In today’s growing online world of social media and digital marketing, nonprofits have been working diligently to maintain their presence amongst a very busy landscape while building their online communities of supporters. In fact the 2013 eNonprofit Benchmarks Study indicated that their Facebook and Twitter communities have grown by 46% and 264% respectively. However, building and maintaining an online reputation can be challenging and encouraging feedback can be a double edge sword as it opens your organization up to both the good and the bad. There will be those that praise the work of your cause and those that don’t and that could potentially tarnish your good reputation.
In this day and age of increased social media engagement it’s crucial that nonprofits be proactive and safe-guard itself from a potentially messy situation that can rapidly get out of control. Recent research showed that 42% of American adults do their research online before doing business with someone and of those 45% have actually changed their minds based on what they have discovered. The following are four tips that are beneficial in maintaining an online brand reputation especially when faced with negativity that can jeopardize it.
Be Proactive – Establishing your reputation from the start will ensure that it is maintained and that a potential crisis is minimized if one were to develop. Always ensure that all communication have an authentic and unique voice and that you actively promote positive comments and reviews. Proactively engage with as many in your online community as possible, keeping in mind that each and every one of them has the power to be a positive advocate or can be a detractor and easily tarnish your good reputation. Be sure to monitor your organization’s brand online through a third-party management tool to ensure you are always aware of what is being said thereby giving you the opportunity to put out fires before they start.
Appoint a Person/Team – Appointing a person or a small team to be responsible for dealing with a negative situation will ensure that there is a clear direction and voice. Depending on the size of the organization, the appointed leader could be the Social Media or Digital Marketing Manager, Communications Manager, or even the Executive Director. Responses must be genuine and represent the organization well. Apologies, retractions and clarifications must be made by the person(s) appointed in real-time while avoiding scheduled and automated responses as these ultimately devalue the efforts being made to resolve a negative situation.
Timely Consistent Communication – When a potential critical situation develops it can spiral out of control VERY quickly. Responding to the negative situation quickly and decisively will help slow down the spread and minimize the potential for growth of a much larger problem. It’s also important to ensure that there is consistent communication across all channels including all social media platforms, websites and/or blogs etc and to include all organizational team members so that they too are aware of the situation and how to handle it (i.e. escalating to a single point of contact, or what to say or not to say).
Take Responsibility Honestly– Sometimes a negative situation can be completely out of a person or organization’s control, but it’s important to take responsibility with a clear and honest explanation as to what occurred and what steps will be taken to remedy a situation. Online communities can usually see through the excuses and deflections of a situation and will often call you out on it thereby making the situation even worse. Honesty and straightforwardness will be appreciated and regarded highly strengthening the image and integrity of an organization.
As online channels continue to play a greater and greater role in a nonprofit’s reputation, it’s crucial to take control of every situation to ensure the image of your brand is maintained. How are you safeguarding your online reputation?