal of PR and Legal advisors on-board isn't always necessary or advisable. Talk in a way that people will understand.
Keep the language and concepts simple.
The blogging community is especially good at seeing through any campaign of disinformation or deception, and will eventually drive a stake through even the finest company's heart.
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Information, news, allegations, innuendo - all traveling at warp speed.
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Below are some links to product or company mentions in mainstream media:
Protecting the firm’s name on the web | Law Times
Safeguard Your Brand Reputation Online | Inc. Technology
They’ve got their eyes on you—are your ears burning? | ComputerWorld Canada
Blog author threatens to go "on a killing spree" | CNW Group
Blog author threatens to go "on a killing spree" | PR Newswire
Tips on Safeguarding Your Online Reputation | WSJ Startup Journal