Author: Andy Beal

Andy Beal is The Original Online Reputation Expert™. A bestselling author of two critically-acclaimed reputation management books, a keynote speaker at dozens of events, and brand consultant experience with thousands of individuals and companies.
Aug 8, 2018

Quoted in Business Insider: Some obscure bloggers really want you to know the CEO of MoviePass’ parent company is not a ‘scam artist’

Business Insider uncovered some shady looking online reputation efforts for MoviePass CEO. They asked me to weigh in with my thoughts:

“There are many ‘black hat’ reputation firms that use a smorgasbord of spammy tactics to try and cover up a bad reputation,” Andy Beal, CEO of Reputation Refinery and author of “Repped: 30 Days to a Better Online Reputation,” told Business Insider. “Instead of helping to genuinely rebuild a tarnished reputation and work on campaigns that highlight a person’s honest effort to rebuild their character, they instead rely on efforts to game the search engines.”

“Shady tactics include paying bloggers to publish ghost-written posts, asking friends and employees to write positive blog posts, or even creating new company or personal websites and linking them together to manufacture some Google juice,” Beal continued. “Fortunately, Google looks for both relevance and authority. Most high profile individuals will find their negative news appears on high profile, high authority websites. These will always outrank spammy, artificially created web content on Google. If Ted Farnsworth is behind any spammy reputation clean-up efforts, it will do more harm to his overall reputation than good.”

You can read the full story here.

Aug 1, 2018

Quoted in the The AJC: “Marvel stars want James Gunn rehired despite his vile tweets”

The AJC reached to get my thoughts on whether Marvel director James Gunn was rightly fired for Tweets he sent out years ago?

Here are my full thoughts on the topic.

While the statute of limitations may protect someone from criminal prosecution, such protection does not apply to the court of public opinion.

Your online reputation is always the sum of all of your actions, past and present. In addition, it is the sum of the sincerity of your apology, past and present.

Tweets that were posted when you were younger or embracing a different personality, should still have been accompanied by a sincere apology. If they were merely brushed off or buried, then you could still be held accountable should you later become more famous.

The key is to show humility, demonstrate sincerity, and apologize quickly whenever you make a mistake, otherwise, it could come back to haunt you.

The article can be read here.

#55 – American Airlines provides employees with 4 social media guidelines we dissect


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Do your employees have a social media checklist before take-off? Climb aboard this week’s episode as we discuss 4 important guidelines–and one bonus one!

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

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:                  Thank you for joining us. We’ve got a good show this week. We’re going to discuss a leaked memo, if you can believe. Those are pretty popular these days, but this one is from American Airlines. It was sent out to their employees with their new social media guidelines.

Andy Beal:                  And Chicago Business Journal obtained a copy of it. We don’t know if this is one that they were just fed, or if they actually did get somebody to leak it to them, and now it’s something that’s public that shouldn’t have been. But we wanted to go through it with you, because it’s actually kind of interesting. I’ve always been a big fan of just having simple social media guidelines as opposed to a massive social media handbook with lots of detail and lots of pages.

Andy Beal:                  And American Airlines, they’re pretty vocal, they’re pretty active on social media. So I thought they did a pretty good job, so we’re gonna go through it, and we’re gonna start off with the first point that they made. They made four points, and the first one is, to be transparent.

Andy Beal:                  And by that, they’re referring to people on social media basically disclosing that they are an actual employee. And I think that’s pretty good, especially if you don’t actually say anything on your profile that you’re an employee of a particular company. But then, chime in on a conversation about that particular company.

Andy Beal:                  You really need to let people know, Erin, don’t you, that hey, I’m talking about this, but I’m also an employee of this company.

Erin Jones:                  Absolutely. And I agree, I mean, it’s no secret for anyone that listens fairly regularly that we absolutely push transparency in pretty much every aspect of running a business, whether it be online or in person. But I think it’s good. You see people kind of on social media, pumping up a company and not saying that they’re a representative of that company, and you always give pause and go, you know, do these people really love this brand this much, or are they kind of under cover working for them?

Erin Jones:                  So I think this is good for both sides, both for the company and for the employee.

Andy Beal:                  Yeah, and I think it’s important that you don’t then go ahead and make up stuff that you think you know and trying to convince the person that’s somebody in authority, when perhaps you’re not. You know, if you’re gonna chime in, then you need to do so, keep in mind, what is your status of the company? What is it you do for them? And then, how much do you actually know?

Andy Beal:                  Because if you don’t know the answer to the question they have, it’s probably a good idea not to try and give them one if you’re not giving them that you actually know fully well what the actual answer is, but maybe just demonstrate that you’re willing to go to the leaders of your company and ask them to respond, and almost be an intermediary for the people that are complaining.

Erin Jones:                  Definitely, especially with an airline. You know, somebody saying that something is absolute could get them or the customer in a lot of trouble down the line, whether it be with logistics, or rules at the airport, and whatnot.

Erin Jones:                  And you know, as a customer and as a representative for companies, I am really comfortable with someone saying, you know what? That’s a great question, let me find out and get back to you. It’s better than dead air, and it’s honest and direct, and I think that it makes the company more human, which is another thing that we talk about a lot here.

Andy Beal:                  Right, and if we’re talking about the whole be transparent, then if you’re gonna do that for somebody, tell them how long it’s gonna take to track that down and say, well, I need to speak to the VP of x, y, z, he’s in a meeting right now. I should hopefully get to speak to him in the next 30 minutes, and then remember that if that timeline goes by and you’ve not got back to them, chime in and just say, hey still waiting to hear, might be another 20 minutes or so, soon as I hear, I’ll keep you updates.

