Online reputation management is a very powerful tool. It can protect your business when someone maliciously spreads lies about your company. It can help you put your best foot forward with potential customers and recruits. But it can’t solve everything. Companies who engage in bad behavior can expect their reputations to go downhill no matter what kind of reputation management services they make use of.
Here are 4 ways that companies shoot themselves in the foot.
1. Get involved with politics.
It doesn’t matter if you support a left wing cause or a right wing cause. When you put your company in the political arena you’re going to alienate at least half of the country.
Representative cases include Papa John’s, Chick Fil-A, Barilla, and Darden Restaurants. Each of these companies lost a significant portion of their market share by weighing in on issues like health care and gay marriage. They gained absolutely nothing by publically adopting a stance on any of these issues.
2. Act and speak like Ebeneezer Scrooge.
McDonalds recently drew a great deal of fire by suggesting a budget to minimum wage employees. They also offered some truly horrendous “McBudget” tips on their employee Resource site such as “breaking your food into smaller pieces to feel full” and “stop complaining so much so you can lower your blood pressure.” The budget itself was condescending and unrealistic. The result? McDonalds looked clueless and coldhearted, and earned itself a storm of media coverage, You Tube lampoon videos, and activist attention.
WalMart recently got itself into similar trouble by first proudly proclaiming that most of their employees made really good wages and then hosting a holiday food drive for those same employees, acknowledging that they couldn’t feed themselves. The food drive didn’t come across as compassionate. It came across as condescending and coldhearted, especially since they were soliciting the food from the very employees the food drive claimed to benefit.
3. Engage in illegal, dangerous, or underhanded activity.
The list of companies that indulge in illegal or underhanded activities are too long to name. But if you’re cooking the books, spilling oil in people’s front yards, abusing the guest worker program to create sweat shops or putting out products that give infants cancer, you’re asking for trouble.
4. Treat customers badly.
Again, the list of companies that commits this sin is too long to get into in a simple blog post. However, suffice to say that some companies deserve some of the bad reviews that they get.
If you’re ripping off customers for a quick buck then word will get out. If your hotel really does cycle guests through rooms without cleaning them then people will notice. If your employees are rude to everyone who walks through the door then your reputation will suffer. The only way you can fix this is to stop the bad behaviour.
Here’s the bottom line.
Trying to manage your online reputation while engaging in any of these behaviors is akin to attempting to wipe up the aforementioned oil spill with a handful of paper napkins and a prayer. It just doesn’t work. If you really want a great reputation you should start by making sure you are worthy of a great reputation. Then you can turn to reputation management companies to ensure that unfair, defamatory criticism is placed where it belongs: in a dark hole where it can never again see the light of day.