The COVID-19 pandemic continues across the globe with new updates coming in seemingly every minute. Many schools across the world have closed, as have offices, stores, businesses and commercial centers.
While essential workers on the frontline deserve all of the credit and our gratitude (doctors, nurses, health professionals, grocery store workers, postal workers, trash collectors – the list goes on and on), non-essential businesses and their employees are learning how to adapt outside of their normal routine. From total shutdowns to remote work, things are changing rapidly and many business owners are unsure of what steps to take to mitigate risk, protect employees and support customers.
Amid the chaos and sometimes conflicting advice, there’s one thing that businesses can control — and that is their online reputation. In fact, maintaining your brand’s online reputation and visibility has never been more critical during these uncertain times. Sales people are no longer taking potential clients out to lunch to pitch their ideas. Professors have traded the classroom for their iPad to facilitate a class, and restaurants are using curbside apps to deliver their menu to the masses.
Right now, while many of us are stuck at home, our only connection to the rest of the world is online. Regardless of which industry you work in, potential clients and customers are turning to the internet to find your business. The COVID-19 pandemic has certainly changed how we do things, but your business can get through this.
Here are five steps you can take to manage your online reputation and protect your brand during the health emergency.
Update your website
Your regular and potential customers should be able to do a quick search on your businesses’ website to see if it is still open, alternative hours, or how it has adjusted to social distancing measures and what products and services are still available. To make things a little easier, Google recently announced its Google Search and Maps will show if a business is temporarily closed.
Businesses can acquire new customers and retain existing ones when they are viewed as trustworthy leaders. Now, more than ever, is the time to be upfront and honest with your clients or customers. You can do this by providing transparency into the policies and procedures that your business is implementing to ensure the health and safety of its employees and customers. If you own and operate an organic grocery store in your town and a worker has tested positive for COVID-19, issue a professional statement across your social channels, website and email chains (if applicable) assuring the public that you took the recommended steps to sanitize your store. If you are the president of a public relations firm, assure your clients that you and your team are still operating remotely and are available for all of their arising needs.
By building a good relationship with your followers on social media, your business will be in a better position post-pandemic. You can leverage your social media platforms to reach out to customers to see how they are doing, start conversations and build connections. Be sure that your posts show empathy and compassion, rather than stress or fear.
If you can, look for opportunities to help people – use social media to reach out to those in need and see if your business can be of help in any way possible.
Additionally, social media can help you keep local customers updated about things like business hours and operational details. Most importantly, don’t forget to unschedule any non COVID-19 related content that may appear insensitive at the current time.
Publish informative content
Now is not the time to sit tight on publishing new material to your company’s blog, website and third-party listings. Control your online narrative by producing and updating informative content daily or on a well-calculated schedule. Your local landing pages are valuable resources for customers to learn important information regarding your business. They should be updated frequently as circumstances change throughout the crisis response.
Even if you don’t currently have one in place, it is best to implement a comprehensive review response strategy. Today, reviews are an essential part of each and every business plan. Whether your ratings appear on Google Reviews, Facebook or TripAdvisor, you can be sure that your customers and clients are looking at reviews of your business online.
Adjust your response as needed, remembering to always reply calmly and honestly. If you don’t respond to reviews you only risk damaging your company’s credibility, which is critical both outside of and during an emergency.
During these uncertain times, and even under normal circumstances, your online reputation is always important to consider. We wish you and your employees the best and we’re here to help you with anything you need.