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No business is safe from public relations crises and the rise of social media have given way to the spread of information in mere minutes. With the popularity of platforms like Twitter and Facebook, it’s not just cat videos that are going viral. Large corporations, small businesses and even individuals have run into problems after having their actions decried by huge numbers of people on the Internet.
Small businesses can no longer rely on their smaller footprint in the marketplace to keep them safe from public backlash. In the last few years, individual people, small gaming platforms and even a dentist have run into public relations nightmares which have been broadcast and shared on social media leading to highly negative effects on their reputation and brand.
The good news is that while the Internet and social media have put businesses under greater scrutiny, dealing with public relations issues has become more cost-effective. The expense of a PR team can be far out of budget for the majority of small businesses. However, by being proactive about communicating and utilizing basic tools, small businesses can deal with bad publicity without spending an enormous amount of money.
Monitor Social Media
When a major problem occurs, small business owners may not hear about the issue from their employees. Over 64% of Americans own a mobile phone and an unhappy customer can easily choose to vent on the Internet without a single complaint ever being made to an employee. Social media is increasingly being seen as a customer service channel and unhappy individuals are eager to share their experiences with others.
Be sure to monitor your social media regularly and stay updated on what your customers and community are saying about your small business. There are a variety of services that provide inexpensive monitoring which also allow small businesses to respond directly to unhappy customers. The sooner your small business identifies an issue, the faster they can respond, and quick responses are an essential part of dealing with complaints and crises.
Don’t Go Silent
One of the worst things a business can do when a crisis arises is to avoid the issue at hand. When a business does not respond or offer an apology, the worst is assumed. Another commonly made mistake is being as vague as possible about a problem and how it is being dealt with. Avoid making a generic apology and offering a superficial solution. This may have been a valid solution in the past, but in our modern day and age, consumers expect an authentic and genuine response.
Although it may go against business policy – and sometimes the advice of lawyers – it can be wise to be forthcoming about what led to a PR issue. This doesn’t mean that employees at fault need to be named, but broad details about what led to a problem and how it is being corrected will help to assure the public that the problem will not happen again. An apology can be a great place to start, and small businesses can apologize without taking blame for an issue. Expressing condolences over a bad situation can prevent a business from appearing combative when they outline why a customer may have misunderstood a situation.
Create a Uniform Message And Share It
Whatever message your small business decides to share, it is important to create a clear and coherent message that is made clear to employees, social media and the press. To help speed up the message creation and distribution process, take advantage of conferencing services that allow meetings to occur at any time and place. This will allow business leaders to create a message to share with the public and the media as well as making it easier to distribute the message among employees. Start exploring conferencing service options to ensure your small business will be equipped with the right tools to respond to a future crisis.