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Online PR

Online PR and reputation management

Web Search Workshop UK offer various online PR services ranging from submission of press releases to online distribution sites, to more delicate areas of online reputation management – including advice, support and services for companies and individuals who are looking to promote their services online or who may be suffering from bad PR online.

You may also find it useful to read our past newsletter article about Online PR and reputation management (Web Search Workshop UK newsletter July 2006).

In recent years, more and more companies have felt the wrath of bad PR on the web – in 2006 Thornton’s chocolates felt a backlash when one of their employees in Barrow, Cumbria, expressed his contempt for the town in his online blog. The result was an apology covered by national media and free chocolates for anyone to visit the store – in an attempt to appease the local community. This was a good lesson for people and companies who use online media such as blogs, forums and social-networking sites, where the line between business and pleasure, or employee and private individual can be blurred.

In this case, the cause of the problem was online but the repercussions were felt offline at the Barrow store. In contrast, for many companies the problem can be caused offline but the effects felt online, where people can voice their objections. Anything which can become a topic of discussion online – in chat rooms, forums or social networking sites – can be detrimental to the online reputation of the business because these comments can be picked up by search engines. So, cases can arise whereby carrying out a search for a company’s name brings up results showing negative comments, potentially adjacent to the company’s own official listing. Clearly this could deter new customers who see the comments, and also be of concern for any existing clients who use a search engine to find the site.

Pay attention to what people are saying.. but don’t argue or take offence.

It can be a mistake to enter into any debate with people in chat rooms and forums if they are saying negative things about you or your company. Particularly as your defence or argument would not be impartial, and impartiality is one of the few principles people can rely on for honesty online, because there are few other cues to determine who is trustworthy.

Any legal action would be entering into a grey area in which success could be expensive, if possible at all. In most cases the best approach is a soft one aimed at re-engaging the disgruntled parties. Often what they have to say is useful feedback and should be treated as such. If they see you have taken their criticism on-board and are trying to tackle the issue, then sometimes even the most hostile critics can become proponents, and this can work to your benefit. As they say ‘there’s no such thing as bad publicity’, particularly if you can turn it around and give the story a positive ending.