Archive for the ‘Brand differentiation’ Category

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The One Thing You Have To Do To Your Website In 2013

December 10, 2012

I am constantly being asked by clients and panels that I am speaking on, about how to prioritize the very limited budgets that are being forecasted for 2013 when it comes to what they can do for marketing that will give them the greatest ROI without costing an arm and a leg. Here is my best advice for 2013:

It’s no longer “good enough” to have a website and to be found on the internet. That website you invested good money into building and maybe even rebuilt once or twice in the last five years is obsolete. Visitors to your site are leaving in droves, or not even finding your site in the first place. Is it because of a lack of SEO (search engine optimization)? No. It is because you can’t be found on mobile devices.

Up until 2011 most website designers designed websites to be viewed on a 15” or larger sized computer monitor or screen. 90% of today’s Smart Phones (phones with the ability to access the internet) come with standard 2”x 3”screens, so at most, they are seeing as tiny portion of your website or your whole website in a micro-size.

Why is this so important?

According to pewinternet.org, in 2012 half of all American Adults (ages 18-60) will access the internet only through a Mobile Device such as a cellphone or tablet.

Mobile User's Frustrations

Mobile User’s Frustrations

When a mobile user visits a standard website and has a negative experience:

  • Most, over 61%, never come back
  • Almost all the rest, nearly 40%, go to YOUR competitor’s site

The top complaints of mobile users about websites are:

  • It takes forever to download.
  • It doesn’t fit on the screen.
  • The text is too small.
  • I can’t navigate the interface.
  • I have to pinch & zoom to view anything.
  • It takes too much time to use

So, what can be done to correct this? At Sterling Cross we have been researching these issues and at the request of our clients we have come up with a solution we have now added to our service offerings for 2013 and beyond! We’ve met with and surveyed over 12 of the top local, regional, and 2 national web design firms to create a solution that can meet the needs of our clients, whether they are looking for the most cost effective solution or as part of a redesign of their entire site.

The number one recommendation from almost every single website company was to do a complete website redesign and incorporate “responsive” technology where the website will detect what type of device is browsing the site (smartphone, tablet, or computer) and display that version of the site (essentially building you three sites). This is of course how all websites will be built in the future, and if you are looking for an entire rebuild of your site, we’ll gladly help you in that process.

If you are looking for a short-term or a more cost effective solution to modify your site without redoing the entire website, we now offer the following three solutions:

  1. For 95% of Custom HTML or Open Source code websites: you simply add a “Mobile Style Sheet” Which recognizes when a mobile browser is viewing the site and adapts it to mobile view. (This typically requires only a couple hours from a coder to adjust on your site).
  2. WordPress sites have a free Mobile WordPress “plug-in” that can be added to also discern who is viewing from a mobile browser and adapt the view (The WordPressbasic widget, truly is very basic. We would recommend 1-2 hours of a coder or designer to create a mobile interface template that matches your brand).
  3. If your site is not in these two categories, we can do the custom coding to do to provide a front end Responsive Bumper. This bumper recognizes the device browsing the site and seamlessly directs it to a mobile version of your website, which mirrors the data and info on your current site. We can do this on an hourly basis, without having to revamp the whole site, typically for a fraction of a total website redesign.

Please contact us for more information or if you are interested in any of these solutions. Your customers ARE on mobile, shouldn’t you be as well?

Make Your Website Mobile Friendly

Make Your Website Mobile Friendly

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Businesses – Are you failing to maintain your online presence?

April 13, 2012

Negative Comments Can Spread Like Wildfire

It’s not enough to have an online presence anymore.  It is great that you have a Facebook Page, Twitter Account, and YouTube channel, but are you maintaining them?  In 2011 we saw many businesses leap online, eager to try out social media and leverage the communication and business power of these tools. Now, a year later, the scary fact is that most of these websites and social accounts have been abandoned or are not being used effectively (or even correctly in some situations).  You may have had the right intentions by setting these accounts up, especially if you were doing it to secure your IP and registered business names to protect your corporation.  If you set up accounts in order to have access to the platform, to monitor or listen to feedback, criticism, and comments, that is also a great reason to be on social media, but only if you are engaging back. OK, so now you are thinking to yourself: “So what?  We have a presence on social media platforms as our bosses told us we had to do.”

