• Hurricane Sandy: Responses for Small Businesses and Their Online Reputation

    The focus, as it should be, is on the recovery from hurricane Sandy in the New York metropolitan area. But as small businesses start to come back to life, pause for a moment on how to recover your business’ online reputation and how it might have been OR could be impacted by the recent disaster Sandy.

    This might be particularly important to many small businesses such as professionals in insurance, finance, banking, accounting, consulting, as well as areas such as contracting, builders, retailers, and restaurants, just to name a few.

    Given the stress and real anxiety that people are going through due to the power blackout, flooding and home related damage, there might be strained relations with those small businesses. If you are one of them, can you respond immediately? Do you have all the information that might be requested? Will you be open and available?

    This is an especially trying time with frustration running high, making damage to your reputation especially venerable. One client could post a negative comment on a blog or complaints site about you and this could ruin your online reputation. Their post might have some valid points or elements but today during hurricane Sandy, they might be venting their frustration—and you might be getting the brunt of it.

    For example, a client could contact a financial planner to get an update on their stock portfolio, but not hearing back in a day, might write something negative on a complaints board. Or an insurance agent might be contacted for an update on coverage, but when hearing something the client disagrees with or doesn’t like, they may retaliate online, ruining your online reputation. Or, a physician may be phoned but not available and the patient may not like this and they go to a complaint site posting their negative experience. All these—perhaps not fully valid—may nevertheless impact a professional’s online reputation.

    What can be done?

    Listen and Understand Their Concern.
    Listening is important. Try to understand the problem and determine realistically if you did indeed have any culpability or if its simply impossible due to the current circumstances of the storm. Also try putting yourself in their shoes—maybe there is simply a communication breakdown.

    Respond Quickly
    Answer their post or concern immediately or as soon as possible after analyzing the issue. This shows that you take the problem seriously and helps prevent it from getting larger or spreading online to other sites, impacting your online reputation further. Again, it might be literally impossible to respond but draft a response as soon as you can and send it; when power returns, it will go out.

    Contact them Directly
    Avoid, as temping as it may be, responding to the issue directly on the web site, such as complaintsboard.com or others. Any comment just helps to drive this to the first page of a Google search for everyone to see and click on, and makes it even more popular. Instead, contact them offline or directly by calling or emailing.

    Engage Using Social Media
    Twitter is a great way to respond to complaints or concerns by clients on an individual basis, and more and more large companies and even politicians are using tweets to communicate. Make sure your Twitter account is set up properly; send responses directly.

    Mitigate the Problem by Adding Good Content
    If something negative shows up in a search page, add good contact immediately to try and push it down off the first page. This might include creating a blog post about hurricane Sandy and how your business might help those that have been impacted, create or add information to other sites, such as Tumblr, add images of your business.

    Be Proactive
    As a defensive approach, continue to add information frequently. Again, this could be especially important during this emergency.

    These are several approaching that could improve your online reputation or repair it if someone writes something negative during hurricane Sandy out of frustration or even for a valid reason. But remember that tensions remain high during this extraordinary time.

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