• Jordan Sherman

M&C's top tips for protecting your brand's reputation

Updated: Oct 7, 2020

Much like society in 2020, the internet has also evolved. People demand transparency and hold high-profile individuals responsible for even the slightest gaffes. This poses a problem for people who comment, post, and share on a personal or brand social media channel. In 2020, even a small mistake can turn into a big problem if not handled properly. We’ll outline how you can prevent a self-inflicted message malfunction from happening and what to do if things get "lively" on your social feeds!

Remember-- each week we include a FREE downloadable 1-sheet with some of our best tips and tricks. This week, download a copy of our M&C 3 one-sheet for free below!

The M&C 3
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Topic 1: Protecting your online reputation before you publish a post

At M&C Communications, anything we post online has a purpose. We draw up a plan, get feedback from everyone on the team, and then put that content map into action. What in this content map? It can range from something as minor as a tweet to as complicated as a podcast. Nothing goes out without a reason. Furthermore, everything that goes out is thoughtfully written. We craft this type of communication using the 4 C’s:

  • Clear: Define what you’re trying to say. Remember, less is more. “I like chocolate milk.” That’s a pretty clear statement. Not: “I like chocolate milk but prefer if it’s been left out of the fridge for 10 minutes before I drink it first.” You’ve just muddied your message there. Do you like chocolate milk, or not? The clearer you can be with your message the better.

  • Concise: Less is more. The longer your social media or blog post, the easier it will be for people to lose interest, lose focus, or NOT read through the entire post, walking away with selective details that may not accurately reflect the point you’ve worked so hard to convey. Get to your point! Background details are okay but you shouldn’t lose a reader’s interest before getting to your point.

  • Conversational: What does conversational sound like? After all, it’s objective, right? This is where knowing your audience plays a huge role in what you’re posting. Speak their language but also, be mindful that eyes outside of your audience could misinterpret what you write.

  • Compassionate: Taking a compassionate and empathic approach to your brand will show people you care. No one wants to do business with or buy products from a company that doesn’t care about its consumers. What does this look like? A great example from this blog post from thesearchguru.com gives this advice: write your blog or your social media post and count how many times you use “I, you, my or your brand name.” Then, tally up the number of times you’ve used “you or your.” Are you talking about yourself or your reader? Write from the reader's point of view. That’s where the compassionate element comes in. It’s about them, always.

Topic 2: How the M&C 3 can help you protect your brand online

Who are the M&C 3? These are the three people you should always pretend are with you when you’re communicating publicly.

  • Your best friend: This is the person you’re generally “talking to” in social posts: you know this person’s sense of humor, what they like, what makes them laugh. Your energy is high and you’re excited to share a piece of information with him or her. This is GREAT- when you’re excited to share information, other people feel it and feed off your energy. You feel like you're talking to a friend and having a great time, sharing something fun, and just letting it rip. Uh oh, are you starting to see the problem?

  • Your worst enemy: The person who will help you the most-- BY A MILE-- protect your brand and your business is your WORST ENEMY. If this sounds counterintuitive, hang with us for a minute. Your worst enemy is vile and vindictive. They hate your guts and will take any opportunity to hurt you personally, your business, and your brand, and they will not hold back. They will take a post, a tweet, or even an initiative you created as a good deed and try to ruin you with it. They’ll twist your words, they’ll distort your meaning and they’ll dent your reputation. So why on earth do we say that your worst enemy is your best friend when it comes to protecting your business online? Because you need to think of your WORST ENEMY every single time you say something, post something, or even plan something. Think about how someone who is dead-set against you could possibly take what you’re trying to say or do and turn it against you, and don’t let them get the chance.

  • Your sweet grandmother: She’s literally the sweetest person on the planet. It doesn’t matter what you say or how you say it, she will smile and nod in agreement-- even if she doesn’t understand a word of what you’re talking about. The trick here is that you should be calibrating your communication so absolutely everyone-- including your sweet grandma-- can understand what you’re trying to communicate. This means: scale back the jargon. Stay away from industry buzzwords. Keep your sentences short, sweet, and direct. Stay laser-focused on your message. If grandma gets what you’re saying, chances are, everyone gets what you’re saying.

Here are a couple of examples of a couple of high profile people who could have used the M&C 3 technique this week.

Kirk Cousins: He’s the quarterback for the Minnesota Vikings. In a recent podcast interview Cousins was asked about his concern about COVID-19. According to ESPN, this is what he said "I want to respect what other people's concerns are. For me personally... I would say I'm gonna go about my daily life. If I get it, I'm gonna ride it out. I'm gonna let nature do its course. Survival-of-the-fittest kind of approach. And just say, if it knocks me out, it knocks me out. I'm going to be OK. You know, even if I die. If I die, I die. I kind of have peace about that." Woof, right? Setting aside how his immediate family or inner circle might feel about that remark, in the United States, we’ve had 185,000 people die from COVID-19 or complications caused by COVID-19. Not a very sensitive remark.

