Writing by Nick Stamoulis in Internet Marketing
Over a year ago I wrote a blog post about Ocean Marketing, a marketing company owned by Paul Christoforo that went from relative online obscurity to Internet sensation overnight…and for all the wrong reasons. You know things are bleak when someone makes a YouTube video about your “epic douchebaggery” and it gets over 760,000 views. It’s an extra big problem when someone searches for your brand and your website ISN’T ranked in the number one spot, another site lampooning your brand is. All of this went down in December 2011 and guess what—it still looks that way in Google’s SERPs. The Ocean Marketing brand (even though the site is still live) has been irreversibly destroyed and the Internet hasn’t forgotten.
I did an interview with online reputation management expert Andy Beal a few months back and one question in particular was promoted by the Ocean Marketing debacle. Here’s what Andy said:
Question: Have you ever come across a brand or individual whose online reputation was so ruined it wasn’t possible to salvage? Is there such a thing as a “lost cause” when it comes to reputation management?
Answer from Andy Beal: For sure! There have been many individuals and companies that I have refused to work with. Most of the time it’s because they want to conduct a cover-up without actually changing the behavior that caused the reputation attack in the first place. I generally believe that your reputation has three strikes before it’s out. The first reputation stumble, a customer will likely believe is an isolated incident. The second time around, they will start looking for alternatives. If you stumble a third time, you may as well close up shop or re-brand and start again.
When it comes to online reputation management, it’s important to remember that the Internet is like an elephant; it never forgets. Since brands are run by people and people make mistakes it’s hard to maintain a “perfect” reputation online. Sooner or later you’re going to have one unhappy customer. Maybe they have a legitimate grievance, maybe they are just looking to pick a fight. Online reputation management isn’t only about preventing these instances (although that should be a major concern), it’s also about making sure you react in way that’s going to stop the fire, not add fuel to the flames.
As Andy mentions, most customers are willing to forgive one stumble. Maybe their new digital camera wasn’t shipped by a guaranteed date; maybe your software product crashed on them—a onetime incident is something that your brand and online reputation can recover from provided you handle it quickly and admit to your mistakes.
You have to remember that the Internet is the great equalizer and your brand isn’t 100% in your control anymore. What your customers say about you, your brand and your products online has a much more lasting impact than most companies would like to admit. Thanks to social networking sites one customer’s complaint can go viral in a matter of seconds and open the floodgates for a torrent of more bad press. Online reputation management has gotten easier thanks to social media because you can see what your audience is saying about you in real-time. But it has also gotten immensely harder because anyone at anytime anywhere in the world could be trashing your brand. And when bad news gets a lot of attention, like the Ocean Marketing debacle, it’s hard (sometimes impossible) to escape it and save your brand.