#10 – The important reputation lesson you can learn from #DeleteUber

#10 – The important reputation lesson you can learn from #DeleteUber


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The first day of February and the Reputation Roadkill is still hot and fresh!

Each week, we’ll take a look at the most interesting reputation management stories, answer your questions, and share valuable ORM tactics. In this week’s episode:

  • Erin Jones of Social Ink is out sick this week. We wish her a speedy recovery.
  • Just one story this week, but it’s a doozy. What contributed to the #DeleteUber boycott and the important strategy you can apply to your reputation.
  • More info on the Aflac survey I discuss.

If you have a question you would like us to tackle, please leave a comment below or on my Facebook Page.

Transcript (forgive us for any typos):

Andy Beal:                  Look at us making it to double digits with this podcast. Thanks for tuning in. This is Reputation Rainmakers, my name’s Andy Beal. I’m flying solo this week, Erin Jones is actually out sick so we wish her all the best. I thought I’d take an opportunity to take a story that’s hot in the news right now and combine that with one of my online reputation tips that I use when working with clients. Let’s start with this survey that came out from Aflac on their corporate social responsibility. They say that a company stands to lose up to 39% of their current customers if they’re not seen as being socially responsible. Now, also 75% of consumers said it actually takes some kind of negative action to retaliate against a brand such as a boycott or a protest if they were unhappy with something.

Now, does that bring any company to mind? Well, right now Uber is probably the most obvious choice. Uber is in the news right now and I don’t want this to get political so you can go look it up. They souped in with some kind of offer or reduced, removed their surge pricing right after a taxi picket and a strike in protest of the new immigration policies and quickly found themselves under a delete Uber hashtag campaign and a general boycott. The issue with that kind of ties into some more stats to come out of Aflac’s study which is 78% of consumers said they are more likely to buy from a company that’s known for its year round generosity than one that swoops in at times of need.

One in five consumers said they are willing to pay more for a product if they felt the company was socially responsible. 83% of investors said they see corporate responsibility as a marker for ethical corporate behavior. The problem that Uber has is they are not known for any of that. Not only do they not have a brand that is known for corporate social responsibility but when other companies were taking a stand they were kind of seen as cashing in on it. It backfired on them because Uber just doesn’t have a strong brand in terms of customer loyalty and evangelism. Now, I like Uber as a service but I’m not more loyal to Uber than I am whichever taxi firm can pick me up at an airport and take me to my destination. It is just a convenient, anonymous driver that I don’t have to pull out a wallet and pay, it’s all done automatically.

There’s no … I’m not using Uber because of its brand, because of what it stands for, because it gives back to its community, none of that. They may do that but I’m not aware of any of that because that’s not how they built their brand. In fact, Uber’s had a number of scandals over the years and has become not quite in the realm of a necessary evil but pretty close to that. People use Uber because it’s convenient, they use it because it’s cheaper but I never really hear anybody saying that they use Uber because they love what it stands for, they love the brand, they love the … Heck, they don’t even have an incentive or a reward scheme or anything like that that I’m aware of and so when they face a crisis it’s very easy for people to turn on them.

When most companies that have a strong brand, when they mess up, when they hear complaints it’s from their strongest, most loyal customers. That they complain because they want the company to get better. The company’s let them down. They’ve invested in that brand and now they feel like they’ve been let down because the brand promise has not been kept. When they complain it’s because they want that brand to get back to being the kind of brand that they supported. They want them to learn from the mistake and get better.

Well, the attack on Uber is not really in that same classification because people are just attacking Uber. There’s no real sense of, “Hey, we want you to be better.” Now, you can see that because Uber quickly tried to share their side of the story and make a donation and all that kind of stuff. It really didn’t do a whole lot. In fact, fortunately for them there’s so much going on in the news right now that the media’s jumping on that it blew over relatively quickly but not necessarily because of anything that they’ve done.

How does that tie into the reputation lesson that I want to share? Well, one of the best things that any company can do is to demonstrate their involvement in their local community, their corporate social responsibility. Whether that is something small … Maybe it’s just a local nonprofit that you work with. Maybe you make a financial donation. Maybe you volunteer at a soup kitchen or maybe you incentivize employees to go out and volunteer their hours or you do a matching gift campaign or something like that.