Andy Beal:                  Because a lot of companies, they post too many things that are like, we’re investigating this and as soon as we know we’ll get back to you, but they don’t give you a timeline, and then when hours go by, they’ve not done anything to update you, they’re still actively working on it.

Erin Jones:                  Right, and it prevents the customer from coming back in 15 minutes when you know that it’s gonna take you three hours, so it prevents some of that back and forth that may not need to happen.

Andy Beal:                  All right, so the next point is that they said to be respectful, and by that they’re basically reminding you to be respectful of your social media actions, and quote, unquote, they may reflect on our company and your fellow team members, and they say that you should treat others with respect and dignity.

Erin Jones:                  I like that, and I like that they also said it’s okay to share your opinions, but do so in a way that treats others with respect and dignity. So they’re not saying dilute who you are, or don’t be yourself, but just remember that you are dealing with a customer here, and you are a representative of our brand, so be kind.

Erin Jones:                  You know, and that’s kind of the lesson that I feel like everybody could take away from.

Andy Beal:                  Yeah, absolutely. Show compassion to any customer that’s facing an issue, or even if you don’t know all the facts, just kind of, basically think about being in their shoes, and so be respectful and show compassion. Another thing I would say is, just because you see that there is a complaint going on or an argument going on about a particular company issue, and you work for that company, don’t feel like you have to dive into that argument or that discussion if it’s not your normal role to do that.

Andy Beal:                  Because, that may not be something that is helpful for the company, and it may be something that gets you into a lot of hot water. Now, that is completely different if somebody approaches you because they know you work for the company, so even if it’s not your responsibility, but a friend, an associate, or just somebody searching social media, sees that you work for the company, and they approach you, then you still need to be part of that conversation and obviously show respect and compassion.

Erin Jones:                  Absolutely. You know, we’ve, again, talked a lot about how people don’t just clock out at five o’clock anymore. If you’re being a representative for your brand, you’re kind of always that representative for your brand. So, if somebody does approach you with a question, even if you can’t answer it, directing them to the right place to find the answer, or just taking a minute to try and help them out, really goes a long way both in their opinion of you as a person and in their opinion of the company.

Andy Beal:                  Right. You may not get paid for it, you may not get an attaboy, attagirl, from it, but can you imagine if someone approaches you and you actually got out of your way? You’re off the clock, but you know how to get the answer or resolve the issue to their face very quickly, and you do so, and nobody officially knows about it, but you know what? The customer is so thrilled that you were proactive like that in helping them, that they then take the time to tweet to or message to you employer and say, “hey, John Doe, Jane Doe, whatever you wanna call them, is amazing because they helped me fix this issue I had within a few minutes, and kudos to them.”

Andy Beal:                  That will go a long way to you getting recognition from your company for helping out.

Erin Jones:                  Absolutely. And, not only that, I’m gonna get a little bit woo-y for a second, but, that promotion of good will is contagious. So, you know, you’re putting that good out there and that positive energy out there, and you never know where it’s gonna take it. Instead of ruining someone’s day or making them frustrated, you’re uplifting them, so what bad is gonna come from that?

Andy Beal:                  I always say that you should absolutely assume that someone that’s complaining is probably having the worst day of their life, and maybe even overreacting. Because I’ve seen it first hand where I’ve had people contact me, and they seem really gruff and they’re making accusations that are not true, not substantiated, couldn’t possibly happen, and instead of getting really defensive, I get really compassionate and try to really help and find out that they just got fired yesterday, or they’ve got a child in hospital, and they’re just having a really rough time.

Andy Beal:                  So, now, it’s just always a good idea to assume that somebody that’s complaining to you has got other things going on, perhaps having the worst day of their life, and don’t get ultra defensive right away. Just show that you’re a company that cares, and you wanna get to the bottom of this, you wanna ask questions, you wanna find out what the issue is, and then you work hard to either help them or maybe explain the situation that’s not something technically true.

Andy Beal:                  But yeah, just assume they’re having a rough day, and maybe you’ll turn it around for them and they’ll become your biggest advocate.

Erin Jones:                  And you know, I have found that people that do start out the most frustrated, if I can turn them around, usually end up being the biggest evangelists for the company. You know, if they’re not afraid to make noise when they’re unhappy, they’re probably likely to also make noise if you make their day.

Andy Beal:                  Absolutely. You bang on a drum wrong, it’s gonna make a loud noise. You bang on a drum really well, it’s gonna make a beautiful loud noise. But it’s gonna make a loud noise, either way. You’re absolutely right, Erin. Those that kind of take the time to be vocal on social media because they’re unhappy, pretty good chance that if you make them really happy and you do so ’cause you’re looking at this and saying, okay these people are really active on social media and they’re really loud, I’m gonna assume that, that will continue to the case.

Andy Beal:                  So I’m gonna go over and above to make them happy, and make sure that this is not only resolved but maybe I put in a little bit of incentive or compensation, then you’re absolutely right. Guess what. That person may turn into a really loud, beautiful sound that says nothing but good things about your brand.

Erin Jones:                  Exactly.

Andy Beal:                  All right, number three. So, American Airlines is suggesting that you be responsible. And, this is the quote, “Don’t show proprietary, confidential, nonpublic information or content that you may have access to or hear about from other team members.”

Andy Beal:                  So, you know, they just don’t want you to just dish information. They don’t want you to talk behind the company’s back, they don’t want you to share secrets. We still don’t know whether they want you to leak memos or not, or otherwise this information wouldn’t get out there, but they just want you to be responsible.

