4 Tips for Handling a PR Nightmare

Bad publicity is something every company fears. One misstep has the potential to create a huge amount of backlash if it is picked up by the press and becomes a major news story. Marketing and communications professionals are at the front lines when it comes to PR, but if the issue is big enough it will eventually come back to the company’s leaders, especially the CEO.

Reputation incidents can pass quickly, or they can become an ongoing issue that eventually takes down the entire company. Much of this depends on how leaders deal with the situation from the outset. A genuine, nuanced response, one that takes into account the seriousness of the problem while emphasising the organisation’s desire and ability to fix what went wrong, can go a long way to neutralising the damage.

Here are four tips from company leaders who’ve successfully negotiated this delicate situation:

  • Be Transparent – In 2011, the young communications manager at Bath City Football Club, Ned Vaught, found himself at the centre of a controversy when the company offered an 80 percent discount to local groups, including one nearby Polish community. Public comments from fans were taken up by local and national news organisations. Rather than hiding, Vaught responded to every interview request. Before the controversy was over, he had appeared on BBC, talkSPORT, and ITV West Country. His steady communication of the company perspective helped to minimise the negativity the story had generated. Vaught commented afterwards that “it’s much better to be out in the open” in situations like this.
  • Offer Specific Solutions – Brian Berry was unlucky enough to be CEO of the Federation of Master Builders (FMB) when the Daily Mail took up a story about a couple whose house had collapsed after they picked a builder from FMB’s member list. Berry responded immediately to requests for comment and expressed his sympathy for the couple on an interview with BBC’s Rip off Britain programme. He also explained what the firm was doing to address the issue: the builder responsible for the faulty house was suspended from FMB membership and eventually dismissed, and the organisation went on to establish stricter entry criteria.
  • Emphasise a Positive Track Record – In 2007, a Virgin Trains crash in Cumbria killed one passenger as a result of a missed inspection. The company took some flak for the incident, but Virgin head, Sir Richard Branson, tried to put the issue in perspective in a TV interview where he pointed out that his company had safely transported half a million passengers without facing a situation like this. Branson’s comment was successful because he maintained sympathy and understanding for the passengers involved in the incident, while at the same time pointing out that, overall, his company had a good track record.
  • Be Prepared – Preparation is everything when it comes to reputation. Companies that have a clear plan for how to handle potential issues will be responsive right from the start. They will be better equipped to coordinate the company’s various branches so everyone is telling the same story. Allyson Stewart-Allen, CEO of International Marketing Partners, underlines the importance of having a proactive strategy. Every executive should “know what the party line is and how to get that message out to their own national press” she says.

Consistent reputation management is an important part of any preparation effort. Reputation Defender’s professional ORM services help to build an in-depth online profile and assist companies with reputation repair as soon as a negative story surfaces. Contact our reputation specialists to learn more.

How Can I Avoid a Phishing Attack?

Phishing attacks are scams that trick people into exposing financial details and other sensitive data. Phishing is not new; this type of online attack has been around almost as long as the internet, but today’s schemes are more sophisticated and harder to detect than ever. In the past, all but the most naïve could see through badly written requests to transfer money or suspicious-looking prize notices. This is not the case with modern phishing schemes which often resemble official communications so closely it’s hard to tell the difference. Some hackers take the time to learn co-worker’s names and personal details to make them appear even more convincing.

Phishing scams pose numerous risks. The most common scenario is a virus that will infect a computer through a contaminated link or a compressed document. Malware delivered through phishing can steal personal information, including financial details, or it may contain ransomware that will encrypt computer files and hold them hostage until you pay a fee. Most viruses have the ability to spread and infect an entire company network and businesses are frequently targeted since they have more resources and incentive to protect their data.

Falling prey to a phishing attack leaves a company vulnerable to financial theft, as well as leaks that could release trade secrets and confidential information. Compromising data released to the public causes reputational damage that’s hard to undo. Experts at Reputation Defender work to safeguard client reputations through regular privacy audits that catch problems as they emerge. We also help to repair online reputation by creating and promoting positive content.