What if I told you that these abandoned, neglected, and incomplete accounts are actually hurting your business, and that they were actually costing you money to your bottom line, in spite of the fact that it was free to set up accounts on most of these platforms. If you are neglecting, abandoning, and failing to complete and monitor these accounts, you are losing customers, for the following reasons:

  1. The perception that your company is “Out of Date”, “Out of Touch”, and downright “Incompetent” in engaging your audience on social media – Many customers that encounter your business on the web, will check out these accounts just to see what is happening.  If, for instance, your Twitter account hasn’t been updated in the last 90 days, you are perceived as being “out of touch” and therefore a company that is seemed as approachable and eager to listen to a customer.  Incomplete profiles, pages without headshots or branding, or important information missing, such as contact info, gives off the impression that you are incompetent, especially to the under 35 crowd that is pretty much living their lives on the internet and mobile devices.
  2. The perception that your company isn’t listening – 98% of all internet users expect you to not only have a presence on these social media platforms, but they want you to engage with them as well on these platforms.  Especially when a customer has a question or complaint. Today’s internet users in this text driven society, demand and expect to have a response from your company quickly on the social media platform where they made the comment or complaint.  24 hours is an eternity and will not gain you any favors.  You need someone to actively manage these accounts and respond. 
  3. The perception that your company is ( insert descriptor word here: bad, evil, inept, uncaring, etc.) – More and more web companies live or die by their online reputation. If your company lets too many negative reports build online over any subject, without addressing and responding to these comments and complaints, can lead to the escalation of the issue, and in turn its ability to go viral.

Ultimately, you can think of each of these social media accounts the same way you would as building little campfires.  If you neglect them, all sorts of things can result. Your best hope is that they fizzle, die, and disappear.  occasionally though there are those fires that can flare up, escape its confines and end up becoming a raging wildfire, leaving behind swaths of ruin for your business.  If you are struggling with how to maintain your social media accounts, contact us and we’ll help you to take control of your accounts. www.sterlingcrossgroup.com.

All stats were compiled from www.pewinternet.org

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5 Ways to Promote Your Restaurant on Pinterest

February 6, 2012

Proof that we are still a visual-based culture Pinterest has become the social media network to watch after growing more than 4,000 percent in the last six months (according to compete.com). At an average of 88.3 minutes per visitor, Pinterest currently ranks third on engagement behind Facebook and Tumblr and it ranks well ahead of LinkedIn (16 minutes) and Google Plus (5.1 minutes). Further proving that image based social networks and applications (like Foodspotting and Instagram) are rapidly gaining market share due to their high engagement levels with their audience.

From the Pinterest website:

Pinterest is a Virtual Pinboard.

Pinterest lets you organize and share all the beautiful things you find on the web. People use pinboards to plan their weddings, decorate their homes, and organize their favorite recipes.

Best of all, you can browse pinboards created by other people. Browsing pinboards is a fun way to discover new things and get inspiration from people who share your interests.

Pinterest is a social network that also has a promotional value as well: Users share photos that they find online by “pinning” them, the equivalent of “liking” a status on Facebook or giving a +1 on Google +. That act in turn has the ability to create beneficial SEO and linking opportunities for individuals and brands alike.  

Users have to download a toolbar that can be used to pin items from any website. The photo and information then appears on your Pinterest board, and users who follow you can see your collection of photos and even “re-pin” them (like retweeting on Twitter or other forms of sharing).

This platform, while not specifically designed for marketing strategies may be a very effective social media platform for your restaurant or business when you take the following steps to market your restaurant.

1. Share your Menu, Photos, and Amenities

The most obvious way to use Pinterest for your restaurant is to pin photos of your own brand, logos, menus, staff, specials, venue, and amenities. Since you can create several boards, it is best to group your pins into different categories such as: Specials, Events, Food & Drink, Our Staff, Our location, and so on. By doing this, you are creating a rich story in images highlighting your food, brand, and service.

2. Add pins to the “gifts” section of Pinterest

When you create an entry for your pins, you can add a price tag. By selecting this option, you can then add a link, pointing back to your website. Items added in this way are automatically included in the “gifts” section on Pinterest, which is a virtual catalog of gift ideas. Be sure to select your best photos for pinning, and include a description. This gives you an opportunity to get your prices out there, and call attention to events like Wine Dinners or Gift Packages for certain holidays.