Andy Beal:                  And I say that when you are an employee of the company, act like you have ownership in that company. Now, that ownership may not be stock, it may not be any kind of interest in it financially, but you may have sweat equity in the company, because your actions all add up to the success or failure of the company, and so, if you act responsibly, as American Airlines is suggesting, and be guarded, don’t give away informations not public, just always act like you’re the CEO and say, okay, with this help the company or would this hurt us if I revealed this?

Erin Jones:                  Agreed. And, you know, this makes me think of a training that you did actually a long time ago in competitive intelligence. You know, people are really unaware of what little tidbits they give out can add up to a whole lot of information when put together, so I found this one really interesting, because I think that this is definitely a balancing act.

Erin Jones:                  And you know, obviously they don’t want anybody giving away big secrets, but then there may be little things too, that people wanna be careful, a bit more discreet about.

Andy Beal:                  Yeah, and be the eyes and ears of the company. You don’t have to be the mouthpiece, you don’t have to be vocal. But if you’re on social media, you can watch what’s being shared, you can listen to what’s being discussed, and if you see something that’s being leaked, something confidential that’s being discussed, you don’t have to be the one that chimes in, you don’t have to be the one that speaks up.

Andy Beal:                  You can be the one that goes to the appropriate person in your company, whether that’s a small business and you’re going straight to the owner, or whether that’s a 14500 company, and you’re going to someone in, you know, the communications department or the legal department, wherever it may be, and just say, hey, I came across this tweet, or I know we’re not really active on Instagram, but I saw this screenshot share, you guys may wanna know about it because it’s something we may want to take action on.

Andy Beal:                  So you can be responsible in a way that helps the company without you actually having to be so active on that social media channel. You can just be the eyes and ears.

Erin Jones:                  Absolutely, and that kind of information can be invaluable. You know, if that’s a channel that’s not being monitored, you could make a huge difference for your company.

Andy Beal:                  Yeah, you can, there’s lots of examples that are out there of individuals that are not necessarily major stars, but they can do something that’s a big help to that company. All right, so number four, they suggest this is kind of an also ran. I was just reading the article, I don’t know if this is an official part, but they also suggested that your as an employee of the company should be aware.

Andy Beal:                  So that means it’s a reminder that anyone can see your posts, including the media. So they just want you to know that anything you talk about online could be watched. That goes for your personal posts, too, so even if they’re unrelated to the company, they could still reflect badly on the company.

Andy Beal:                  Now, they could reflect positively, too, but the concern here is that you post a photo of you playing beer pong and completely drunk, or maybe at some kind of political rally that goes against what your company stands for, whatever it may be, rightly or wrongly, they want you just to be aware that your posts can be shared and seen by customers, shareholders, members of the media, and bloggers. Just about everybody.

Erin Jones:                  Absolutely, and this one is the only point that I had a little bit of disagreement on. Part of the policy mentioned that they should utilize their privacy settings to determine how much information is accessible to the public, I would caution people to never assume that anything is not available to the public.

Andy Beal:                  Oh, right, absolutely.

Erin Jones:                  We see countless, time and time again, well I thought it was private, it was a private email. No, nothing is private on the internet. You should always assume that, that information is public and that it can get out there, even if you’re joking, someone might take your tone incorrectly.

Erin Jones:                  I saw a thing online that said, like, dance like no one is watching but email like it may be read aloud in a deposition.

Andy Beal:                  Yeah.

Erin Jones:                  You know, you just don’t know. So I would really caution people to make sure that they’re not putting anything out there that they don’t want as part of their public image, let alone their company’s public image.

Andy Beal:                  Yeah, but I would say that considering all the video channels that are out there, you should probably also dance like somebody is gonna watch you at some point. I mean, this is why you don’t find me dancing, because I can’t dance and there are plenty of Smartphones out there now that could capture that horrific attempt at dancing. I look like the polio dynamite when I dance.

Erin Jones:                  You know, I met up with a friend a couple days ago from high school and we were joking about how lucky we are that social media wasn’t really a thing in the 90s because we might not have the jobs that we have today if it had been.

Andy Beal:                  Oh, absolutely, yeah. I mean, we are very blessed that people weren’t able to pull out a video camera and take video and then post it within seconds, because that would’ve been bad for a lot of us. But I’m always of the belief that you know, this is something that causes chaos now, but in a few years, as the years go on, and we’re already seeing it.

Andy Beal:                  Things that initially were something bad for someone’s reputation, they’ve become diluted, people have become numb to it, because they see them over and over again. So, even, example, I just threw one out there a few minutes ago, like a photo of you at a beer pong game.

Andy Beal:                  Well, five, six, 10 years ago, that might’ve caused some issues, but now, people would be like, well, did you win? You know, which company lets you play beer pong? That sounds awesome. So, you know, our perspective has changed, our perception has changed, and that will continue to happen, because as technology becomes more readily available and we’re sharing stuff online, we don’t become as outraged or surprised when we see something posted, because we’ve just become used to it, because Twitter and Facebook, for the most part, they actively encourage it, a lot of times.

Erin Jones:                  I agree, and they’re everywhere now. Like you said, you can’t really dance like nobody’s watching anymore, because someone is always watching.

Andy Beal:                  And that leads me to our last point. So, Erin and I kind of gave this some thought about, well, what else would we add to these guidelines? And I would add that you should be yourself. So, your personality is part of a larger [inaudible 00:18:00] of the company’s personality.

