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Has your brand been attacked online?

I’ve recently read quite a number of articles on what to do if your brand is ‘attacked’ online and a number of key points emerged between all of the suggested remedies so I thought sharing them might help us all sleep a little better…

With many companies seeking to make the most of Social Media, the unprepared may find themselves feeling overwhelmed by the speed at which a anti-brand campaign gathers motion. Facebook ‘Hate’ pages appear overnight (or within minutes of a news article). Your Twitter hash tags are hijacked by bad messages and your search engine standing is dwarfed by the use of your brand name in the news pages, all pointing toward the same bad press.

A number of the larger marketing firms have taken steps to combat this and provide training for staff going so far as to release software that will emulate bad press or a hate campaign online, all in a safe environment. The obvious company profile types are always aware of their fragile position over animal testing, mass food production or poor quality imported goods but if we don’t undertake these kind of endeavours it is easy to imagine ourselves immune from such an attack.

A similar sounding brand name, a product you supply through your distribution chain or even a former (or current) member of staff can all be routes into slurring your good reputation. The secret is not to lie awake at night thinking of ways to shut down your social media in case this happens, users of Facebook and other online mediums will still talk about you, even when you’re not listening.

1. Don’t ignore
Don’t ignore the issue – this lets people vent and rumours grow without temperance, it also makes your company appear unwilling to address it’s customers concerns.

2. Decide quickly
Decide quickly on your stance over the issue, if it’s as simple as a similar brand name confusion make this statement loud and clear on your website, Facebook page and other Social Media profiles. You may have to remind people for months to come so be prepared to leave a link on your front page to the statement and a tab on your Facebook page. Don’t feel you have to join in the ‘conversation’, a simple statement explaining to people that they are on the wrong webpage will suffice, a link to your own products (as long as they are markedly different from the bad press targets) won’t do any harm either.

If the issue is directed at you, write a statement giving your stance, this person no longer works here, here is our sincere apology etc. etc. This is critical to addressing your customers queries. Don’t think of these commenters as ‘hate campaigners’, they are potential customers with genuine concerns. There will always be trouble makers but as you can’t tell the difference, treat them all equally, and quickly.

3. Get your message out there
Get your message out there. You’ll never compete with a Sunday tabloid campaign but after the headline and the web article of the publishing paper or website there are only so many routes to more information. While there may be hundreds of websites and comments popping up you can narrow your response to Press Releases for the media, online press releases for the web syndicated news, search engine placement, social media and your own website.

  1. Get your response on your own website.
  2. Issue the statement on your social media outlets.
  3. Issue a press release to the print media and online news syndicators.
  4. Purchase keywords for the major search engines relating to your brand and the headlines of the campaign, direct these links to the statement on your website.
  5. Appoint a contact person to deal with queries, comments and interview requests. This person must be competent and have a clear brief about what can and cannot be said and the companies precise stance and course of action undertaken. This may mean hiring someone in PR.
  6. Monitor the anti-fan pages on Social Media sites. Address the concerns of people on these sites but don’t get drawn into arguments, state your companies stance and the reasons for it. Apologise as many times as it takes, each time reiterating the steps taken to address the issue.
  7. If a particular person or group is involved address them directly in person or via their representative group. Publish the fact you have done this and the results of the meeting, in agreement with the parties involved.
  8. Get legal advice, responses issued to the media circulate quickly and postings on Facebook or other social media sites are just as real as spoken in a court room. Even if you delete a comment it can be retrieved if needed. Don’t use this legal advice to threaten legal action though, this simply alienates people. If you have a real legal case consider it quietly.
  9. If there are errors or omitted facts in a story contact the journalist directly and request a reprint or apology. In the case of a personal website, contact the site owner or moderator if there is one.
  10. Hire a PR representative, someone with experience in handling media staff and public speaking. A PR person with media contacts can be your best friend in a crisis.
  11. Don’t give immediate responses, a journalists deadline is not your problem, they could be fishing for a story that isn’t there, don’t say ‘no comment’ either, simply tell them the truth, “that this is new information and you will have to look into it”.
  12. Use good points to turn around bad points, cutting staff is bad but cutting staff to save the company as a whole and keep delivering goods to your loyal customers is good. Take every opportunity to push the good.
  13. Don’t panic. Someone else’s news will dominate the headlines tomorrow, you could even make it your own good news.

If you have been involved in an online anti-brand campaign or even instigated one I’d love to hear about your experience.

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