MOUNT LAUREL, NJ — (July 24, 2012) – The egregious developments that have been unfolding in the Penn State scandal have all in society watching in great sympathy for the victims of the cases, but alongside these individuals and their struggle, is the fight for all those not responsible at the university that are now charged with rebuilding the school’s reputation as a quality institution. Kenneth Wisnefski, founder and CEO of WebiMax announced “there is a dynamic shift in the way a brand-reputation is more susceptible in the digital world”, and furthermore declares “crisis communications techniques have made major strides in becoming a digital format.”
This tragic Penn State case is another example in a long line that brings to light how brands, and their large affiliations, can be negatively impacted to a great degree by the actions of a small number. In this case, most throughout their entire community including alumni, affiliations, athletes, as well as current and future students were not involved but will be impacted by the University’s tarnished reputation.
“Now with the evolution of technology, instant communication, mobile, social media, and the 24-hour news cycle” states Wisnefski, “brands of universities, businesses, celebrities, and other entities are more vulnerable to lasting damage than ever before.”
With Penn State, those involved within the scandal made decisions that continue to have devastating effects on many people as well as the image of the university.
“One of the major problems that are evident by the University’s response is that current officials have not taken a fully transparent approach and have not been as proactive in their management of the institution’s image and reputation as they could be,” states Wisnefski.
As the amount of these cases continues to occur, Wisnefski sees a call to action for executives and marketers alike to pay greater attention to taking a more proactive brand management approach starting from the top. They must realize that there is a message in all decisions and actions taken, and a pre-emptive brand strategy forces executives to make the right decisions based on ethics first and the message that their action or inaction will send as a result.
“Those in the public eye must have this realistic understanding, that is, the best way to conduct your business and control image. But when crises do happen, there needs to be reputation control through open communications and a proactive approach,” states Wisnefski.
As Wisnefski declares crisis communications plans are making a shift from traditional response techniques to a digital format, social media plays the more significant role in modern-day crisis communications strategies. A recent press release by Gartner, Inc., states that by 2015, 75% of organizations with business continuity management (BCM) programs will include social media services in their crisis communications plans.
Facebook declared during the IPO that over 20 billion minutes are spent on the social media profile each day by their 900+ million user base.
“The difference we are seeing with Penn State University is they are not engaging their community of over 270,000 Facebook followers and 44,000 Twitter followers in their response techniques,” states Wisnefski. “They seem to be operating under an older crisis communications model that does not incorporate the use of social media and other digital components.”
However, Wisnefski also states that it is the careful planning and preventative measures that need to be in place in order to hedge against such damaging blows to a brand’s reputation.
“Furthermore, we have seen the majority of branding professionals not plan effectively and choose not to add a social media component to the crisis communications plans until such an unfortunate event takes place, and it is too late,” concludes Wisnefski.
It is in the planning states that branding professionals and marketers need to incorporate social media into their plans, as the landscape moves from a traditional to digital format.
The internet has not only become a tool for people to conveniently search for products or services online, but a dominant source to learn about businesses. With the various online review sites available, customers can read reviews about businesses as well as provide their own review. And ‘word on the internet’ spreads like wildfire. But, does everyone really trust online reviews?
According to results from the Local Consumer Review Survey (2012), roughly 72% of the consumers surveyed trust online reviews just as much as personal recommendations. Of those who read online reviews, 65% of consumers read 2-10 reviews. Of course reputation management is essential in operating a business, in which 58% of consumers stated that they trust a business with positive online reviews.
It’s no doubt that positive reviews about a business will turn a visitor into a consumer. If a business has a negative review, how likely is it that you would trust them?
Also, more people are utilizing the internet to obtain information about a business because of the convenience. Whether from a laptop or cell phone, people can quickly search online for reviews about a business. And because so many people are turning to online reviews, they are becoming more valuable.
Let’s also not forget that online reviews make their way into the social media world. Whenever I receive excellent service from a business, my positive experience with that business makes its way onto my Facebook page for my friends to read and I send a tweet as well for my followers. Positive reviews are especially beneficial for businesses involved in social media as they help a business gain more online attention.
Nothing means success to a business like a positive review from a customer.
