It’s been said that it takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. But, what if that bad deed isn’t true? How do you take back your good name?
Let’s face it; a bad review is generally well earned. If you have built your business on unscrupulous, undependable, or slap-shot quality, you deserve that others find out.
But what if you didn’t do anything wrong? What if you’re the victim of a malicious attack?
How do you get back your reputation and your standing in the community?
It appears that the expression “fake news” has become part of the modern lexicon. Indeed, lately, it has swirled around the topic of politics.
However, regardless of your political stance, we all turn towards authoritative sources to get our daily information (aka the news media).
With the expansion of social media, these news platforms have broadened immensely; many would argue, this expansion has watered down the quality of the news reported. Think about it, this medium that we all use determines many aspects of our lives.
The news delivers everything from how to dress in the mornings based on the weather report, how to invest our money based on financial news, even where to eat based on restaurant reviews.
When the very sources that we depend upon to provide us with this valuable information are compromised by bad blood, envy, or downright mean-spiritedness, we all suffer! By no means is anyone suggesting that all news needs to feature reports on rainbows and unicorns, we can handle bad news — just let it be honest, impartial and without an agenda.
The fact is that false narratives (otherwise known as yellow journalism) are nothing new. Many documented journalistic sources trace this type of news delivery to William Randolph Hearst in the modern era (though it’s been around since men could speak).
However, with the propagation of social media, fraudulent claims (in a printed format) are rampant. These events are concerning when companies hire people to falsely accuse competitors in the business of bad service, negligence, deception, and worse on various social platforms.
In a piece written by Chris Silver for Marketing Land, he explains that increases in extortion-fueled reputation attacks points to needs for changes in the law. Mr. Silver believes that lawmakers must modify legislation to help innocent victims fight back.
Mr. Silver also states that “you do not have to work very long in Online Reputation Management (ORM) before you run into cases involving people who have been victimized by unscrupulous individuals. These bad actors convince these people to give in to their demands to avoid being ruined online. Examples range from human trafficking victims extorted into prostitution to businesses ordered to pay ransoms to prevent financial ruin.
This issue is one of the darkest aspects of the internet, and ironically, it has been facilitated by a portion of the so-called Communications Decency Act (CDA Section 230). It’s time to modify the law to reduce these threats of extortion based on reputation attacks.
The US Legislature added Section 230 onto the Communications Decency Act in 1996, specifically to reduce the onus of policing online materials on the part of internet businesses. Section 230 provides internet companies like Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Twitter, Yelp and others with immunity from liability for publishing information provided by others (user-generated content).
So, when someone puts up a webpage that contains defamatory text that ends up appearing in Google’s or Bing’s search index, the engines are not legally responsible for it. Likewise, when someone posts a photo on Instagram or Pinterest, a status update on Facebook or Twitter, or a review on Yelp, none of those companies are necessarily legally responsible for it, even if it’s fraudulent, defamatory or highly embarrassing.
Section 230 of the CDA was done to save companies money, pure and simple. While supporting and promoting the businesses that have helped build the internet is essential, these cost savings have come at the expense of people who have been harmed and who often have no means of undoing the injuries inflicted by their attackers.”
Since the early 2000s, we have seen a stark change in the way in which people connect via social media. In the early part of this century, businesses created and developed their websites as an information vehicle for their company. Essentially, websites were static, four-color brochures. No thought was given to creating an interactive medium where clients could leave comments let alone share content with friends.
We can all acknowledge that this is a far cry from what we know today. We all accept that the sole purpose of one’s website is to provide information and create channels that encourage cross-pollination.
Fast-forward a decade and a half, comments and sharing have exploded, sadly not always for the better. The general public is invited to voice their opinions. Some people have legitimate axes to grind, yet others will use this forum in an attempt to destroy.
As such, many people will gladly air their complaints on social media platforms (millions per day) like Yelp, Facebook, Twitter, and the like.
Now, no one is saying that if a person has a genuine complaint or they have been wronged, they shouldn’t be able to express their dissatisfaction. However, there are many examples of horrible posted comments that have no basis in truth.
The point of this article is to help you; how you, as a responsible medical provider, can defend or perhaps insulate yourself against false accusations and unfair comments.
First and foremost you need to be proactive and diligent. You need to find out if anyone is posting anything about you. I would suggest “Google Alerts;” they have an excellent and free system whereby you will periodically be sent “alerts.” The information arrives in the form of an email on whatever topic you would like (in this case you). So, if someone is writing something about you, you will know it.
The Libertarian Republic released an article titled “How to battle against fake news articles to protect your reputation.” They provide several excellent suggestions for maintaining your reputation as spotless is as possible.