Whatever that is that’s something that needs to be shared with your customers and your stakeholders. Not only does that give them that sense of well being that, “Hey, I’m doing business with a company that cares about those that are less fortunate, those that care about the community, cares about encouraging their employees to be socially responsible. It also sends a really positive message to anybody that’s looking in to check on their reputation. It basically says, “Hey, we’re not here just to make money, we are also interested in giving back. There is more to us than just the bottom line.”

One of the ways you can demonstrate that is by building out a site that demonstrates all of your efforts for nonprofits or charities, whatever it may be, your local community. Now, that can be on a sub-domain or it can be on something, new top level domain like company name Cares.com or company name Inthecommunity.com. It justifies having its own site because, “Hey, this is beyond what we’re just selling. We don’t want to put this messaging in with what we sell or what we offer as a service.” It kind of holds up to that test that maybe Google would have and that is, is there a justifiable reason for you to have this second site?

It also shows up in the search results so you put some effort into it, you build out this site and you’ve now got a very positive website that’s filling up another space in the search results. That is not only helping to either keep out anything negative or push down anything negative but it’s doing so in a very, very positive way. Now when someone searches for your brand not only are you insulating yourself from any attacks, not only are you somewhat controlling what shows up, but you’re not just doing that with superficial tweets or cute images that you’ve posted to Flickr or any other profiles or content you could create to help improve your reputation.

You are demonstrating it in a worthwhile manner. You are showing that you are corporately responsible and that you are giving back. That helps to counter any negative attacks that you’re facing but it also helps to proactively demonstrate that you’re a company that is going to stick around, that is not just there to make a quick dollar. It goes back to the study. Consumers are more likely to trust you if they see that there’s a year round generosity, they’re less likely to attack you. You’ve got this positive content that you’re going to continue to contribute to so hopefully you’ll continue to donate your time or do a gift matching or volunteer, whatever that may be.

Now you’ve got this continual content that’s positive, that is helping to populate the search results. It really is a powerful tactic. We recommend it with a lot of clients that come to us with reputation issues because hey, we want to put something up there that is positive but also there’s a legitimate reason for it. You can’t just put it up if you just write a check to the Ronald McDonald House and that’s all you ever do. There’s got to be … You got to invest in it. If you don’t have a plan create one. Back when I had one agency we got very much involved with the North Carolina chapter of the Special Olympics.

We donated our time. We actually gave employees time off based on how much time they had volunteered. We created this program and it was the right thing to do. We polled our employees to find out which organization they would be most interested in helping so it wasn’t just a, “Hey, let’s just pick something, go through the motions.” This is something we all very much cared about. That demonstrated, even for a small startup, that we cared about our community and not just interested in making a profit.

This is something that a company of any size can do but you really do have to invest in it. If you don’t have a program think about crafting one, think about working with a local nonprofit. These days I work with the Riley Rescue Mission. I don’t necessarily do that because I have a large company and I want to demonstrate our social efforts and our community efforts, it doesn’t [inaudible 00:10:38]. I do it because I really want to work with the homeless and serve them. It’s good for a company to have a cause like that that they focus on. Then if you’re having reputation problems you can build out a site and demonstrate to others that, “Look, we care about not just our customers but we care about our employees. We care about the community that we work with.” Keep that in mind.

Again, I’m never a fan of just kind of creating stuff just for the sake of it. Build out a program where you give back. Then consider, “Is this something that I can put onto a sub-domain or can we put this onto a new top level domain? Create a blog that highlights all of it each time you contribute or volunteer your time, some of the things that you do?” It will really help to demonstrate to potential customers and existing customers that you’re a brand that they can invest in emotionally. It will help to … When you face a crisis you’re less likely to be attacked. As this Aflac study has shown you’re less likely to be attacked if you can demonstrate that you have some kind of corporate responsibility, and you invest in your employees, and you invest in the community. That’s a really strong message.

It’s going to help you with your reputation and just really going to be a good opportunity to kind of sure up the search results in the meantime. Anyway, that’s my tip. I’ve rambled on a little bit but this is something that I discussed on a Google Hangout recently with SEMPO and I just wanted to expand on it. Hopefully I managed to do so without really getting too political. The only people that benefit from political reputation advice are the politicians and they never listen to it anyway. Leave your questions or comments. You can either go to our Facebook page, Andy Beal ORM or just leave a comment in the podcast blog post itself. Hopefully Erin will be back to normal next week and you won’t have to listen to me drone on for the full time of the podcast. Thanks for tuning in and we’ll catch you next week. Bye-bye.

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