3. Show off your Event Spaces

By pinning photos of great events that are held in your event spaces, it allows people to get ideas and envision their own party in those spaces. This works great to promote seasonal spaces like patios, decks, and rooftop spaces as well.  Make sure you include any great photos of beautiful views from your venue as well.

4. Maximize the SEO benefits

When you pin your products, you have an opportunity to maximize your SEO strategy and drive traffic back to your website. You create high quality backlinks when you or other users link to your photos and pins. Using keywords when you write compelling descriptions will attract visitors and potentially compel them to visit your website. You can integrate your Pinterest account with your Twitter Account and Facebook Page and share your pins on these social networks. All of these efforts will help to drive more traffic to your site and to increase your organic search engine rankings.

5. Create and Pin content that people would want to view

Most of us can easily spot a corporate profile that is designed only to blast out marketing pitch after marketing pitch are likely not only to steer clear of your account, but to avoid and in extreme cases to bash your attempts. You can avoid many of those cases by creating interesting relevant content that provides an added value or is exclusive content to that audience (like posting recipes for some dishes for a fan to try at home or pinning specials only available to your Pinterest Audience).

Finally, just like any other social media platform, it has to be a two-way conversation.  Engage with your audience and listen and watch what they find most or least interesting in your brand. Pinterest is perfect for your brand if your brand can be displayed in images, and with the ease of digital photography these days, photos can be quickly taken, edited, posted and shared, creating great content for you to use to promote your Restaurant.

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Using QR Codes to Enhance Your Events

January 5, 2012

The Fall 2011 issue of Meetings +Events Magazine ran an article I wrote about using QR (Quick Response) Codes to enhance the marketing and promotion of your trade show appearances or events. It is based on case studies of current work we are doing for our clients, and the success of interaction, excitement, and conversion that they can provide. This has translated into greater traffic and attendance for our clients in measurable and impactful ways. Here is the intro to the article and a link to read the rest of it:

Quick Response, or QR codes, are popping up in all sorts of places: newspapers, magazines, billboards, drink coasters and even on the walls of restrooms. What started as a simple bar code stamp to track inventory parts for the auto industry is sweeping through many other industries as a tool for marketing, advertising, promotion and sales.

Sadly, many QR codes lead to material that is not very unique and engaging of the audience; more often than not, they lead to…click here to read more!

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How one Ad/PR agency’s actions is killing three brands: Disney Pictures, AMC Theatres, & MN Parent Magazine

August 10, 2009

Have you seen the excitement that ensues when a child wins a prize?  It can be any prize really, but how about if a child wins tickets to a new movie such as the new 3D Disney Movie, G-Force? You would expect the level of that child’s excitement would be pretty high, and if you’re a parent you’re probably rating the excitement even higher imagining your own child’s reaction.

Now, imagine the crash of disappointment that child experiences when they arrive at the theater to be told that the movie theater is full to capacity (a half an hour before the start time) due to the fact that the Advertising/Public Relations agency (Allied Advertising & Public Relations) purposely overbooked the theater to ensure they had a packed theater. Not overbooked by a few tickets, they overbooked by at least a hundred tickets based on the disappointed families left standing in the lobby of the theater.

Those families were outraged.  There was no second theater opened up to accommodate the families they overbooked. There were no offers of passes to see another children’s movie showing at the theater. There was no evidence of customer service skills demonstrated by the three people from Allied Advertising what-so-ever, and sadly that ended up tarnishing, damaging, and for those parents of disappointed children, killing three brands: MN Parent Magazine, AMC Theaters, and Disney Pictures.

The sad point is that many companies are often in the dark about how their brand is being handled when it is out of their “direct control.”  MN Parent Magazine and Disney Pictures were unaware of Allied Advertising’s practice when contacted.  AMC was worse; their onsite management team was apathetic. They could care less that their patrons were affected by Allied’s actions.  The AMC manager, claiming she was the “highest authority” I could speak to regarding the Edina, MN location, said that the theater was not “responsible” since Allied Advertising had rented the auditorium for the event.

As a parent, who had brought three children to see the movie G-Force (Who is also a PR practitioner) I was appalled by the actions of Allied Advertising and their practice of intentionally overbooking movie premieres.  One would have to wonder if Allied’s practice of this was to boost their numbers for their client, Disney Pictures.  Disney Pictures should be concerned then that they are paying for such surreptitious practices and not getting true results for their money being spent.  If Disney Pictures is testing or hoping to gain market research insight, then every event carried out by Allied is tainted, and cannot be considered valid data.