Andy Beal:                  So, let it shine, let it be out there. Part of the reason why I don’t like comprehensive social media policies and handbooks, is because it can turn you into a robot. It turns you into this conditioned person that has certain things they can say, certain things they cannot say, how to act, and it turns you into this autonomous robot that’s just like everybody else in the company.

Andy Beal:                  And so, a company’s reputation hinges on who they hire, how hard they work, how well they treat a customer, whether it’s online or offline. So, let your personality be, let it shine, not only let the public and the customers see who you are and what value you’re creating, but let your employer see it, too.

Andy Beal:                  So that’s my additional, what di you have Erin?

Erin Jones:                  I agree, mine was similar, it was use good judgment. And I’m advising that both on the employee side and on the employer side. I think that if American takes the time to hire good people, make them way to be good representatives of the brand and let them know that they’re appreciated, then those employees are going to go out of their way to make the company good look in return, because they do have a stake in the company, whether it be their paycheck, their benefits, or their future employment.

Erin Jones:                  So I think it has to go both ways for it to work well.

Andy Beal:                  Yeah, I agree. And now, hopefully these guidelines, these just four simple guidelines with a few comments, hopefully that is the result of the fact that American Airlines is, highest people with personality and highest people with drive, and that are helpful, and that contribute to the reputation of the company.

Andy Beal:                  So, that they don’t have to have a whole ton of policies, ’cause they’re not hiring rebels or people that are gonna be vocal and different and against the policies and the personality that American Airlines is building.

Erin Jones:                  Definitely, and before long, they’ll have a reputation for having, you know, great friendly employees, that go out of their way to help out.

Andy Beal:                  Absolutely. And, kudos to American Airlines, you know. We often have stories about airlines that are not positive in any way, but good job for them to send this out to their employees, whether or not it was intentionally leaked or not, it made it to the media, and we’re excited about a company that’s doing this kind of stuff, and hopefully that’ll help American Airlines to build a good reputation, and maybe they’ll then have a story that shows up in social media that’s not delayed flights or missing baggage, or pets that aren’t in health, or passengers in some airlines dragged and beaten.

Andy Beal:                  So hopefully this is good for American Airline, [inaudible 00:20:51].

Erin Jones:                  I’m rooting for them. It is time for an airline to come out on top.

Andy Beal:                  There you go. Well, we’ll end it there. We’d love to get your feedback, you can go to our Facebook page, Andy Beal ORM, or you can go to andybeal.com, and just leave a comment on the relevant post for this podcast. If you have any questions, or if there’s a topic you’d like us to cover, then we’d love to hear from you about that as well.

Andy Beal:                  Erin, thank you for chiming in and adding a lot of valuable contribution to this story.

Erin Jones:                  Thank you so much for having me.

Andy Beal:                  And thank you guys for listening, we hope you’ve enjoyed it, and you’ll tune in again, next time. Thanks a lot, and bye-bye.

#54 – IHOP changes brand to IHOb and becomes this week’s Reputation Burgermaker (see what we did there?)


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There’s a lot of meat on this reputation story, so Erin and I will cook it up fresh and help you digest the tasty and not so tasty ingredients to IHOP’s rebrand to IHOb.

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

  • IHOP teased us.
  • IHOP revealed its new brand.
  • Competitors chimed in.
  • Was it a reputation win or loss? Tune in to find out!

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:                  Welcome back, and we’re gonna serve up a hot and pressed story this week. In fact, it’s the house special, because we’re gonna talk about IHOP, which as you may know, stands for International House of Pancakes.

Andy Beal:                  Except that, they recently announced a change to the brand and they’re gonna be called IHOB, with a B, because they’re gonna be the International House of Burgers, which is kind of strange, and just kind of fill in the backstory a little bit.

Andy Beal:                  They first teased about the name change back at the beginning of June, and they showed the new logo, so this is kind of interesting, because it got fans and the media trying to guess why they were going to change from a P to a B, and there’s all kinds of speculation and discussion. And then on June 11th, they announced what the answer was, and that was they were gonna change their name to International House of Burgers.

Andy Beal:                  And they’ve announced seven new steak burgers, including the quote, unquote, Mega Monster, which apparently is really to compete with McDonald’s Big Mac, so they’ve announced these burgers are the highlight of their menu.

Andy Beal:                  And perhaps the reason they’ve done this is that, records show, and numbers show, that their sales have been down around 2 percent, and so maybe they’re just trying to add a new revenue stream because, maybe, the revenue from their pancakes is kind of flat.

Andy Beal:                  Okay, that was a bad joke. Okay, moving on.

Andy Beal:                  But they have hinted that this is gonna be, maybe, temporary, they’re not gonna make this a permanent brand. Maybe just a few weeks, they have not really said for sure. And they do actually still have both Twitter accounts, so it looks like they’ll eventually switch back.

Andy Beal:                  But in the meantime, well, social media has gone absolutely crazy, hasn’t it Erin?

Speaker 4:                  It has absolutely gone, absolutely crazy. I have seen some incredibly amusing tweets. You know, hearing that this is a brilliant marketing campaign, I’m still not positive, you know? I think brilliant marketing is if it sells hamburgers, which seems to be their ultimate goal, so I think it still has yet to be seen.

Speaker 4:                  I think they’re gonna sell more pancakes from this, but I don’t know that I would be going to IHOP for a burger.

Andy Beal:                  Yeah, it’s interesting. Well, to be honest with you, I don’t know if I would go to IHOP for a pancake. I’ve only maybe been there once in the last 10, 15 years. So, it’s interesting that, you know, this has really helped them to build up some buzz, even just the teasing of the new name got people talking about them.

