People tend to think of public relations and reputation management as ongoing tasks that every business should handle on a perpetual basis. However, much of a company’s protection from slander, lawsuits, negative reviews, and other forms of bad PR stem not from the everyday activities of the company’s PR team, but from the initial positioning of the brand through improper planning and decision-making.
Giving your startup a good start is the best way to make life easier on any PR pros you wind up working with in the future, because they won’t be scrambling to fix problems that you’ve already created for yourself. With that said, here are eight tips you can use to better manage and protect the legal status and public reputation of your business:
1. Incorporate as an LLC
If you’re a newcomer to the realm of building businesses, you might be wondering “what is an LLC?” The acronym stands for Limited Liability Corporation, and as the name implies, it is a company structure that limits the liability of the company owners in terms of personal debt responsibility. Incorporating as an LLC is the best way to ensure that a failed company won’t have a terribly negative impact on your future as an entrepreneur because corporate insolvency won’t equate to your own personal bankruptcy. The LLC structure also affords for additional protection against certain kinds of legal issues, so this is an ideal first suggestion for anyone who is planning to protect the legal status of their startup. Visit HowToStartanLLC to find out more.
2. Be conscious of consumer sensitivities and avoid politics
One of the fastest ways to create an unnecessary PR predicament is by doing something that will blatantly offend a large group of people. Unfortunately, nowadays that can be quite difficult to avoid over a long period of time because many seem to have sensitive viewpoints about all sorts of topics. Thus, it’s better to avoid mixing personal opinions or political viewpoints with company discourse in any way. It may seem honorable to commit your company to a cause, and in the case of an environmentally conscious business that openly voices opinions on climate change, that could be fitting, but in the majority of industries it’s best to just steer clear of social commentary altogether.
3. Have a reliable system for addressing customer and client complaints
Unresolved complaints are another leading cause of negative PR issues like poor online reviews, slander, and loss of existing customers and clients. Fortunately, you can usually avoid such issues by simply providing a way for people to quickly and easily submit complaints. However, a complaint submission system is only one half of the solution, as you also need to thoroughly consider each complaint and take steps to fix each problem. After all, that’s the core objective of customer service in general.
4. Ask for feedback
Many times, you can avoid dissatisfaction while simultaneously boosting interest in your product or service by simply making improvements and fixes based on feedback provided by your clients, customers, or users. You can use simple web plugins to prompt your site visitors to leave feedback on the functionality and navigation of your site, or to submit questions that you could then answer publicly within blog posts. Collecting feedback in this manner will help you keep an ear to the needs and ideas of your customer base.
5. Pay attention to mentions of your brand on social media sites
You can easily use the search bar on sites like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube and other social sites to see what people are saying about your brand. This is a simple step that you can take once per day to get an up-to-the-moment update on how the internet as a whole is viewing your brand. Plus, watching your brand name gaining momentum in the social search results can be motivational for a small startup.
6. Check the top directories and review sites regularly
Just as searching social media sites is a wise thing to do, it’s also good to keep an eye on your reviews and ratings. While it might seem like there’s nothing you can do about a negative strike on your public reputation, in many cases you can still resolve the matter and provide nominal compensation to convince the upset customer to change or delete their review. You can reach out to the disgruntled customer with wording like: “Now that we’ve taken steps to resolve your issue, we hope you’ll consider revising your negative review/rating of our company.” If you really make the situation right and go the extra mile, this approach will work more times than not.
7. Address BBB complaints immediately
Any complaints filed with the Better Business Bureau should be addressed immediately through their online platform. Any negative marks that your business gets from the BBB could reflect horribly on your brand reputation and prevent you from receiving BBB-accreditation, which is a credential that many consumers and business partners look for. Plus, resolving issues on the BBB’s website for the world to see is a good way to publicly demonstrate the unflinching quality of your brand’s customer service.
8. Avoid excessive borrowing
Finally, another issue that often goes overlooked when it comes to managing a brand’s public reputation, is insolvency. Obviously, any company that winds up in over its head in debt will not be an appealing prospect for investors and will therefore have a hard time obtaining extensive funding in the future. Without access to investors and other lines of credit, a business simply can’t expand as rapidly and may wind up being routed out by more adequately funded competition.
Take a versatile approach to PR management
As you can see, there are at least eight areas of consideration that need to be covered just to facilitate a basic approach to PR management – the art of protecting and nourishing a brand’s global presence goes far beyond the scope of this guide – but by heeding the tips above, you’ll be ideally positioned to avoid or resolve the majority of PR problems your company encounters.