“Image Management” – Please…

“Image Management” – Please…
September 17, 2012 Derek Fournier

If you listen to radio or go online (yea that means everyone) you have probably heard firms talking about “image management.” This is the logical entrepreneurial response to a problem that has been around forever but that has been amplified by the boom of social media.

What happens if people say that I suck?

I remember a presentation I did on social media for the Florida Society of Association Executives (FSAE) where the biggest question people had was how to handle public perception if negative comments were being made. With the proliferation of Facebook Pages, Blogs (with comments) and Twitter handles, all of us are at risk of people starting a campaign against us. It has never been easier for an individual to assail a larger entity in my memory.

So what? There are some obvious cases when somebody would take the time to actively attack you or your company:

  1. They feel you have wronged them (poor service or worse) – Note, this does not have to really be toward ‘them’ as it could be that you have wronged their friend or neighbor or pet… or they heard one day that you may or may not have wronged a stranger who shares their name.
  2. They have an irrational dislike for you
  3. They are bored

Fact is that the anonymity provided by social media is exactly the kind of environment that enables and amplifies opinions. Now before you go off and think I am some crazy anti 1st amendment guy, I love me some free speech. In fact, instead of doing what many ‘experts’ are recommending, I say let the people speak!

“Wait a minute man! This person is tearing my company apart! They are stopping one step short of questioning the marital status of my parents when I was conceived!”

So what?

How you respond to negative feedback is far more important than the way you advance or promote yourself in a controlled environment. Think about it. What demonstrates your excellence more than how you handle adversity? If we reflect on my assertion above as to the causes for negative feedback you will see that the responses are actually pretty simple.

  1. They feel you have wronged them (poor service or worse) – Note, this does not have to really be toward ‘them’ as it could be that you have wronged their friend or neighbor or pet…or they heard one day that you may or may not have wronged a stranger who shares their name.
  2. They have an irrational dislike for you
  3. They are bored
Reason Response
Alleged wrongdoing (by you) – Valid or invalid Immediate, Direct. Inquisitive. Find out if there is a real misdeed and guess what? Address it!
Irrational dislike (of you) Immediate, Direct. Inquisitive. Find out if there is a real misdeed and guess what? Address it!
Boredom (no merit) Immediate, Direct. Inquisitive. Find out if there is a real misdeed and guess what? Address it!

 

Notice the similarity? No complicated flow charts and no need for confusing approaches. This is just another example of customer feedback. You have a great opportunity and responsibility every time a customer takes time out of his or her busy schedule to interact with you.

Let’s face it, sometimes we all screw up. If you screwed up and you are getting called on it, FIX IT! The way you fix it will mean far more than you can imagine. This is a real chance to be human and connect at a personal level. The neat thing is that by handling the situation promptly, with respect and with a focus on honesty and fairness, you will most likely build a relationship with the individual and possibly impress the other onlookers.

“What do I do if there is no merit to the claim?”

Say that. Say it respectfully and hopefully, through your investigation and communication, make it obvious to onlookers without having to say it. By responding and engaging you will open a pipeline for facts and revelation.

“What if, even after all this, a person continues to attack.”

This is a rare case of harassment. If you have done what I suggested, you can let them know (and point toward your posting standards) that despite your best efforts you are sorry that they still feel the way they do and that while you respect their right to voice their opinion you do not have to allow them to continue to badger you in your house. Yea, your Facebook Page is your house. On Twitter, you can block them but realistically, if you have tried to address the issue, treated them with respect and followed the course laid out above, the other people seeing the conversation may in fact leap to your defense or at the very least, realize this person is a clown.

Moral to the story is that though social media seems all new and shiny, it is really just a megaphone. This new megaphone lets anybody scream, not just to the block, but to the entire world. It reminds me of a great scene from the great film Roadhouse. This exchange is when Patrick Swayze’s character (Dalton) is explaining how to be a good bouncer. He is going over the three simple rules (one and two don’t apply here). Rule 3 is, “Be Nice.” The conundrum is what happens when:

What if somebody calls my mama a whore?

Is she?

If you are worried about negative image, don’t do anything to get one. If you do, fix it. Fix it prompty and fix it with a smile.

Be Nice.

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