Andy Beal:                  And it makes you wonder, how many people are gonna head out there to check out these hamburgers? Because, you know, there may be a lot of people that don’t even consider going out there for a pancake, and yet you got their competitors that are in the burger space, just kind of teasing them a little bit.

Andy Beal:                  Wendy’s tweeted, “Remember when you were like seven and thought that changing your name to Thunder Bear Sword would be super cool? Like that, our cheeseburgers are still better.” And then Burger King even went as far as changing their name to Pancake King, which was hilarious.

Speaker 4:                  It was, and I loved the Wendy’s tweet that said, “We’re not really afraid of the burgers from a place that decided pancakes were too hard.” You know, Wendy’s social media is fantastic. I know we’ve discussed that in the past, but they’ve really, really been the real MVP here.

Andy Beal:                  You know, it’s interesting, though. I did a little bit of digging around, ’cause I was curious. I’m like, well, you know, you’ve got, Wendy’s, Burger King, Waffle House said they’re not gonna change, Whataburger said we’re never changing our name to “Whatapancake”. So, I kinda dug around their menus, and you know, Burger King offers pancakes at breakfast.

Andy Beal:                  And Wendy’s doesn’t offer pancakes currently right now, at least, not in the US, but overseas, you can get these really kind of, lame looking pancakes that I wouldn’t spend money on, so it’s kind of interesting that they’re teasing IHOP and saying, you know, you shouldn’t be in the burger business, when they dipped their toe in the breakfast business.

Andy Beal:                  So it’s kind of, I don’t know, I think that they’re mostly just trying to jump on this bandwagon and get a little bit of the publicity that IHOP’s picking up from this.

Speaker 4:                  I agree, and, you know, the words are coming from the far corners of the internet. This has really perked up people all over the place, mostly at IHOP’s expense, but I would really be surprised if just the awareness didn’t increase their pancake sales, if nothing else.

Andy Beal:                  Yeah, I mean, I’ve looked back, at the different campaigns. Things that we’ve talked about. So, if we pull out brands like McDonald’s, Superbowl commercials, Burger King, Wendy’s, is really good at being tongue and cheek.

Andy Beal:                  Even negative stories, things like that, there’s a lot of buzz. Lot of discussion that goes on out there, but my first, and immediate reaction to all of this was, like, how often do we hear about IHOP? I mean, you know, when I was doing my research and I saw that Waffle House kind of chimed in and said that they know their roots, I’m like, oh yeah, there’s a Waffle House, too. You never hear about them.

Andy Beal:                  So hear about how much buzz this is creating for them. It kind of reminds me a little bit of when Kmart did their campaign, many years ago, called Ship my Pants, and it went viral. Great videos, that created a lot of buzz.

Andy Beal:                  But then the speculation was, well how much is this gonna actually help them to increase their revenue? And there’s been, a number of them have been like that, but you still gotta think this is gonna bring awareness, maybe even help them build a brand.

Andy Beal:                  ‘Cause I have never seen a memorable IHOP commercial. I know they do the ones with, like, their featured flavors of the month, and those sometimes make me drool a little bit, but they’re even running TV campaigns right now, to push this branding change, and to kind of, like, promote their burgers.

Andy Beal:                  So they’ve really stepped up that brand awareness, and we don’t know if that’s gonna transpire into more revenue, and increase sales, but I’m not seeing anything too negative from this. I mean, there is a little bit of negative sentiment out there.

Speaker 4:                  There is, and you know, I think that, this may be a little bit out of touch with, I don’t know if I wanna say current culture or popularity. I feel like they kind of missed the mark by really focusing on burgers.

Speaker 4:                  If they had turned to International House of Bacon, I feel like, their target market, which I don’t know where you are, but you see a lot of college students, they’re late at night having pancakes, or very, very early in the morning. I feel like bacon would have been a great thing to capitalize on, because, you mentioned earlier that they’re trying to compete with the Big Mac.

Speaker 4:                  Like, their biggest burger is competing with the Big Mac, I feel like they could have aimed higher there.

Andy Beal:                  Yeah, and I think you’re right. Is it really a good product to focus on? I mean, just about everywhere you go sells hamburgers. I mean, it’s not like you’ve come with, a particular product that is gonna set you apart.

Andy Beal:                  You are now trying to compete with the burger chains that only focus on that, and maybe, create really tasty hamburgers, but you know, yeah, you can go to TGI Fridays, you can go to Applebee’s, you can get a pretty good hamburger there, too. So, what’s really helping you here?

Andy Beal:                  That’s definitely a valid criticism. But, I think that you’re right. I think they could have gone with bacon. Heck, they could have gone with avocado, I don’t know. They could have gone with something that would have set them apart and they still, I think, did a really good job of putting the teaser out there, changing the brand, getting the publicity, kind of putting a little dig in the ribs of these burger chains that have now made them the focus on their attention.

Andy Beal:                  And I think that’s all building into some good hype for them. And I know that you were kind of on the fence, but I’m kind of feeling this is a winner in terms of reputation wise.

Speaker 4:                  I like it. I just am not sure if the overall sentiment is positive, or if it’s positively mocking them. You know, I’m going back and forth a little bit. I would like to see, in two months, what has happened with their sales over the last year. You know, that’s gonna really sell me.

Speaker 4:                  I think that it’s fun, I think that it was a great plan, I just think they could have done better.

