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TODD SMITH — PR is best for monitoring, managing online customer reviews



Online customer reviews can make or break a brand – even a relatively large brand.

Consumers trust online customer reviews more than any other source of brand information except for recommendations from people they know, according to Nielsen’s Global Trust in Advertising report.

Seventy percent of consumers trust online reviews, an increase of 15 percent over four years. People trust online reviews even more than news articles and other editorial content, according to the survey

Surprisingly, many businesses ignore reviews. They simply let them happen on their own without responding to them, encouraging positive comments, or even monitoring them – unless a PR crisis erupts. Outside of restaurants and retail businesses that rely on reviews for their livelihood, most companies rarely monitor or promote reviews. Many not-for-profit organizations make the same error.

What is the main reason businesses don’t monitor online reviews? Many organizations simply fail to delegate responsibility for growing and managing customer reviews to a certain person or department. The job could be assigned to PR, marketing, customer service, or sales. PR can – and should – start the decision-making discussion in its organization and lead the way in developing a policy that establishes who is responsible for online reviews. That policy should lay down a strategy for handling comments and promoting positive reviews.

These steps can help companies and organizations energize online review strategies:

7 Steps for an online review strategy

1. Solicit reviews. Ask customers an open-ended question on a social media site. For instance, ask the audience what they liked most about a product. Contests with small incentives can motivate customers to write reviews or to upload video testimonials. Displaying a message reading “Find Us on Yelp” (or other review site) on your website or at your business shows customers you have nothing to hide and encourages feedback.

2. Fill your profiles. Providing as much information as possible in online profiles, such as a photo, location, hours, and a food or service menu portrays the business as a professional outfit.

3. Attend to your regulars. Regular customers tend to post positive reviews. Offering discounts and other incentives can encourage them to write reviews.

4. Stress the positives. Placing favorable reviews prominently on your website, blog posts, and social media pages emphasizes their importance.

5. Respond to negative reviews. Failing to answer negative reviews indicates a lack of concern. Responding to negative reviews professionally and graciously with a heartfelt apology builds goodwill. Taking the discussion offline avoids a tit-for-tat public argument. Customers want honesty and generally accept a degree of negative comments.

6. Monitor comments. Social media listening is imperative to locate positive reviews that can be featured in owned media and negative reviews that call for quick responses. Assigning social listening as a part-time responsibility to a staff member works for some companies, but often fails because the employee has too many other responsibilities that seem more important.

A social media monitoring service such as CyberAlert is usually more reliable, effective and cost-efficient that doing it yourself. The buzz monitoring services also provide metrics and reports that help their clients better understand their online reputation and guide the clients to take action to correct problems with products or services. By taking on the responsibility of regularly monitoring and managing customer review sites, PR can help protect the business’ reputation, make a larger contribution to the success of the business, and gain greater standing within management.

7. Bottom Line: Although online customer reviews are a critical PR and marketing tool, they are frequently neglected by many businesses. PR can take the lead in resolving that shortcoming by pressing their organizations to define what department is responsible for reviews and monitoring review sites for comments.

Facebook expands political, campaign technology

While it is no surprise that presidential campaigns are devoting a greater share of their budget and energy on digital initiatives, Facebook, already a major player in past cycles, has been working to expand its digital dominance in the political realm.

Facebook – which has 189 million monthly users in the United States – has pitched its tools and services to every presidential campaign in the 2016 race, not to mention down-ballot races, to showcase new features as candidates seek to reach and recruit new supporters and potential donors.

Some estimate that 2016 will usher in roughly $1 billion in online political advertising, and Facebook says it is on track to increase its revenue from previous cycles.

Facebook has rolled out several tools since the last presidential election to help campaigns reach voters more efficiently and effectively. The two most important are the site’s improved video capacities and the ability for campaigns to upload their voter files directly to Facebook.