Types of Phishing Attacks

There are basically two ways a hacker may design a phishing scheme:

  • Mass-scale phishing – A general attack that includes many different methods of communication. A lot like casting a large fishing net, mass-scale attacks do not target a specific person. However, they may include numerous semi-random attempts aimed at discovering the weakest link in a company’s network – the one employee gullible enough to click on a random link or reveal their password to a stranger.
  • Spear-phishing or Whaling – Spear-phishing is a targeted attack aimed at a specific person or a group of people. This type of phishing attack often includes details that make the included information seem legitimate. Emails can be designed to resemble personal office communication or a typical business invoice. Whaling is a type of spear-phishing that targets high-level personnel, particularly the CEO. Hooking these so-called “large fish” gives cyber criminals easier access to sensitive company data and financial accounts.
Methods of Delivery

Fraudsters have found even more creative ways to deliver links, through email, phone calls, text messaging and social media feeds.

Email phishing

A phishing email often looks like a generic notice from a well-known company or a bank. Cyber criminals have been known to copy logos from PayPal and eBay well enough to avoid detection. Typical scare tactics include warnings that the account is insecure, the password has been changed or there is a payment past due. Phishing emails usually include a CTA asking victims to click on a link or open an attached document. A targeted spear-phishing email may reference a colleague or a boss.

Things to look for – Many phishing emails still have small spelling mistakes or grammatical errors that a native speaker wouldn’t make, so this is the first thing to check. A missing email signature is another red flag or a form of address or writing style that’s not normal. Sometimes the only way to detect a phishing email is through slight changes in the email or domain name, such as the use of zeros instead of the letter “O” or “rn instead “m”. These can be easily missed, so if anything seems off, double-check the email address and domain name carefully.

Voice phishing – Vishing

Phone calls are another phishing technique (called vishing) which is aimed at getting individuals to hand over financial details or personal information. Like email phishing, vishing is often based on scare tactics that encourage victims to take action quickly without thinking about the consequences. Fraudsters may warn that a bank account is in danger or they may threaten legal action if a bill is not paid. Between 2013 and 2016, almost 900,000 people in the US received vishing calls purporting to be from tax collectors with IRS. These calls resulted in 5,000 victims with collective losses of USD $26.5 million.

Things to look for – Asking that bills be paid over the phone is unusual, so this should be an immediate warning. Banks also rarely ask for financial details or personal information over the phone. Don’t give details out unless you’ve made the phone call yourself to an official number and you know the counselor you’re speaking with well enough to recognize his or her voice. Other things to watch for are masked numbers or unknown caller ID.

SMS phishing – Smishing

Text messaging is another phishing technique that has come to be called smishing. Smishing messages often resemble phishing emails; they can come in the form of fake account notices with a CTA link. Some cyber criminals have even been known to use smishing to highjack a two-party identification system, first by requesting a password reset on your account, then sending a text asking for the code you just received in order to fix ‘’unusual activity” on that same account.

What to look for – Unusual or unfamiliar numbers should be a give-away, as well as unsolicited messages or codes you haven’t requested. Unless this is a company that normally sends texts, you should wonder why they are using this form of communication.

Social Media Phishing

Phishing schemes have also infiltrated social media. Fraudulent posts may claim you’ve won the lottery or ask you to click and sign up for membership. Targeted attacks often pretend to be from a friend who’s opened a second account. Some scams may even come from a regular account that’s been hacked.

What to look for – Watch for irregularities (why would a friend choose to open different account?) or language that doesn’t sound like the person you know. Be suspicious of sponsored posts from unknown businesses and links included in comments made by people you don’t know well.

Avoid Getting Hooked

Avoid all forms of phishing with these basic guidelines:

  • Don’t click on a link in an email or a text message unless you’re sure who the sender is.
  • Be wary of unsolicited messages and unusual account notices. Verify with the company before taking any action.
  • Always sign in to your accounts via a trusted app or by entering the URL in your browser. Don’t use an embedded link even if you think it’s legitimate.
  • Double-check any communication that’s doesn’t follow normal protocol. It never hurts to follow-up with an old fashioned phone call to make sure the message is from the real sender, especially if there’s money or confidential information involved.
  • Don’t transfer money without verifying who’s asking for it and where it’s going.
  • Don’t give out personal information over the phone.
  • Don’t fall for scams that seem too good to be true. They probably are.

