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What we can learn from Trump

Posted on Oct 10, 2016 by Rachel McLean

(Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

WOW. Did you watch the US Presidential Debate this morning? It was one of the most intense conversations I’ve ever witnessed. It was also pretty cool being able to watch it live, courtesy of the New York Times. In case you missed it, there was heated discussion around Hillary’s emails, Donald’s tax returns, Bill’s sexual history (yep, Trump brought Bill into it) and much more.

Trump was also asked to explain his behaviour in 2005, when he was caught on a hot mic, joking about sexual assault (I think we’ve all heard about this over the weekend). His defence was, “Words are just words”. He went on to say that sometimes, people say things that they don’t mean, and that Americans shouldn’t believe that he is that person purely because of what he said. AND he said this LIVE.

As small business owners, we’re constantly trying to gain more exposure – but also the right exposure. One thing we can learn from Trump, is that words most definitely are not words – the world will look at how you behave on social media, what you say in print, what you say out loud (think customer service) and what you say live – and judge you on it. Assumptions will be made about your brand, your reputation and what you are known for. Trump is a living, breathing example of how quickly a brand can evolve.

We’ve seen some great local examples of how quickly your brand can go from hero to zero too – (Westpac comes to mind) – but with the right strategy, you can make sure your brand’s reputation isn’t at risk of a blowout. Here are my top tips for brand reputation management:

  1. Proof-read your posts. Seems pretty simple, but even global corporations have been embarrassed by typos in the wrong places. That also goes for hashtags too. #susanalbumparty
  2. Have an internal Social Media Policy for your staff. This is a document for all staff to sign and have access to. It explains what the official social media account administrators can and can’t do, but also suggests some social media etiquette for how staff should use their private social media accounts. I’m of the belief that you can’t tell your staff how to manage their own social, but you can politely suggest how the brand/business would prefer them to act online e.g. No nude pics, no racist/sexist remarks etc.
  3. THINK about what you’re going to post, before you post it. This isn’t rocket science. Have a plan. Think about why you’re about to share that particular photo – what value does it bring to your community. What message are you trying to get across? How will this benefit your customers, and in turn, benefit you? Is it politically correct? Who might it offend?
  4. Remember, that somewhere, someone is always watching. Sounds sinister, but this is the best way to approach your communication. Everything you say online is recorded somewhere. Make sure you’re not going to be caught with your pants down (or in Donald’s case, with a hot mic on).

What to do when s##t hits the fan:

  1. Tell the truth. Don’t try to cover things up. If you screwed up, own it. Because someone out there will try to discredit you, and you don’t want to be caught twice. Own it, and apologise.
  2. Have a strategy in place for handling complaints and negative feedback. This is a big one, guys! A big mistake I see many businesses make is deleting the comments of fans who’ve said something negative or complained on social. This just makes you look like the bad guy. Reply to their comment, take it to a private place e.g. Email or Facebook Messenger, acknowledge what the person is saying and do your best to fix it.
  3. Most importantly, leave the initial complaint on your account for others to see – this way they will know how they would be treated if it were them with the complaint.

So there you have it! In closing: It’s ok to make mistakes – just make sure you own them. Minimise the potential for your staff to misrepresent you. Proof your work. Plan your content. And remember, that someone is always watching what you say and do – especially online.

(Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

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