There's nothing you can do to prevent bad things being said about you, but Dan Gregory has an idea or two about what you can do to ensure that the bad is lost in a sea of support for your brand:
In my early thirties, I travelled the world working as a stand up comedian. Now, usually when I share this piece of information with someone, they typically (almost predictably) reel back in horror, "OMG, that's the scariest thing they can imagine" and the like.
But here's the thing, it's not that scary at all. In fact, if you're an opinionated ego maniac (which fortunately, I am) it's actually a pretty fun gig.
The key is to detach yourself from the audience's reaction.
I once did some pretty cutting edge material about the first Gulf War in a huge comedy club in the south of England and I died a horrible death - it turns out it was a military town and the audience was filled with women whose husbands were at that moment being shot at by Saddam's army. Not that I was pro-Saddam, just not particularly sensitive either way.
But, no big deal, every comedian dies. You just walk away knowing you never have to see those people again and get back on stage in a new town the next day.
Not so in the world of television. When you say something in front of a camera, it's recorded FOREVER. This makes The Gruen Transfer quite a stressful experience for a guy who spent a good deal of his life being an uncensored comedian who got paid for getting laughs... even the cheap ones. Because unlike my experience in the UK, people do now come up to me in the street and actually expect me to stand by (or at least remember) what I said on an episode three months, or even two years ago.
What complicates this further is that we now live in a digital world with instant sharing, uninformed opinions and malicious, even defamatory gossip.
Search engines and social media are also converging, which means Tweets are showing up in Google searches, Bing powered search results are appearing in Facebook. So there's no such thing as one bad review anymore, today that one review is everywhere.
Which all means, when you screw up... you screw up globally.
That makes reputation management incredibly important, but it also makes customers who identify with your brand even more so. A loyal group of consumers can shout down brand criticism, silencing detractors to the seldom visited fourth of fifth page of the organic Google search. As the old saying goes, “love me when I'm at my worst, because that's when I need love the most.”
What makes this even more powerful is the fact that consumers attribute far greater trust to anonymous comments about a brand than they do to the official line from the brand itself.
Apple users are great at this. When the first iPhone was released, it couldn't send an MMS. Now even the cheapest, nastiest, piece of crap cell phone could send a picture file to another phone. But iPhone users (read me) defended their purchae irrationally. “I simply wait till I get home, connect my phone to my Mac, sync the photo files, then attach it to an email and... SEND... it's just as convenient!!!” I think not!
Human beings actually invest themselves in the brands they buy. In an age where we purchase out of want not need, the thing I spend my money on says something about me, reflects who I think I am or who I long to be.
Unfortunately, few brands spend much time developing an identity worth defending. But in a digitally connected world, identity and reputation are everything.