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How To Handle Negative Online Reviews

How should SMEs respond to negative reviews through social media and on sites like HelloPeter?

Ivan Ristic

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Negative social media reviews, especially those that are potentially malicious, are near the top of the list of nightmare scenarios for business owners and entrepreneurs. But don’t panic. The last thing you want is to become a company famous for lashing out at customers.

As a business owner putting your heart and soul into pursuing your passion, it’s all too easy to act first in the face of negativity and have regrets later. Hold your tongue.

Before you formulate a strategy for addressing criticism, you need to determine if the comment or review is true. Investigate before taking action. Could this be a competitor spreading a rumour or something that has happened that nobody’s told you about? Once you figure out the basis of the comment, follow these steps:

  • The statement is factually incorrect: If a statement made is untrue (not just an opinion you disagree with), you have the right to ask for the comment to be removed or retracted. While in theory that seems simple, in reality getting a comment removed can be tricky.

It can only be successful if you are able to provide conclusive supporting evidence which shows, without a doubt, the comment is factually incorrect. If you can’t provide proof, the sad truth is you won’t get anywhere asking for removal.

If you do have factual evidence and the site doesn’t take down the negative statement or review, you should consider correcting the post in the comments section. Lay out the conclusive facts in a professional manner and don’t make it personal.

  • If a comment is factually true, but negative: Make sure you present your side of the story, and be honest. If you can, add a comment to the post explaining your rationale in a non-hostile way and how you plan on addressing the situation.

If you sense a protracted back-and-forth could occur, it’s a good idea to try and take the conversation offline. State your willingness to receive any questions or comments through email. Make sure you, or a senior-level staff member, personally addresses the complaint.

One tactic you need to avoid is creating new ‘personas’, or fake accounts, to support your position in blogs, forums and message boards, as you’re likely to be caught.

Remember, prevention is better than a cure.

This situation can often be avoided (or at least substantially mitigated) by ensuring you’re tuned into social media at all times, not just when there’s an emergency.

Cultivate your business’s fans to proactively share their experiences and recommendations online. Consumers are smart enough to sniff out and ignore one odd-ball negative review in a sea of positive ones.

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7 Tips for Get the Press Coverage You Want

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Ivan Ristic is President and co-founder of Diffusion, a communications agency with offices in New York and London.

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PR & Publicity

5 Reasons Your Start-up Isn’t Getting The PR You Need

Understanding and working with the requirements of journalists covering your industry will go a long way toward increasing your company’s visibility.

Syed Balkhi

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Getting press coverage for your start-up has become increasingly difficult. With an average of 550 000 new businesses starting each month, you’re facing some serious competition to gain traction with your audience. If you don’t take the right approach to PR, you’ll see your competition pass you by.

Exposure doesn’t happen by chance. Behind every great brand story you see in the media, there is a great PR strategy.

Let’s look at some of the most common mistakes that prevent startups from getting the press coverage they desire.

1. Not taking blogging seriously

Blogging on a regular basis is one of the best ways to impact mainstream discourse. A growing number of journalists and reporters are constantly looking for new and interesting story ideas in the blogosphere. You can make your blog a fresh source of news stories by writing about your story and your industry, and by commenting on different aspects of your business.

To get the right press coverage by blogging, ask yourself why your company exists and what problem your product or service solves. Present your story as human and relatable and make sure it is compelling enough to grab the attention of the media.

Related: 9 Answers You Need About Yourself Before Starting Your Own Business

2. Not networking with relevant journalists

Networking allows you to build a quality relationship with relevant journalists whom you might not have encountered otherwise.

To get quality press coverage, you need to focus on networking with journalists who cover your niche, and to learn what they write about and what their audience likes to share.

Once you have built a connection, you can pitch them the story of your business.

But before you jump in, keep in mind that journalists hear pitches all the time. If you’re sending generic pitches that focus on only yourself, most likely they’ll ignore your proposal. To make your pitch stand out, tailor your story to fit with their beat.

3. Not making your story exclusive to each journalist

business-story

Exclusivity is a strong enticement for a news outlet. Not only will it make them more invested in the story, but it will also entice them to get the jump on their competitors.

Assuming you have exclusive-worthy news, the next thing you must decide is what outlet to offer it to so that it has the best chance of reaching your target audience. The goal is to not always reach the broadest audience but to get your news in front of existing and potential customers.

Related: 5 Books To Read Before Starting Your Business

4. Not using the right tools

To build and maintain a great PR presence, you need to use the right tools; ones that help you amplify and monitor your business’s public appeal.

Some of them are:

  • Help a Reporter Out: HARO is one of the easiest free tools when it comes to pitching the media. It lets you gain access to daily emails from journalists seeking interviews.
  • Google Keyword Planner: This free tool helps you plan out your blog posts with relevant keywords that people are searching for. Careful word selection will help your blog show up higher in search engines returns.
  • BlogAbout Title Generator: My favourite free tool to help me brainstorm catchy titles for reporters.
  • Google Alerts: This is a free tool that sends you alerts when your company or competitor is being featured in various media outlets.

5. Not being authentic

Reporters are consistently getting pitched stories from entrepreneurs that want press. To make your pitch stand out, be authentic. The reporters covering news in your industry want to hear your story.

Related: How You Create A Money Spinning App Without Any Coding Skills

Keep in mind that they need you as much as you need them, and they are actively looking to build relationships with entrepreneurs. So, don’t be afraid to reach out to them. To get your story covered, you need to find the right reporter and the right publication at the right time and to be authentic.

