Businesses have to be prepared for the dark side of marketing and PR, which can come in may different forms. I could go into great detail but for now here are a few examples.

Business identity theft

You have a great business, brand and identity but how much protection have you got. Have you got the basics right? I recently pointed out to an established business in York that they hadn’t secured their Google business page or the .com domain. At that point I had secured them myself with the intention to hand them over, which I have. We have another client who’s competitor has registered a domain name very close to their branded website. Intentionally to mislead the audience into thinking they are on our client’s website. The purpose is to poach as much business as possible. 

A simple checklist would be to make sure you have all the main domain names, social media and Google locked down. Where possible trademark your identity, logo and strap line if you have one. Research the internet to see if anyone is trying to blatantly copy what you are doing. Make sure no one has tried to register a business on Google at your address other than yours. It is possible to verify a Google business page at one address and then change it afterwards to a different one, which could be yours. 

Review hijacking and business discrediting 

Bad reviews – no business wants them even if they are genuine but it’s even worse when you know they aren’t. There are people and organised gangs who are being paid to hijack review services. They know how to work the system by strategically posting organised bad reviews to deter potential customers. This happens quite frequently to smaller SMEs when they have close and bitter rivals. This goes far past asking a friend to give a bad review on a social media platform on a business you don’t like. It is calculated, cold and brutal where experienced ‘bad review’ writers can make your business look bad over a few weeks.

There are also individuals who will intentionally buy a product or service with a plan to blackmail you. They try to get discount by threatening to blab on social media and reviews services about their fictitious experience. A Soapy client who has a kitchen and bathroom showroom in York had this very situation last year which we managed on their behalf. 

The customer bought a new kitchen and during the fitting, took pictures of it unfinished. When the final payment was due and after he had signed off to say he was happy kicked up a fuss. Threatening to use facebook to discredit if he didn’t get a discount. Our client said no and within 24 hours he had published the unfinished pictures claiming this was how it was left. It had been shared over 100 times reaching 35 thousand people in that time. We issued a statement, our client had a large spike in interest but luckily it didn’t damage them in the long term. 

When ‘it’ hits the fan

When that bad story about your business gets public traction what do you do? Media crisis management is the last thing a company thinks about when it comes to marketing and PR. Very much like a loss of business insurance you need to make sure you have it covered. When a public relations incident happens owners of small businesses allow their emotions to take control. Anger followed by panic is the usual formula after all business owners are very protective of their baby. 

But this is the time for a cool head that can look objectively at the situation. Maximise from the opportunity and reduce the risk. If seems like the wrong thing to think about when it feels like your business has the potential to crumble around you. The difference is finding a positive spin in this negative situation which can be challenging. In my opinion this is why your marketing and PR agency should advise you and you in turn allow them to get on with it.

A local restaurant we work with had a refurb last year. The week they reopened the local authority health inspector did a spot check and reduced their hygiene rating from 5 to 1 star. A person posted this news on the local community Facebook page. On the surface it looks bad, but there’s more to the story and this is the statement we put out.

TEMPORARY 1 STAR RATING STATEMENT

In response to comments made on local Facebook community pages regarding our temporary Food Hygiene Rating.

Naturally we are devastated that for the first time since The Food Hygiene Rating Scheme (FHRS) started in 2010, we have been given a score less than five stars. This recent score has been given as a temporary rating of one star.

The un-announced inspection on the 15th November 2018 came two days after our major restaurant refurbishment, when our store room held items that are not normally kept in there. While there was no risk of food contamination, the removal of the items should have been done sooner after the refurbishment, of this we take full responsibility.

We fully appreciate that the inspectors have a valuable service to the public to perform and report. The inspector however has accepted the circumstances and have agreed to re-visit and rate the restaurant over the next few weeks. We are working closely with the FHRS and expect that our past five star rating will be reinstated.

The restaurant got a huge supportive response followed by the best 3 months revenue since opening in 2000. The locals were presented with a sincere and honest answer which turned this negative story around.

There’s a fine line between marketing and PR, even more so in this fluid digital age. Just make sure you have all the bases covered.