Many challenger brands that I work with at my agency — those that compete against other brands that are the dominant category leaders — face resistance when attempting to insert themselves into industry-wide conversations, or even getting a word in edgewise. They often wrestle to get the public’s opinion in their favor, and require a strategy that will enable them to control the narrative.
Although no challenger brand can completely prevent negative comments from being shared online, they can influence the marketplace by generating consistent and positive content designed to debunk false claims and overshadow misperceptions. In fact, responding to negative comments swiftly and confidently, while taking an expert approach to SEO search engine tactics, will have a significant impact on how challenger brands are perceived. The goal becomes to manage your reputation by significantly altering search results such that industry queries, and those about the specific challenger brand, lead to fact-based, positive content appearing on the first pages of search channels, effectively pushing down any negative posts.
There are many tools out there to help challenger brands monitor social platforms for mentions of their brand name as well as key industry terms, including Google Alerts, Icerocket (a blog searching tool), as well as SocialMention and Topsy that both measure social media mentions. Once you are alerted to negative comments, the issue now becomes, how can you quickly formulate an appropriate response to avoid further escalation?
We have been working with challenger brands for over 30 years and have found that immediacy, acknowledgment, respect and being true to your core beliefs will not only have a positive impact on your brand’s perception, but it will also boost your brand’s SEO performance. Here are the five basic steps any challenger brand can use to help address negative comments, maintain integrity and control the conversation.
- Acknowledge the issue. Good or bad, you should always have a response plan in place for any public communication about your business. The community needs to know that you’re paying attention to the public dialogue, that you care and that you’re responsive. Your worst option is to do nothing. Sweep it under the rug and it will become the monster under your bed.
- Respond immediately, honestly and consistently true to your brand’s identity. Every response needs to relay a consistent tone of understanding and acceptance of the issue, along with an honest voicing of the brand’s position. The response should be as immediate as possible, demonstrating the degree of importance of the issue to your company.
- Be respectful. Responding respectfully and without judgment shows the community that you take public commentary seriously. It is important that the company avoid appearing defensive or support the notion that the organization may have something to hide.
- Apologize when appropriate. Mistakes happen. Own them. A simple, genuine and well-placed apology can frequently do more for public opinion than a stack of press releases. Be direct and sincere in your apology, paying special attention to areas where your business might have fallen short relative to your core mission. As an example, “We at Acme Widgets strive for 100% customer satisfaction and if we ever fall short of this goal, we will do whatever it takes to repair it. Please accept our apologies for this error and rest assured it will never happen again. As we like to say at Acme, our customer is our family and family comes first.”
- Restate your brand mission. Take advantage of your public responses to remind the community of your mission – who you are, what you stand for and why people should do business with you. We work with a credit union that once received the following member testimonial: “They have the nicest people. I had a bad experience that was turned around by their customer service. I had a mean email [written], but changed it to a thank-you note after the [credit union] took such good care of me.”
Controlling the conversation can be a daily struggle for many challenger brands, but these five tips will help you take back ownership of your public identity, and gain customer loyalty and appreciation in the process.
Gumas Advertising’s Founder & President John Gumas originally published the article on reputation management, “Five Ways Challenger Brands Can Better Manage Their Reputation”, for Forbes Agency Council.
Tags: reputation management