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4 tips small businesses can use to overcome an online PR crisis

Some believe online crisis is a reason to avoid social media.  Others feel it’s a reason to get engaged.  Still others find that crisis presents opportunities to shine.

Whether or not we are active, we all still need to be prepared, because if a crisis hits, the conversation is going to exist whether we participate or not. Here are four tips for preparing for and overcoming an online PR crisis.

1. Build relationships before a crisis happens. Don’t wait for a crisis to look for friends.  Those relationships need to be built prior to a crisis.  If we invest the time in relationships, we’ll be amazed at how many fans will rush to our defense when a crisis emerges.  How can we build relationships online?

  • Engage customers consistently over time; just have a chat and make friends.
  • Acknowledge customers when they mention us or share our content.
  • Comment on their blogs when they mention us.
  • Reach out to directly and ask for help when a crisis hits.

2. Tackle the problem. Did someone say something that was less than pleasant about our company?  Acknowledging the issue, a constructive manner, will go a long way: good customer service is good marketing.  Often the way a crisis is handled will have as much impact as the initial event and anyone that sees the post later, and they will give us credit for responding.  Avoid getting in knock-down-drag-out arguments online.  Keep it positive and focus on solving the problem. One technique is to take it off line, by saying something like, “I’m sorry you are having a challenge, can you email me for help?”

3. Save the good references. Get a nice post on a blog?  Have a nice mention on Twitter?  Save these!  Save the Tweets to Twitter favorites, and keep those blog links in a draft email, or save them to a site like Delicious so we can access them quickly when a crisis emerges.  If someone says something online that is less than pleasant about our organization – we can remind people of these links.

4. We can’t win them all. Sooner or later in business, we’ll have someone we cannot satisfy and that’s okay.  It happens in every business.  However if we focus on the problem, and do our best to resolve it, more often than not we’ll come out ahead.

Photo credit:  Flickr

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