We’ve all been there. You find out from a friend that someone is talking trash about you. Not to your face, though. The knife is in your back. Marketers know it all too well — they wake up to social media storms that feel like uncontrollable fires.
The first job is to figure out the trash-talker’s motivation, then to do something about it. Individuals may have the luxury of ignoring such assaults, unless they rise to the level of damaging their professional and personal lives (see “Monica Lewinsky and Jon Ronson on the ‘Renaissance of Public Shaming’ ”). But brands need to do something about it immediately.
Here are a few examples:
- A Snubbed Advance. A person turns down an indecent proposal. The spurned party, who’d been saying wonderful things to your face, then tells your friend that you’re “really full of yourself” simply because you said, “No, thank you.” This tactic, whether practiced by consumers or competitors, can benefit marketers. If you’ve got a good brand, your supporters will rally. Mobilize advocates by letting them know what’s happening. “Rejection of Mylan’s Hostile Takeover Shows Shareholders’ ‘Overwhelming Endorsement’ of Perrigo’s Strategy, CEO Says,” reads a November 2015 article in MiBiz. The over-the-counter and prescription pharmaceutical manufacturer that prides itself on product affordability had its own hashtag, #perrigopride, courtesy of “economic developers and other business organizations [who] launched a public campaign to show their support for the company through billboards and a social media campaign,” the article says.
- Genuine Bullies. You can prove them wrong by continuing to excel. As Judy Smith says in her book “Good Self, Bad Self: How to Bounce Back From a Personal Crisis,” know where you want to end up.
Before Lorraine Bracco played Dr. Jennifer Melfi on HBO’s “The Sopranos,” Bracco dealt with some serious bullies. “Lorraine was voted the ‘ugliest girl in the sixth grade’ at her Long Island grade school,” reads IMDB. “She moved to France in 1974 where she became a fashion superstar for Jean-Paul Gaultier.” The Bracco brand seems almost to have thrived on this early taunting, as her acting career that began in 1979 continues to this day.
- Two-faced Liars. Rumors abound regarding reputation management firms that place lies about companies on the Web, then offer to remove them. Then there are worse actors — as recently as 2013, one “revenge porn” site sent complaints to Reputation Guard to be resolved for a fee, says Business Insider. Hopefully, marketers are mainly dealing with cybersquatters and trademark infringement. These tend to become legal matters. Target Marketing offers this advice from October 2015: “Foil Cybersquatters With This Handy Guide.” Perhaps the best defense is prevention. “When deciding on a trademark, always make sure the domain name is available first,” reads part of the guide. “When deciding on a domain name, always make sure the trademark is available.”
- Justified Attacks. Here’s where customer relations can save brands. Sometimes, brands make small mistakes. Sometimes they make big ones.
On Monday, Volkswagen’s CEO announced the company would submit its “remedies for fixing diesel engines that cheat on emissions tests” to the EPA chief, according to the Associated Press. This comes amid reports that VW knowingly sold faulty vehicles that AP says are part of an “expected recall of nearly 600,000 ‘clean diesel’ vehicles sold with secret software designed to make their engines pass federal emissions standards while undergoing laboratory testing. The vehicles then switch off those measures in real-world driving conditions, spewing harmful nitrogen oxide at up to 40 times what is allowed under federal environmental standards.”
Then there are smaller situations that may prompt justified public scorn for brands. To remedy those, marketers may introduce human oversight of marketing automation; apologize immediately if, for instance, unintended messages become part of social media campaigns; and introduce diversity in hiring.
What are some other trash-talking categories and corresponding advice for marketers?
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