Tyler Joseph: You might know him because of his band: 21 Pilots, one of the most popular bands in the world right now. He recently tweeted photos a large portion of his fan base deemed insensitive. Fans had been asking him to use his platform and influence to post about Black Lives Matter. He responded by tweeting a photo of himself wearing platform sneakers. The copy of the post read, “You guys keep asking me to use my platforms. Feels good to dust these bad boys off.” Does anyone else hear the crickets chirping in response that joke? A lot of his fans certainly did and they reacted.

Imagine how much better these comments could have been by pausing to use the M&C 3 technique first. That's how a little thoughtful planning can help keep you out of trouble.

Topic 3: Identifying an internet troll just out to damage your reputation

We’re all getting used to trolls on the internet, right? It happens every day online. If you’re unfamiliar with an internet troll, an article from howtogeek.com sums it pretty nicely, particularly this quote,

An internet troll is someone who makes intentionally inflammatory, rude, or upsetting statements online to elicit strong emotional responses in people or to steer the conversation off-topic. They can come in many forms. Most trolls do this for their own amusement, but other forms of trolling are done to push a specific agenda.”

The rest of us may read a book for enjoyment or watch Netflix while these trolls actually take pleasure in ruining what you post online. Oh boy, let's take a look at some tips to know when the alarm bells should be ringing that you're dealing with a troll.

  • Off-topic remarks: Completely going off-topic from the subject at hand. This is done to annoy and disrupt other posters.

  • Refusal to acknowledge evidence: Even when presented with hard, cold facts, they ignore this and pretend like they never saw it.

  • Dismissive, condescending tone: An early indicator of a troll is asking an angry responder, “Why you mad, bro?” This is a method done to provoke someone even more, a way of dismissing an argument altogether.

  • Use of unrelated images or memes: They reply to others with memes, images, and gifs. This is especially true if done in response to a very long text post.

  • Seeming oblivious to others' anger: They seem oblivious that most people are in disagreement with them. Also, trolls rarely get mad or provoked. Why should they? They're getting what they want when you're steaming mad.

Still not sure if you’re dealing with a troll or a legitimate poster? Here are three easy things to check before you drop the ban hammer on them:

  • What’s the spelling and grammar situation? Bots or foreign troll farms (yes that’s a thing) often butcher the English language. If you’re seeing content that doesn’t look or sound quite right or has wild and crazy spelling or punctuation, chances are it’s a troll or a bot.

  • How many friends or followers do they have? If that number is low, chances are you are dealing with a troll or a bot account.

  • Lastly, look at their profile timelines. On Twitter, do they have a picture or is it an egg? Troll. Feel like you’ve heard the same thing in multiple places? Cut and paste the copy of what they posted to your page to see if other accounts have said the exact same thing? Troll. On Facebook, use common sense. Was the profile created yesterday? How many pictures are posted? Scroll through the timeline. Does it look legitimate or is it a profile that’s been abandoned and hacked? You can apply the same principle to Instagram. You’re not likely to have this issue on LinkedIn. In fact, if you’re getting criticism on LinkedIn, it’s something you should absolutely follow up on.

TOPIC 4: Steps you can take to regain control of your message and mitigate brand damage

Chances are your message has been hijacked once or twice. Unfortunately, everyone sounds equally loud online, making it difficult for you to determine if you’ve got an issue on your hands or a full-blown crisis. And remember: an issue is something you can sit back and watch, see if it gets bigger or blows over while you’re making some plans for how to handle it. A crisis is something where damage is happening NOW and you need to respond immediately.

Let’s say you’re dealing with an issue and not a crisis. This means you’ve got time to watch the situation and see if it’s getting bigger or if it’s spinning itself out. Remember, you’re always thinking about refilling the trust bucket as well--- building positive relationships with your audience because these are the people who can and WILL respond on your behalf if you’re being unfairly attacked.

First things first, get to the source of the problem. Determine who’s outraged and try to level with them on a one-on-one basis-- PRIVATELY. If it’s someone who has merely misinterpreted what you said, chances are they will be forgiving once you have a direct and open conversation. However, you don’t need these conversations to take place in public. Try and get it on a private forum ASAP. How? Make yourself available!

  • Offer an email address to contact

  • Ask them to DM you

  • If you’re comfortable enough, give out your phone number so they can talk to you. After all, that is the fastest way to resolve a legitimate problem.

In the best-case scenario, you'll be able to resolve the issue through a respectful 2-way conversation. You have the chance to touch base personally, listen to what someone has to say, share your point of view, and come to a mutual understanding, even if you don’t agree.

In a lot of these cases where it’s only one or two people who don’t take things the way you meant them, you’re doing pretty well. But if you’re starting to see more and more people misinterpret your intent, then that’s a sign that perhaps you need to revisit your communication-- what is clear? Consistent? Conversational? Compassionate? Was it on message for your brand? If the answer is no to any of these questions, you may need to take action.

What happens if your issue does become a crisis and your message has been totally distorted? How do you de-escalate that situation? How do you refill that trust bucket and rebuild trust with your audience? These are critical components of protecting your brand's reputation online and we'll be talking about that next week on our Move the Stairs Friday Chat!