One of the Allied Advertising reps did finally offer to pay for myself and the three children to go see any other movie playing that night, but only after I identified myself as someone that worked in PR and after they witnessed/overheard me call a local news station to speak with the assignment desk to report on the events happening and see if they wished to send a reporter. At that point the Reps from Allied Advertising were willing to do just about anything to get me to leave. Of the three other brands associated, only MN Parent magazine has reached out to all of the parents that had received “free tickets” through them and promises to have Allied provide free passes to see G-Force in theaters.  AMC and Disney Pictures have yet to respond to complaints submitted via email on their websites.

So who controls your brand once it is out of your hands?  Do you have vendors, resellers, distributors, field reps?  How are they caretaking your brand?  Will they respond with the same level of customer service that you provide to your customers?  What are the repercussions if they don’t?  How will you know if they are carrying through your brand?  Are you set up to monitor your brand once it is out of your control? What is the cost if you don’t?  What do you think?

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Horizon Realty – A Case Study in how not to handle online reputation management

August 3, 2009

It started out fairly innocuously, it was a single retweet on Twitter of a news source I monitor, but the headline was too intriguing not to read – Will one Chicago woman’s Tweet cost her $50,000? I immediately thought to myself; “boy, someone is in trouble…,” but as I clicked on the link and read the first article here, and then I saw it was a headline here and here, I quickly saw the writing on the wall, it wasn’t the person that was in trouble, it was the company referenced: Horizon Realty.

The company in their response and defense of the single tweet by a woman, Amanda Bonnen, with the Twitter username:  @abonnen, initiated legal proceedings seeking $50,000 in damages for claimed defamation.  This is the company’s right to do so.  It is even a recommended course in traditional public relations crises communications tactics, yet, it is never the first recommended course when trying to manage your brand and reputation online. It should be the last resort.

When someone brings out the giant cannon of litigation, without having investigated and addressed the message in a public forum, it is immediately seen by the public watching, as overkill.  The giant corporation is now seen as bullying, callous, and unfeeling towards its tenants in the actions it has taken in response.

The response the company was initially hoping to avoid (that of their reputation being besmirched by the remark, has instead inflicted 1000’s of remarks to their own reputation, when word of the lawsuit reached the Twitter community.  The Twitter community took the side of the woman, and began to tear the company to shreds online for its “heavy-handedness”, “Lawsuit-happy management”, and generally being “clueless” (all words being mentioned online as descriptors of the company).

The response by Horizon’s Jeffrey Michael in a Chicago Tribune interview  , was that they were a “Sue first, ask questions later, type of company.” Once again this irked the general public online. Michael later (1 day, an eternity online)  released a press release claiming the comments were meant to be “tongue-in-cheek”, and then delved into the details of some ongoing issues that Horizon has had with Ms. Bonnen and some prior complaints she has had with them.  AS you can imagine, this release was not received well online, and for a second day, Horizon was listed as a trending topic on Twitter as the negative conversations continued fueled by Horizon themselves.

In the first 72 hours that this occurred, the damage on the net was done.  It’s been classified as an example of the Streisand Effect - an Internet phenomenon where an attempt to censor or remove a piece of information backfires, causing the information to be widely publicized.  Companies can no longer scoff at the idea that their reputation online does not matter, and that they have to participate in and listen to the conversations.  Horizon failed to do so, and the end results so far are these:

  • They became a trending topic on Twitter, meaning that they went from the 22 followers of Ms. Bonnen’s to being seen potentially by over a million people (of their own doing with the news of the lawsuit). The most recent 1500 comments can be seen here (it would be more, but that is all that Twitter has room for in their search tool).
  • If you Google “Horizon Realty”, four of the eleven first page listings are negatively related to the lawsuit. (Think of how that looks to a future potential tenant or someone searching for a management company).
  • Their reviews on Yelp have exploded from three listings prior to this event to 26 listings (ranging from annoyed to enraged) as of today keeping their ratings as a lowly 1 and a half stars.
  • Google Blog search shows over 16,000 blog posts that are already indexed, of which over 1000 include the phrase: “We’re a sue first, ask questions later kind of an organization.” There are also over 14,000 posts mentioning Jeffrey Michael (predominantly in a negative manner)
  • Not only has Horizon Realty earned the onus of being attributed to the Streisand Effect on Wikipedia, Horizon Realty has its own entry page.
  • The story jumped to traditional media as well – earning mentions in the Washington Post, Chicago Sun-Times, The Wall Street Journal and too many other outlets (over 512 stories as of today’s writing) to mention.