Respond Directly To The Accusations: First, you must respond directly to the news that is circulating, whether it’s a tweet, article or Facebook post. According to the reputation management companies advice for battling fake news online, they say to “Leave a polite comment to clear up any misinformation without being rude or accusatory at the source.” Going straight to the source is often the quickest way to straighten out the issue and have your side of the story heard.
Communicate with Key Stakeholders: Your next step should be communicating with your key stakeholders. These are your customers, business associates, investors, and executive leadership. You should also communicate with your employees, mainly if it involves an issue with another employee.
Many businesses have a crisis communication plan that sets out what is to be done in these situations. Ensure that your organization is deploying all necessary crisis communication actions. Make sure your relevant teams (human resources, PR) are standing ready to help deal with the situation.
Also, make sure that your loyal customers and advocates know what is fact and what is fiction. Their opinion will matter more than that of potential customers and the public in general. Assure your stakeholders that your organization is handling the issue internally. You don’t want them to lose trust in you or your business.
Use Your Network To Help Combat Fake News: When you’re trying to correct misinformation that is out in the general public, you’re aiming to spread a message about your organization. Tap into your network for support to help you combat the fake news. Leveraging your network of advocates, employees, etc. can help your message spread faster and more effectively.
For example, when responding to critics online, you can ask people to like or share your posts and responses so that others can see it. This will help your responses rise to the top of the conversation thread. Also, once you’ve created your content, your network can help you to disseminate it online.
Also, and just as important, you need to shore up your reputation management campaign. The truth of the matter is that you really can’t stop people from saying untruths about you. Sure, you can get injunctions and court orders. Still, in the end, you can’t prevent the readers of those posts from developing their perception of you. More importantly, we’ve all heard the old expression that “perception is reality” regardless of how diligent and responsible you are. Therefore, the question becomes, how do you get and stay in front of those false impressions?
Your reputation in town is everything. To have a successful practice, you need to make sure you’re a doctor in good standing within your community.
Your principle focus needs to be to develop the deepest roots possible with your patients as the best option around. What you’re trying to do is create an impenetrable fortress of goodwill from your patients.
Fill your office, your website and your promotional ventures with testimonials. If for example, your site featured 30, 50 or 80+ testimonials of patients raving about the fantastic service you provided, and about the post-treatment follow-up calls you made to them, or how compassionate and empathetic you are. All these things go a long way towards building your reputation fortress.
But what exactly do you say? Before you can say anything, you have to know to whom you’re speaking. Traditionally, being all things to all people is a surefire recipe for failure.
You need to target your audience; which means, you need to do an inventory of your current patient base. This is the only way to develop your reputation as “the” resident expert in your county on “this” particular condition.
To create your inventory, you will need to determine why they [patients] come to see you. You will have to sort out your patients according to ailments. Soon it becomes apparent that the majority of your patients are being treated their TMJ, migraines, chronic shin splints, etc.
Say for example you establish your reputation as the preeminent TMJ specialist in town. Begin by focusing your message on those particular patients with that condition in your practice. You target your writing very precisely, with engaging content, on your blogs, newsletter, materials you send, e-books you write, etc.
* You may have several niches, write and target your marketing to each particular segment. Create different pages for your website for each condition.
Write robust and informative pieces; but consider your audience, write from the patient’s perspective (easy to understand); eliminate the medical jargon. I believe that it was Albert Einstein that said the definition of genius is “Taking the complex and making it simple.”
Create your testimonials on video. Feature patients that are thrilled with the results of their treatment. Make sure your videos are relatable, for example: “gone are the days of constant pains and discomforts,” as patients describe their physical difficulties before saw you. Their nagging face, neck and ear pains when chewing. Their problems when opening their mouths wide, or their jaws getting locked in place in an open position. The constant clicking and popping were driving them crazy, etc. Every video should engage and compel!
In the end, might there be someone who says something fraudulent about you? Sure.
The cornerstone of good reputation management is the ability to navigate your practice through the storms and tempests. Continue doing great work; only from now on, let others know how good your patients think you are. Keep all your content fresh and in regular supply.
Just remember, you can’t transform or build up your reputation by anything you say about yourself. You will solidify your status on what others say about you — be proud of it!
I acknowledge that there was a lot to digest in this piece. However, keeping your reputation spotless is a non-negotiable item! Still, you may be too busy in your practice to devote the time and energy for creating and developing the communication pieces (aka your content) you present to the general public. In fact, it may not even be in your skill set.
I would love to help!
We (our firm) have been directly responsible for many highly successful content marketing campaigns for several practices. Also, we would like to extend to you or your selected staff members, our proprietary 15-minute Content Strategy Audit Session (i.e., blog posts, social media campaigns, magazine articles, website content, patient newsletters, etc.).
I look forward to hearing from you.
From the desk of Claudio Gormaz of Summit Marketing Strategies