A couple weeks back, I wrote a post about the changing dynamic between consumers and brands. It could be the pesky, tenacious “recession,” that won’t go away like socially-inept relatives after the holiday season, making consumers a bit more perceptive and sensitive in the pocket. Additionally, it could be the popularity of social media platforms and daily usage by consumers within all business verticals. Considering a number of major brands have pulled “180s” last year regarding major decisions due to the reception of its consumers, it could be a sign of the times. Will 2012 be the year of the consumer?
Today, as usual, I got up with the sun and headed to a local coffee shop for some caffeine and the New York Times. I’m a creature of habit; I know to have a five in hand. Four goes toward the price of the paper and coffee, and I leave one for the baristas as a tip. However, this morning the baristas got $.50. Why? The Times now charges an extra $.50 for its daily weekly. This was unbeknownst to me, their consumer, avid reader, and loyal fanboy, who often links and mentions the brand in my posts.
As a consumer with social media options and a “virtual” voice, I reacted, tweeting to them regarding the near $20 ($2.50 each weekday plus $6 for Sunday’s edition) I must invest to peruse the Time’s pages each week. I haven’t heard back, but I reckon I’m not the only consumer who took notice and took action.
Perhaps my personal sentiment is not salient enough to persuade the Times to reconsider, but as we saw in 2011, if enough people take action, a brand will take notice.
- Recently, the Verizon brand issued news about a rise in fees, charging customers who pay bills online or by phone, an extra $2. Consumers, along with federal regulators, voiced their disapproval; Verizon recanted the extra fee sentiment soon after.
- I wrote a post last week about Go Daddy’s fickle nature regarding their stance on SOPA. It doesn’t take a Sherlock Holmes’ level of perception to figure public perception had a hand in the brand’s stance on SOPA.
- Let’s not forget the rollercoaster ride of fanfare the Netflix brand experienced after the summer season. Due to public reaction, the brand did modify intentions of uniting its DVD-by-mail element with its Internet-streaming process, yet did not reconsider its rise in prices, and the public reacted.
- In November, Bank of America took back a sentiment issued five weeks earlier regarding a to-be $5 price increase imposed on debit card users. Consumers “no likey” price increases; therefore, brands must consider the reception of such things before making final arrangements.
Will my reactive sentiments save myself and other readers $.50 on the weekly Times? Will open communication, facilitated by social media platforms and the availability of information sharing in real time, be a champion for consumers in times to come? As a consumer, I hope so. As an online marketing practitioner, I hope brands are taking notice of a growing trend and inextricable need to consider consumers in 2012.
Reputation Management is one of the most important components with maintaining a website. From small web-based businesses, to nationally recognized companies, their online reputation can influence many buyers. It is therefore extremely critical to properly manage your businesses online reputation. With the advent of the internet and its abilities to reach everywhere in the world, buyers can comment and post on their experience or offer a statement on your products. It can take a matter of minutes for your world-renowned company to go from the top of the charts to the bottom.
“People post comments about businesses all of the time and therefore requires webmasters to pay close attention to their online reputation,” says Kenneth C. Wisnefski, Founder and CEO of WebiMax. “At WebiMax, our team of experts devote many hours each day to monitor and maintain the online reputation of clients. The peace of mind that our clients receive from us is the standard we exhibit that is not billed to them on any contract.”
Michael Stricker, an expert in SEO and Social Media Strategy, offers the following 5 tips:
5. Reply once and only once to a negative remark to offer contacts and move that conversation off-line, otherwise you’ll just be making the negative comment more popular and hastening its climb in the SERPs.
4. “Yelp” offers a method to send one E-mail through the “claimed” Yelp page, directly to a reviewer so you can refute or assuage any ill will.
3. Build a defensive wall around your brand made of good reviews and ratings so that the one bad one hardly makes a dent in your star ratings. It is the ounce of prevention that is worth the pound of cure (a costly reputation management campaign) to push the negative matters down and out of sight, out of mind.
2. Initiate some form of monitoring. Right now, Google Alerts is free. Start watching the online conversation. You’ll have, at most 24-48 hours to respond to a complaint before that complainer gets hardening of the categories and hates you forever.
1. Count to ten before responding!
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