Andy Beal:                  Okay, yeah. So, I’ve kind of split it up between, I’ve got some bullet points here I’m gonna kind of talk through. I’m a fan of this, I think it’s a big winner.

Andy Beal:                  So I’ve got a big list of things that I think they’re gonna get from this that are positive, but I have pulled out a handful of negatives from this. So let’s start with the positives. Let me just go through this list and then we’ll, kind of, get your thoughts on it.

Andy Beal:                  So why do I think that this is a reputation winner? First of all, they did a great job with the teaser. So, not only did that build speculation, but it got feedback for them. Because, everybody was guessing and giving them answers, and tweeting to them about what that B could stand with them.

Andy Beal:                  And just as you highlighted bacon, they probably got a ton of insights from their fans, as to what they might hope to get. Now, think about how that could then trigger a future campaign. If a lot of people did ask for bacon, and they didn’t get it, because IHOP already committed to burgers, than maybe a future campaign could be surrounding bacon.

Andy Beal:                  So they’ve kind of gotten some free research there.

Speaker 4:                  Ooh.

Andy Beal:                  Well, bear with me. I’ll go through these and then you can make notes and tell me what you agree or disagree with.

Andy Beal:                  Okay, so the launch, wasn’t just on social media. So they’ve changed their name, they changed the logo, and they’re running TV ads. So, this is, was, some brands just do a social media campaign, and it’s limited to that buzz that you and I see a lot of because we’re on social media a lot.

Andy Beal:                  But IHOP has gone to different channels as well. Now, number three on my list. Facebook does show that this is mixed sentiment. And we’ve talked about, you know, a lot of criticism. And if you look at their initial announcement, I went to Facebook, ’cause Facebook is one of the few places where you can actually look at the emoji icons, get an idea of what people actually think as opposed to just hitting like.

Andy Beal:                  So, the initial announcement on Facebook was mostly negative. But, if you look at the reactions to their cover photo, which is the new logo. I’m sorry, the cover photo is just burgers, and then the profile photo shows the new logo.

Andy Beal:                  You actually can see that it’s mostly likes, and mostly positive, maybe laughing, but it’s not as much negative that shows up there.

Andy Beal:                  Alright, number four. Everyone is talking about this now. Most of it is sarcasm, but it’s also generally light hearted criticism. It’s not a big reputation crisis for them, it’s not like they’re now putting out fires. There’s a lot of ribbing going on, and a lot of sarcasm, but overall, it’s either tongue in cheek or it’s positive, but it’s not really like crushing their reputation.

Andy Beal:                  Number five. Now, this one is kind of interesting because I do a lot of focus on Google reputation management. And, think about all these stories that are gonna flood Google. And this is actually gonna insulate IHOP, should they ever actually have a reputation crisis. Because now, their search results on Google are gonna be flooded with this kind of story, and compared to, maybe a salmonella breakout, this kind of story being dominate in the social results is actually gonna be a lot better than some other major crisis that could show in the future.

Andy Beal:                  And, lastly, they’ll get to see if new customers are actually interested in tasting the burgers, and we already speculated. Are people actually gonna go there to try the burgers? Are people even gonna think to themselves, you know what? I like their pancakes, I’m gonna head over there.

Andy Beal:                  So, that’s my list of why I think this is a winner. Anything jump out at you? Anything you disagree with?

Speaker 4:                  First of all, I love the list. And I like the secondary perspective you took, because I definitely hadn’t considered the insulation against future attacks, and I think that’s brilliant, and I hope that they considered that too. You know, we may never know. I think that, there are gonna be a few things riding on the success of this.

Speaker 4:                  First of all, if they set expectations accordingly. You know, if people are going in expecting an IHOP burger, and they get an IHOP burger, than I think they’ll be in good shape. But if they’re going in expecting a over the top, gourmet, experience, you know, that’s not gonna happen.

Speaker 4:                  Saying that McDonald’s is their main competition, expectations seem to be set accordingly. So, really, I think, I saw a post on Facebook yesterday that said, they need to stay in their lane, and I think that, even changing food, as long as they continue to maintain expectations for what level dining experience they are, that I do think they will be in pretty good shape.

Speaker 4:                  My children love IHOP, I have two young kids, and they think that going to IHOP for pancakes is super exciting and fun, so will I order a burger next time we go? Not likely, but it will keep them top of mind, and I think that, that, with school being out and it being summer, that that’s a good place to be.

Andy Beal:                  Yeah. Now, you make an interesting point about the burgers and stuff, because that leads, let me roll into my, I have three point for why this is not a good idea, or why this could hurt them. And one is, there’s not really much of an incentive for going to try the burgers now.

Andy Beal:                  So, like you said, comparing yourself to a Big Mac. Now, Big Macs are tasty, but they’re not the most gourmet, delicious burger you’ve ever had, so you’re not really creating an incentive to go try these burgers.

Andy Beal:                  And, I would have thought, as well, that they would have set, maybe a shorter timeline for this branding change. Because, we don’t know when it’s gonna end, so I would have said, hey, this is two weeks only. We’re gonna be the IHOB, and if you come in and get a hamburger, you’re gonna get this, this, and this, or we’re also gonna throw in a free dessert.

Andy Beal:                  I think they’re doing unlimited fries, so there’s something there, but there’s just no reason to go in and try this right now. And, why would they try it later? Why would somebody wait for later? So, I don’t know if this is really creating an urgency or much of an incentive to go in and try them.

Andy Beal:                  I also noticed that they have not secured the domain name IHOB.com. It actually goes to some holding page owned by somebody else. And if you’re going to use a brand for a campaign, you have to register that. Now, you may not remember this, I know Erin will probably remember this, but listeners won’t.