Is there still doubt in your mind or in the minds of your company that social media doesn’t matter?

Crisis Communication on Social Media has to have different rules, since it is different from traditional media.  We recommend the following steps be in place as the basics for any online reputation management strategies and policies that need to be put in place:

  1. Always investigate complaints made & verify the facts and source.
  2. Responding to a complaint – where:  when possible, respond on the same site the comment was made.  If it was on a blog submit a comment – if the blogger refuses to post your response, notate this and publish your post on your own blog or website.
  3. When to respond: respond in as timely a manner as possible, when the complaint has been investigated. 24 hours is a lifetime on the Internet – waiting makes things worse.
  4. Legal action may be taken to protect your IP, Brand, & Reputation: but remember, Internet issues are tricky as there are 1stAmendment issues involved that may require special expertise. Slander, Defamation of Character, Harassment, and online Bullying laws can apply. Legal intervention is required in most cases to force removal of material from the Internet. Copyright Infringement could be involved in the case of brand or identity theft.

As you can see, escalating to legal action is an option, just not the first recommended option, and never until the first three steps have been taken.

The final thoughts I will leave you with are these – the best defense is a good offense:

  1. The conversation is happening online whether you like it or not – will you participate?
  2. It’s not good enough to be present online – You need to engage your audience and participate in the conversation
  3. Transparency and Authenticity rule the net – Lies and misrepresentation will always be found out and called
  4. True Customer Service comes from listening, observing, and engaging – then, providing a thoughtful, timely response.
  5. Perception online is always a consideration – if you are perceived as the bully in responding to a complaint, using threats, or worse – legal action that could be avoided, then you lose, even if you are in the right.
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For the Multi-Housing Industry – Making Social Media Work for You

July 13, 2009

I’m linking to a valuable article for you today. I am quoted in it, but that’s not the reason I did. This article focuses specifically for social media strategies and learnings for the Multi-Housing Industry. It appears in the August 2009 issue of the Multi Housing Advocate Magazine. The Magazine is produced by the Minnesota Multi-Housing Association (MMHA), where I spoke in June on the topic of Managing your Online Reputation and Brand. The article is written by the MMHA’s PR Director, Tina Gassman and is full of insight about how to apply social media to the multi-housing management space. Here are the first two paragraphs and you can click the link following that to read the full article:

Last month, I sat in on MHA’s two-part Hot Topic seminar. Robert Turnbull of Rentwiki.com presented “The Social Media Phenomenon” and Christopher Lower of Sterling Cross Communications presented “The ROI of Managing Your Online Reputation.” While I had been reading about and researching this topic fairly extensively, I found the information to be very helpful in that it was tailored to our industry. As I discuss how this social media phenomenon must change the way we approach marketing, I will include the valuable points I learned from these two presenters and will provide you with a quick and dirty guide to your public relations efforts in this “always on” age.

Today’s marketing landscape looks much different than it did 30 years ago…

Please click here to read the rest of the article.

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Today’s marketing for Resorts & Campgrounds – Building Community, Memories, and Lifetime Visitors with Social Media Tools

May 26, 2009

This is an article I wrote for Resorts & Campgrounds Magazine and appears in their summer 2009 Issue. Due to popular demand, it was reprinted here for those who do not have access to the Magazine. Enjoy!

I grew up lucky enough to have had an annual family trip to some resort or campground every year.  If you are the same, you probably have some great old photos.  Some might be in albums, some might be framed, but most are probably in a box or bin somewhere, but wherever they are, they capture and represent great memories.  There are great tools online these days that allow you to post and share these photos and memories online. 80% of all internet users are posting photos to share online, and 54% of them are posting vacation photos, according to the Pew Internet & American Life Project data. 30% of those vacationers are posting to sites and communities connected to the place they went on vacation, if there is a space to post.  Disney is great at this for their Camp Wilderness property.