Another feature allows candidates to hold question-and-answer sessions on the site, as Hillary Rodham Clinton did last month. Campaigns can now include what Facebook describes as a “call to action” at the end of its videos – in most cases, a link that allows users to donate to the campaign or sign a petition.

Another innovation allows a campaign to upload its voter file — a list of those they hope will turn out to vote or can be persuaded to do so – directly to Facebook, where it can target those users. Integrating this deep and rich source of information about voters also allows campaigns to find and reach other Facebook users who resemble, in behavior and interests, those in their existing voter file.

Facebook is not alone in allowing campaigns to reach voters in more sophisticated ways. Snapchat, the fast-growing video-and-photo-sharing mobile app, allows advertisers to target users pegged to a certain event (like a presidential debate), or in a certain geographical area (like users in early nominating states such as Iowa or New Hampshire).

Twitter also allows advertisers or campaigns to reach users in specific ways. They can, for instance, direct their ads to people using a certain keyword or hashtag – #StandWithRand, the hashtag used during Senator Rand Paul’s recent filibuster, for example – or users in a single ZIP code. Or they can upload an email list of voters they are trying to reach.

Golden Mic | Music City amplifies brand with country stars

Nashville and the Music City brand and moniker have always been smash hits on the global stage. The city has a show named after it, after all! The Third Coast certainly lived up to its name last week – Eric Church officially opened Nashville’s new Ascend Amphitheater as music soared from the banks of the Cumberland River.

Just down the street – literally – Dolly Parton brought her sassy “Pure and Simple” tour to the Ryman Auditorium, her first Nashville gig in a decade, while Shania Twain took the stage at Bridgestone Arena for her “Rock This Country” tour, in what was one of the biggest alignment of music stars in recent memory. Music City was certainly alive with the sounds that have galvanized its brand as a music mecca!

Church packed his Ascend Amphitheater show with songs ranging from the title cut from his 2006 debut album, “Sinners Like Me,” to his current hit, “Like a Wrecking Ball.” Other superstar acts slated for the first season at the Amphitheater include: Phish, Moon Taxi, Counting Crows, Steely Dan, Elvis Costello, Smashing Pumpkins, Peter Frampton, Cheap Trick, ZZ Top, Widespread Panic, Loretta Lynn, Steve Earle, Gillian Welch, Daryl Hall & John Oates, Janet Jackson, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Jackson Browne and many more.

For that, Music City rocks a well-tuned Golden Mic!

Each week, The Spin Cycle will bestow a Golden Mic Award to the person, group or company in the court of public opinion that best exemplifies the tenets of solid PR, marketing and advertising – and those who don’t. Stay tuned – and step-up to the mic! And remember … Amplify Your Brand!

» Todd Smith is president and chief communications officer of Deane, Smith & Partners, a full-service branding, PR, marketing and advertising firm with offices in Jackson. The firm — based in Nashville, Tenn. — is also affiliated with Mad Genius. Contact him at todd@deanesmithpartners.com, and follow him @spinsurgeon.


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About Ross Reily

Ross Reily is editor of the Mississippi Business Journal. He is a husband to an amazing wife, dad to 3 crazy kids and 2 dogs. He is also a fan of the Delta State Fighting Okra and the Boston Red Sox.

One comment

  1. This is a very important question in the subscription-based economy we’re experiencing nowadays. A great way to sustain customer retention is through proactively monitoring the feedback and engaging in a fulfilling customer-experience. Clients highly value personalised experience and even negative reviews can help companies showcase their initiative, thus boosting loyalty and satisfaction.

    The easiest option to manage that is through hiring a third-party feedback collecting company, like eKomi or Bazaarvoice. It is very important that the solutions they offer be purchase-based to boost the credibility of your brand. Independent reviews gain much more trust that in-house managed testimonials.

    By carefully listening to what your customers have got to say, you can quickly react to any issues or make changes to your product to make sure your clients don’t start exploring the competition’s offer.

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