Andy Beal:                  So, I own the software company, Tracker, and few years ago, we did a Halloween promotion, and we actually had Trackula. And, T-R-A-C-K-U-L-A. So, I had this hand puppet that looked like a Muppet, and we did this little campaign, we did videos.

Andy Beal:                  I even had the domain name, I had the Twitter account, we changed the logo. So, IHOP has done some of that, but I would’ve thought, if you’re gonna do a new brand, at least get the domain name and redirect it so that people are like really convinced that you’re putting an effort into this.

Speaker 4:                  Definite.

Andy Beal:                  Yeah, go ahead.

Speaker 4:                  Oh, no, I was just gonna piggy back off that and say, you know, they started out with really, really good congruence between channels, and then just kind of fell off right there.

Andy Beal:                  Yeah, and we’re big fans of congruence, if you look back at our episodes, we talked about that.

Andy Beal:                  Lastly, they did get a lot of buzz from this. I don’t know how much of it’s gonna stick, but they also shared a lot of this buzz. It’s really, if you look at this, the buzz is circulating the burger industry in general. So, yeah, IHOP is getting a little bit of biz by doing this branding, but Wendy’s is jumping out as being the hot and fresh burgers, and Burger King is kind of chiming in and tongue in cheek, so this is kind of helping the entire burger industry, and it makes you wonder that, when people look at this and they start craving a burger, they may, as we already said, probably not gonna be an IHOP burger.

Andy Beal:                  They’re gonna go to a particular restaurant. Here in Raleigh, it’s a char grill burger. I mean, if you are in the triangle, or if you ever visit Raleigh, give me a call. I will take you to Char Grill and let you decide for yourself if this is a better burger than what IHOP is offering.

Speaker 4:                  I love it, and I feel the same way. I do like the positive energy that’s come from this, it’s been a really nice distraction from some of the more depressing news, you know? The news cycle lately has been a little bit redundant and just not very uplifting, so if nothing else comes from this, it’s been really fun.

Speaker 4:                  But I agree with you, there is nothing better than a small, local burger joint, if you want a good, even fast food burger.

Andy Beal:                  Yeah, we’ll leave that on the note that, hey, even small businesses can have a better reputation than these large, multi million dollar companies. So hopefully you’ve got some tips from this for any campaigns that you wanna do, but also know that, hey, being a small, local burger joint is probably the way to go, and you’re probably still gonna do a lot more business than this IHOB is.

Andy Beal:                  And we’ll see how long it takes them to change back. So, thanks for tuning in. Hopefully you appreciated that. If you have any questions or any feedback, please go to our Facebook page, /andybealorm, or just go to andybeal.com, find the post for this podcast episode, and just leave us a comment, we’d love to hear from you.

Andy Beal:                  Maybe give your thoughts on, well, maybe you’ve even tried the burger and you can tell us what you think of it. Erin, I don’t know about you, but, I’m not in a rush to go to IHOP to get a burger, but I appreciate you chiming in and joining me this week.

Speaker 4:                  I feel the same way. Thank you so much for having me.

Andy Beal:                  And we appreciate you guys listening, we hope you’ll join us again nice time. Thanks a lot, and bye-bye.

#53 – The importance of offline and online reputation congruence


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Does your business operate online and offline? Try not to let your reputation be Jekyll and Hyde.

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

  • We look at examples of how businesses have split reputation personalities due to operating online and offline.

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:                  Thank you for joining us. We have an exciting show this week. We’re going to focus on one particular topic. Erin and I have been talking about the importance of having some congruence between your online channels and your offline channels, because there shouldn’t be a whole lot of difference between your online reputation and your offline reputation. That’s something that we’ve discussed before, but we thought we’d go into more detail today. Erin has a really good example that she went through, so she’s going to share that, and then we’re going to dive in.

Erin Jones:                  Yeah, thanks Andy. We recently decided to put in a massive garden at our house, and I know very little about gardening, so we’ve been doing a lot of online ordering at Home Depot, and then going in and doing in-store pickup. Basically, my husband will put an order together of everything we need, and when I’m out and about, I go grab it. It seems pretty simple, right?

Andy Beal:                  Yeah.

Erin Jones:                  Well, the last three times we’ve put in orders, we’ve gotten a confirmation email, and they say, “We’ll notify you when your order is ready,” and then you go grab it. I’ve gotten notification that my order is ready. I get to the store. I go to the pickup desk and tell them I’m there to pick up my order, and I get complete deer in the headlights stare. The last three times, the order hadn’t even been picked. One time before that, they tried to give me an order that wasn’t mine, just because one item was the same thing.

Erin Jones:                  You know, it’s really frustrating for me, because they made the online experience so simple and streamlined, and then completely dropped the ball, when you get to the local store. I asked one of the desk agents. I just said, “Does this email automatically go out after a certain amount of time? Is that why I’m getting an email saying it’s ready, even though you guys haven’t been able to catch up?”

Erin Jones:                  She said, “No, we have to trigger that email,” and then again, nothing. It’s been a little bit frustrating. I have to give them credit. Every time this has happened, they’ve scrambled and gotten my things together quickly, but in the same amount of time, I could’ve gone and picked all of those items myself. It defeats the purpose of making my life easier, when I’m traveling with small children and things. It just really got me thinking about how you can have a great online experience, and if the in-store experience isn’t just as great, it completely devalues your brand, or vice versa.