You too can create a space where your visitors can share photos.  You can brand your own photo sharing page on many social media photo sharing sites like Flickr, ShutterFly, and Photobucket. These sites can be linked back in to your own website, where potential new visitors can share in the memories and see great pictures of people enjoying your services and amenities. Of the 140 million Americans online, 63% of them are booking their travel destinations online. 53% of them state that their decision to book is based on photos or videos of visitors enjoying the property and amenities.  Social media tools allow your guests to share their great times and memories and empower them to build community by connecting to other resort and campground visitors.  Other tools like blogs, YouTube, and pages on sites like Facebook allow people to connect and share as well. The common backdrop across all of these sites is your location.

Like any vacation destination in today’s times and economy you must adapt to keep up. In 2008 it was reported that up to 60% of campgrounds and 84% of RV Parks have added WIFI internet access to their list of amenities, whether in the common areas, or available throughout the property.  If you offer internet access on location, you can encourage guests to post up photos while still there and even offer prizes for photo contests, to build your online content.  All photos posted should be tagged (identified) to include your property name and location to aid in the online search benefits you will receive from posted photos.

More often than not, these social media tools are low to no cost to implement, and can be managed by staff onsite.  For best results, you’ll want to invest a bit to ensure that your brand is represented across each of these social media sites which can be handled typically by your web developers or marketing team. Here is a list of tools that any resort or campground owner or manager can use to connect with their customer to convert them to brand evangelists and lifelong customers:

 

Social Media Tools for Resorts & Campgrounds:

  • Make sure your property can be searched and reviewed through local business guides such as Yelp.com, Hotels.com and TripAdvisor.com. Suggest that positive feedback from patrons is shared on these social business guide sites.
  • Twitter – sign up for a Twitter account. Use it also as a tool to listen and converse with your customers.
  • E-Newsletter – Email a monthly newsletter with the latest happenings, new renovations, additions, or upgrades etc.
  • Blog – Customers want to be part of something more than just a onetime trip; they want to feel like they belong.  You can set up a blog to allow guests to post their memories and stories.
  • Facebook – Set up a Facebook fan page to connect with your customers on Facebook.
  • MySpace – If your clientele is the MySpace generation, create a profile page and consistently update it with fresh content.
  • YouTube – Incorporate video into your social media strategy.
  • The Business Card – Provide a business card or note-card to each customer that visits your property with their receipt that maps out where they can continue their vacation experience online by connecting to you via social media to share memories.

 Christopher Lower is the Co-owner of Sterling Cross Communications, a Social Media, Public Relations, & Web Design Firm, that focuses on the Restaurant, Hospitality, Hotel, and Lodging industries. In addition to over 20 years of PR & Marketing experience, Chris worked over eight years in the Hospitality Industry. He can be reached at www.sterlingcrossgroup.com or can be found on Twitter: www.twitter.com/mrchristopherl.

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Domino’s proves why Restaurants must monitor their brand and reputation online

April 17, 2009

It was a Restaurateur’s worst nightmare. In the span of a few minutes of video posted to YouTube, a 50 year old brand was brought low.  Two (fired and facing felony charges) employees of a franchise location of Domino’s Pizza recorded a video of themselves doing horrendous and disgusting things to food that was potentially about to be served to an unsuspecting customer. The video went viral.  The YouTube video reached one million views in less than 3 days. References to it were in five of the 12 top search results on the first page of Google search for “Dominos,” and discussions about Domino’s had spread throughout Twitter. Several major news outlets have covered the incident, including the New York Times, USA Today and Fox News.  

Reportedly Domino’s knew about the video for nearly 48-hours before it launched a PR blitz to respond to the overwhelming amounts of negative comments, and comments faulting the company for not responding in a timely manner. They were first notified of the video from bloggers that had seen it online.  The company itself was not monitoring what was being said about its brand and reputation online. That was a fatal mistake that has brought great damage in customer confidence and loyalty and has crushed an iconic brand.

As Domino’s is starting to realize, social media has the reach and speed to turn tiny incidents into marketing crises. In November, Motrin posted an ad suggesting that carrying babies in slings was a painful new fad. Unhappy mothers posted Twitter complaints about it, and bloggers followed; within days, Motrin had removed the ad and apologized, but as with Domino’s, it was a case of too little, too late.

There was no one watching out for their brand online. 