No matter how good your product is, it may fail if it doesn’t make its way into the public eye. To get the right press coverage, you need to build a strong network of journalists and bloggers writing about your industry.

When you send a pitch, ensure that it stands out and tailor it to fit it with the reporter’s beat. From this list of errors, you can avoid the mistakes preventing you from getting the PR you desire. Fix it and you can increase the visibility of your start-up.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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PR & Publicity

How To Use Mistaken Inquiries To Drive Awareness Of Your Business

Whether this is a walk-in, telephonic or e-mail client, be sure not to regret your interaction with them, have a plan in place, how you will deal with such situation.

Neli Moqabolane

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At times, we receive inquiries or communication from people seeking products/services that aren’t in our line of work. It can also be someone who has mistaken you for a certain company that you’re not. It’s easy to dismiss such inquiries, by simply saying you’re unable to assist the person.

Don’t miss an opportunity to publicise your company, treat the enquirer as one of your clients. Take a proactive approach, use this as an opportunity to inform them about your company and the services/products that you offer.

In doing this you are building a reputation for your brand, and introducing your corporation to someone who might have never known about. It might happen in future, that the said person needs your products/services when they remember how you professionally assisted them, then they will come to you.

Another possibility is that at that moment they are connected to someone who needs your services and they don’t know anyone in your field. Should you play your cards correctly, you might gain a client for the future or the present.

Whether this is a walk-in, telephonic or e-mail client, be sure not to regret your interaction with them, have a plan in place, how you will deal with such situation.

1Respond professionally

Your response should be structured in a manner that will make the enquirer feel respected and not embarrassed about the mistake they’ve made. When responding to emails ensure that you do so quickly. Sympathise that you cannot assist them because your company only specialises in different services/products. State clearly what is it that you provide and how you do it. 

Related: A Guide to Optimising Your Business’ Social Media Usage

2Show how you solve problems

In the process of explaining your services/products, demonstrate how you can solve people’s problems or meet their needs. This means that you describe your products/services in detail. However, your description should be a comprehensive summary, consider that the enquirer has a life to live.

3Make your brand visible

brand-recognition-marketing

When responding to emails, remember to include your logo, motto and other things that your brand is identified by. Your offices should be designed keeping this in mind when someone walks in, they should immediately see your identity.

4Offer samples 

If you have samples to give, kindly offer them to the enquirer. Should you have demonstrations/presentations that you do, politely inform the enquirer about them. Let them know how they can get hold of this.

Related: How To Impress The Press

5Provide them with an opportunity to come back to you

You can share your business card with someone you meet, this should have all your contact detail, i.e. telephone, fax, e-mail and social media details. In an email, these should be nicely positioned at the end of your email, as part of your final greeting.

6Refer them to a relevant business

Should you know of any company that offers the services/products they need, refer them to it without hesitation. If possible, provide them with contact details and a contact person to assist them.

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How You Can Avoid The ‘Facebook Effect’

Don’t let perceived realities – of your business or those of your competitors – derail your strategies.

Allon Raiz

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As a young entrepreneur, I received my first bit of publicity from a daily in Durban. It was massively exciting and stroked my ego tremendously because after all, what I had achieved was considered newsworthy enough to be published in a newspaper.

There was a big photo of me on page four, with my interview where I talked about the success of a promotion I had conceived and implemented. My friends saw the article and called to congratulate me, and in my distant social circles people discussed my story and congratulated me too.

Perception versus reality

What they didn’t know was that my business was barely breaking even at the time. The perception of my success was very different to my reality. I proudly showed the article to my mentor (naively expecting a pat on the back) and instead he asked: “Do you believe what they say?” “What do you mean?” I said. “Do you believe all the things the journalist has written about you in the article?” he asked again.

I didn’t answer him because I knew deep down that they weren’t all true. I wasn’t the hugely successful businessman that I was portrayed as in the article.

“If you believe all the good things the press write about you, you’ll also believe all the bad things they say. Be grateful for the press, but do not let it govern your emotions.”

Beware curated reality

In today’s era of social media, fake news, memes, and overly filtered photos, it’s very easy to become envious of the perceived lives that others showcase.

Much like the envy we experience when scrolling through our friends’ posts of their expensive destination holidays — where they can be seen showing off their tanned, ripped bodies while sipping expensive champagne — the same type of envy occurs between business owners when they scroll through competitor’s company timelines and witness their competitors winning great awards, attending glitzy launches and receiving kudos from the press.

In my experience, the perception created by these often-boastful social media posts is seldom close to reality. Like the article on my Durban business, what my friends perceived was nowhere near my financial reality.

Be cognisant and sceptical of this curated reality, so that you as a business do not react in one of two ways to a competitor’s posts:

  • Don’t try to emulate their strategy based on what seems to be working
  • Don’t end up feeling depressed based on your jealousy of this curated reality.

Instead, your reaction to witnessing these posts should be to:

  1. Frame your competitors’ posts simply as marketing. They have carefully curated these posts to only show followers the great things about their businesses, products and services. The ‘make-up’ hides the imperfections.
  2. Use your emotions to make a change. Use the energy their posts ignite inside of you — not the content they project — and pump that energy into YOUR strategy to reinforce it.
  3. Drive your differentiator harder. Make sure your business stands out as being unique and a thought leader in its industry and not one attempting to copy others. Your differentiator should not be influenced by what you are seeing either positively or negatively.

Always remember, your competitors’ posts represent selective truth-telling because they curate what they want you to see online.

They will never post when times are tough and they are losing clients and not making a profit at the end of the month. Don’t believe everything you see, and most importantly, don’t let these ‘perceived realities’ affect you or your business strategy in any way.

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