Blair V. Castro
The Case of the Nasty Beer and Poisonous Fries: When Online Reviews KILL Your Business
Reputation, rumors, and revenge- oh my!
Every day, our businesses run the risk of a being slammed with an attack on our reputations. Sometimes these attacks are outright lies, conjured up by pettiness. More often than not, a misunderstanding has left another with a skewed perception of the truth. Other times, we may have made a mistake, and criticism is warranted. Whatever the case, our reputations remain at risk as our livelihoods are open to being vilified by angry clients, customers, patrons, or complete strangers.
Tiana owns a small bar on the west side of town. One of her regular customers, Chad, comes in with what appears to be a cold, sniffling, and looking noticeably frail. He talks briefly with Tiana in the tap room, as she pours him a mug of her newest brew. "My stomach's been hurting quite a lot lately, " he explains after. "Going to see a doctor soon. Until then, I'll just drink away my problems!" He laughs, sniffs the sweet beverage made of home-brewed hops within his icy mug, then chugs it.
Peter, a new patron, overhears their conversation and chats a bit with sickly-looking Chad at a table outside (while keeping a healthy distance away from him) before leaving to head home. Peter asks him what he likes most about Tiana's bar, and he exclaims "These amazing fries!" holding one of Tiana's homemade sweet potato fries up in the air for Peter to see, before happily placing it into his mouth. "Yes sir, I eat these fries every day, and have been for the past month," he proclaims. Chad munches on fries and downs another mug of brew. Peter, visibly concerned, asks if he needs anything, but Chad says no. Clutching his stomach in pain, couching, and wiping his nose, Chad eventually stumbles down the road and walks to his home, which is just a block or so away.
Peter sees in the newspaper a few days later an obituary for Chad. He has passed away due to health complications.
Peter goes to their Neighborhood Association Facebook page and rants about Tiana's bar. "A guy died right after going there. Always drinking her nasty beer and eating those poisonous fries caused him to have some REAL messed up stomach problems. Stay away!"
Tiana's heart sinks. This was her neighborhood's Facebook page, and they were talking about HER wine and her business. The comments weren't true, of course, but there they were for all the world to now see. Her life's work was under siege, and she feels unprotected from these harmful comments and as though she has no recourse.
Tiana checks her Google Business page. She had six "5-star reviews" yesterday. Today, she has two new "1 star" reviews, angry about the loss of Chad. Her overall ranking begins to slip. Her Facebook page is filling up with questions and comments. She tried to make time to respond, but she's also trying to run a business. She can't seem to keep up with the stream of questions and negative comments or reviews. When she replies- will it come across as crass or defensive? "What is the proper way to reply?" she wonders.
Managing your reviews and digital footprint is critical to your success in business. This can either make or break your company. 85% of customers trust online reviews just as much as personal recommendations!
However, do not be alarmed- online reviews are NOT out of your control. You are likely being ranked and reviewed RIGHT NOW. It isn't just Google Business, Yelp, Avvo, and TripAdvisor, but the BBB, RateMyProfessor, Facebook Marketplace, MyLife, etc....there are sites reviewing your reputation all over the web!
At Shook PR, we check to see if any damage has already been done. We see what your top search results are, we improve upon these. We check out your competitors results, as well. We proactively manage your current reputation, maintaining its excellence, so that when the day comes YOUR business is in jeopardy, the damage is mitigated. If the comments are false and cause damages, or rise the level of defamation, we can help connect you with partner attorneys so that you may seek legal recourse.
In Tiana's case, the Neighborhood Association page took down the comments, yet her reputation indeed suffered harm. She now works with a reputation management company to proactively protect her against future rumors, angry patrons, inspection results, etc. You never truly know what the future may hold. Slowly, she is rebuilding a foundation of trust with the community through establishing a strong digital footprint and through addressing community concerns, tactfully and directly, with professional guidance.
All names, examples, and locations in this blog are fictitious and to be used as an illustrative example of a reputation attack. Any similarities to actual people, businesses, places, or events is entirely coincidental.
Shook PR is a Reputation Management Company that works with small businesses, elected officials and nonprofits. For a Reputation Management consultation, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.