If this can happen to a mighty chain with a fifty year history, how much can it affect independent restaurants, smaller chains, and family owned businesses?  If you are in the restaurant industry, or for that matter, in any industry that can be reviewed online, you cannot afford to ignore what is being said about you online.  Many restaurateurs are not even aware of the many sites and places where people can and are talking about them online.  Sites like Yelp, Urbanspoon, Chowhound, Metromix, Getsatisfaction.com, and Trip Advisor offer consumers a platform to get their complaints or raves heard.

Crises Communications is not a new practice, but it is new when trying to be performed in Social Media. There are several tools though for low to no cost for a restaurateur to watch what is being said about them (good or bad) online. You can do simple things, such as setting up Google Alerts, or searching Twitter and blogs to monitor what is being said, or you can pay for more robust search tools to and firms to do it for you (We offer such services for clients). No matter what you do though, you need to start watching what is being said starting now, and on a regular basis.  Domino’s and Motrin failed to respond quickly 48 hours is an eternity online, and the damage is done.

What is the cost of not paying attention, or “hoping it will go away”? A majority of your business could be in jeopardy. 89% of US online buyers read customer reviews before they purchase: 43% most of the time, 22% all of the time. A bad reputation hits your bottom line.

So what should you do? Here are a few things to get you started:

·         Create a Crisis Communication plans for online issues.

·         Execute effective online Customer Service.

·         Get the tools to monitor what’s being said online about your brand, your company, and you.

·         Learn the strategies and steps to take to respond to information already posted.

·         Learn the strategies and steps to take to have negative information removed, mitigated, or retracted.

If you are in the Minneapolis – St. Paul area, we are holding a seminar on April 28th, 2009 on The ROI of Managing your Online Reputation & Brand. Click here for more details: http://onlinereputation.eventbrite.com/.

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The ROI of Managing your Online Reputation & Brand presented by Sterling Cross Communications

March 31, 2009

Who: Sterling Cross Communications, a Twin Cities based Social Media, PR and Web Design firm.

What: 90-minute workshop presentation that educates and arms participants with awareness and tools to understand, monitor and shape their online reputation and brand.

When: Tuesday, April 28th, 2009 – 8:30 – 10:30 a.m.
*Breakfast/registration opens at 8:30 a.m. – session start time 9:00 a.m.

Where: The Learning Center at the offices of Lurie Besikof Lapidus and Company LLP; 2501 Wayzata Boulevard; Minneapolis, MN 55405

Cost: $100 for general admission – $85 for Early bird purchases by April 17th.

Registration: http://onlinereputation.eventbrite.com/ for more details contact Sterling Cross Communications – 763.496.1499 or info@sterlingcrossgroup.com

People are talking about you online. Do you know what they are saying? Is it good or bad?
Bad reviews, comments, or complaints can be costing you business every day.
• Do you know how to respond?
• Do you have a contingency plan to handle an online communications crisis?
• Why does it affect you?
89% of US online buyers read customer reviews before they purchase: 43% most of the time, 22% all of the time. A bad reputation hits your bottom line.

Christopher Lower, Co-owner of Sterling Cross Communications will open your eyes to the status of your brand and reputation online, how to monitor and manage it, and give you tangible steps to improve its condition.
We’ll discuss:
• How and where to monitor what’s being said online about your brand, your company, and you.
• Strategies and steps to take to respond to information already posted.
• Strategies and steps to take to have negative information removed, mitigated, or retracted.
• You’ll learn the key components of Crisis Communication plans for online issues.
• Discover how to execute effective online Customer Service.
• Best of breed tools and solutions that provide immediate results will be discussed and demonstrated.

About your Presenter:
Christopher Lower has over 17 years of marketing, PR, and strategic consulting. He has 10 years of focus on emerging web technologies and their use in marketing – Blogs, Podcasts, Viral Campaigns, Social Media (Linkedin, Twitter, etc.), Wikis, Webinars, RSS, and Mobile Technology Solutions.

About Sterling Cross Communications:
Sterling Cross is a Social Media, Public Relations, & Web Design Firm. They are the firm behind Social Media campaigns for over a dozen companies including; moto-i, The Bailey Consulting Group, Augeo Benefits, Baja-Sol, and several other clients that do business in both the B2B & B2C space. For more info please visit http://www.sterlingcrossgroup.com.

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