Barry Callen Sucks, the Sequel

Miss Part 1? Click here!

In last month’s article, Part I, we looked at the typical mistakes to avoid in the event you are on the receiving end of an anonymous online smear campaign. It could be an attack through a chatroom, e-mails to the press, or industry performance rating sites.

I gave the don’ts. What are the dos?

One option is to touch base with the rating sites and get their advice. This is not an unusual problem.

Another option is to encourage friendly users to submit more reviews, so the negative review is perceived as an anomaly. "But be careful," adds my public relations source, Barb Hernandez, who specializes in crisis communications. "This should be done discreetly. If this becomes obvious, it will look like a plant, which might give the original postings too much power and credence."

In terms of damage control, if the Internet ratings are causing current clients to question your value, a great way to go is to make a direct phone call from the CEO to the chief client alerting them of the problem. This has the advantage of leaving no paper trail or e-mail trail, and it allows you to have a direct dialogue. Clients appreciate the heads up because they don’t like surprises, either, and often they go on to support you in the media with favorable quotes.

The best prevention is to only hire sane, competent people, and when you let someone go, be extra fair and kind and generous.

Barb also says, "It’s a good idea to have or put a social media policy in place, so everyone is clear about consequences related to posting negative comments during or after employment. This could protect the company against future occurrences."

Okay, you’ve given fair warning.

Another option is to strengthen your existing communications with objective reasons to believe. Don’t be defensive. Just include more third-party testimonials from reputable experts, more independent test results, and other incontrovertible facts.

In the event that the negative information is picked up by the trade press, you must then go into crisis management mode and figure out your best true story. Barb’s advice? "Develop an outreach plan that includes all of your important audiences, starting first with your employees and then your respected clients and vendors. They can help you spread accurate information as you continue to work through the standard media channels. If there is one key trade publication or blog within your industry, proactively seek out that editor and provide them with factual information. Keep emotion out of the pitch, stick to the facts."

Pick a spokesperson. Make sure he or she is credible and well-coached and that different parts of your company don’t say different things. Be available to the press 24/7 to give a sane reaction to goofy rumors.

If you currently are blessed with an absence of negative online gossip, you can take preventive steps. A good thing to do on a regular basis is to Google the name of your company plus the word "sucks." You’d be surprised at the negative gossip mongering that might come up. It can give you some sense of the degree of your problem.

It’s not a bad idea to have someone drop into relevant chatrooms and listen for problems as a kind of early warning system. Technorati.com also is a good place to search for blog conversation about your company.

Nervously, I Google "Barry Callen sucks." Fortunately, the only thing of interest that shows up is from my last article: "Giving useful creative direction and feedback is rarely taught in business and engineering schools, which is one reason so much advertising sucks." Whew!

Good luck. Let me know if this article doesn’t suck! Then I’ll have a lot of positive "Barry Callen sucks" references.