How Can I Get People To View My Website?

Getting people to view your website is a vital part of any internet marketing campaign and also an important ORM tactic. A high organic click through rate (CTR) translates into conversions that will boost the company’s client base. While CTR isn’t formally listed as one of Google’s direct algorithmic ranking factors, it does indirectly affect the SERP and helps to determine whether a website will hold its place at the top of the search page.

Reputation Defender’s online brand promotion services include a wide range of strategies that will drive up traffic to your company’s official site. There are multiple reasons why people may be directed to your site, from finding it on a search page, to hearing it mentioned on social media, or seeing your name on a conference flyer.

Here are some of the ways to create buzz around your company site:

Become a Social Media Expert

Official social media profiles are a must for any company interested in developing an online profile. Once these pages are created, use them to generate activity and direct people back to your website.

  • Start with the basics – Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and of course Google+.
  • Share articles – It’s important to share blog articles and other brand content.
  • Share pictures – Profiles on Instagram, Flickr, and Pinterest are good places to upload images that can be shared on other pages.
  • Include video content – Post videos to YouTube and share them on social media sites. Use Periscope and Facebook Live to incorporate a live feed to your page.
  • Create content that is innately shareable – Use SlideShare or design infographics that maximize the visual impact of the message.
  • Add links – Make sure there is a website link on all social media profiles.
  • Call to action – Adding these buttons on Facebook and other social platforms will let you direct traffic to a specific action page.
  • Add social sharing buttons on blog articles and website pages – This will encourage people to link to your content on their own pages.
  • Re-share articles – Don’t assume all followers have seen an article after one share. Buffer and Edgar are 2 apps that will automatically re-share content at scheduled times.
  • Do a “Share Exchange” – Reach out to a similar sized account and offer to share their content (including a website link) if they will return the favor. This can open up reach to a whole new audience.
  • Don’t forget about these sites:
  • Quora – Generate material by answering questions that relate to your industry.
  • Reddit – There are a lot of rules against spamming on Reddit but if you take the time to build a profile that’s known for posting genuine and informative content, there can be a big payoff in site traffic. Once you have a following, try showing off your expertise by hosting an AMA (Ask Me Anything) session.
  • Product Hunt – Submit a physical or digital product to Product Hunt’s “list of cool new things”.
  • Lesser known social media – Tumblr, Snapchat, Buzznet, WhatsApp, About.me etc.
Target Your Email Audience

There’s a narrower exposure window but email can still be an important way of gaining regular customers who visit your site often.

  • Email outreach – Send targeted emails about new products on your site and include a link.
  • Embedded link – Put a website link in your email signature.
  • Autoresponder – Add a link and an invitation to find out more on the company website.
Get the Company in the News

If your brand is in the news regularly, people will start to recognize it as an authority.

  • Pitch an interesting new product – Blogs are always looking for good stories. They may be thrilled to learn about something that would interest their audience and you will subsequently gain exposure.
  • Google News – If the site puts out regular updates, you may be able to register it a news source with Google. There are specific content rules here, since Google is resistant to news releases that are basically marketing, but sites that comply will gain a big audience.
  • HARO (Help a Reporter Out) – Sign up to be interviewed as an expert in your industry and link to the article on your website and social profiles.
Convert Offline Contacts

In person, contacts can turn into website traffic when people go online to learn more about your business or product. Here are some ways to make this happen:

  • Business cards – Create a personal or brand business card that includes your company’s website address.
  • Posters – Display the website address prominently in all physical locations.
  • Pass out promotional gifts – Hand out pens, stickers or tote bags bearing the company logo and website.
  • Build a mailing list – Ask face-to-face customers for their email.
  • Network – Attend an industry related conference. Share information about the conference on social media pages and write an article about your experience. You could even offer to sponsor relatable events.
  • Help customers get to know you – Organize a workshop or conference where people can learn more about your product and how to use it.

Generating fresh website traffic will be an ongoing campaign. It begins with generating interest in the brand through genuine content and personal interaction. It is then important to give clear and easy directions to additional information via the company’s website. Use a variety of platforms, as suggested in the list above, to give the company the best chance of connecting with the most people. For more help with building an effective campaign, contact our online marketing experts at Reputation Defender.

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