Andy Beal:                  Mm-hmm (affirmative), yeah, because Home Depot is a brand that resonates with a lot of folks, especially me, as a place where I go out to on a weekend with a shopping cart, a literal shopping cart, and pick out the items that I need, and then pay for them, and then pile them in the back of the car and go home. I wonder whether or not they’re so used to that, that they’ve dived into the online space, but are still trying to play catch-up in terms of offering that excellent experience that you get, because you walk into a Home Depot store, somebody hands me a shopping cart and asks me if I need help with anything, and I’ve only taken a few feet inside the store. Yet, here you are, placing an online order, which comes across as a similar kind of experience, but a complete disconnect between their offline and online retail experience.

Erin Jones:                  Absolutely. Everyone, like I said, they’ve been friendly. They’ve taken care of things, but the right hand is not communicating with the left at all. They don’t know how the system works. They don’t understand what the process looks like, so I’m sure they’re also frustrated with the system, because they’re getting frustrated customers, and they don’t really understand what’s happening.

Erin Jones:                  This is a great example of really letting your employees in on the secrets. How does this work? What’s going on? What can be expected when it happens? It really brings in that whole continuity and consistency. I feel like we talk about that a lot, how critical it is in managing a reputation, both online and in person, and there’s a huge disconnect here.

Andy Beal:                  Yeah, and I think also there is a … The size of your company dictates how well automated this process is. Home Depot, obviously a large company. I know that Best Buy doesn’t always have the best experience, but certainly whenever I’ve bought something online, and I wait for that notification that it’s ready to pick up, I go in. I go to a special desk, and they grab it, and I’m out the door really fast. They’ve done a really good job with that experience, probably because they’re more high tech than maybe Home Depot.

Andy Beal:                  Then, I think that a lot of small companies have to be aware that if they offer any kind of online ordering, even if it’s a simple email form where they request a specific bouquet of flowers to be ready or something like that, you have to keep in mind that when people shop online, they have a super fast expectation of just receiving the email, confirming the order, getting confirmation that it’s shipping, and even the shipping speed. I think a lot of that is, well, let’s talk about a little bit Amazon, because Amazon has configured us all to expect super fast shipping and super fast shipping speeds. I think that’s set the mindset for a lot of customers that, whenever they do anything online, they’re expecting that offline.

Andy Beal:                  Then, for small businesses, you’ve got to connect. How do you treat your customers when they do come into your physical store, your physical location. You’re usually really friendly, quick to help. You’ll run around, pick out the product for them, show them where to go. They have that, especially if they know you and they shop with you, they have that and expect that same kind of experience. They have that mindset that they’re going to get that same experience online, and often companies just are disjointed. They don’t have that connection.

Erin Jones:                  Absolutely, and sometimes it goes in reverse with small businesses. You get a great in-store experience, and then you message them on Facebook and get a very seemingly surly, two-sentence reply, because they may not be as well-versed technologically. It’s that middle piece right there that, whatever you’re giving them online, you need to be giving them offline, as well.

Erin Jones:                  I had a really great experience this morning, actually. I was in a local Facebook group, and there was a mobile auto detailer that was offering a special, so I messaged them and said, “Hey, I’m going on a road trip in a couple days, and I would love it if you guys could get me in. I know this is last minute.” They contacted me via text message immediately, and the voice that they spoke to me in personally was exactly the same as the voice that they used in the public forum. It was just really nice, because I felt like I was talking to the same person through the whole experience. I’m guessing that’s going to be exactly the same when they show up.

Erin Jones:                  It can be done. It’s being done really well by a lot of brands. I just think that we’ve got to be really mindful of making sure that that experience has that continuity all the way through the process.

Andy Beal:                  Yeah, there’s a number of things here. First of all, provide that same level of support. I think that a lot of people will … They sign up for all the social media channels, and then they get an inquiry, but they just basically bunt it and just say, “Hey, call us,” and they don’t want to interact with you on Twitter or Facebook. They just want you to call them.

Andy Beal:                  I think a lot of companies, big or small, need to realize that just because there’s a popular social media channel doesn’t mean that it’s something that you need to engage with. For example, if somebody were trying to reach me on Snapchat, trying to reach one of my companies on Snapchat, that’s never going to reach me. I’m never going to know because, yeah, it’s a popular social network, but it’s not popular with my audience. Don’t just sign up for everything just because you want to secure it. If you’re not going to be active there, because your customers are not generally active there, there’s no point having a presence there. Stick to the channels where they will engage with you. If it’s Twitter, you’re active on Twitter. If it’s Facebook and you’ve got a group that you’re a part of, be on Facebook.

Erin Jones:                  Absolutely. Something you said caught my attention there. You said, if you’re not there, that there’s not going to be engagement there. If the bulk of your audience is somewhere that you’re not, you may want to consider getting there-

Andy Beal:                  Absolutely.

Erin Jones:                  Or getting someone who’s well-versed in that arena to help you there.

Andy Beal:                  Yeah, and then that’s why we talk about the centers of influence, because you’ve got to find where are your potential customers? Where are your existing customers? That’s where you need to be. It doesn’t necessarily have to be Twitter or Facebook, if they are, in fact, on Snapchat, if they are on LinkedIn. In fact, I was browsing through a bank’s website today, and they ask you to connect with them on LinkedIn to get updates, which is really rare, because most people will promote Twitter or Facebook, but this was for a business bank that probably understood that it’s more likely to connect and engage with prospects and customers via LinkedIn than it is by Facebook or Twitter.

Erin Jones:                  Right. I would love to see how they’re executing that. I think that this always comes back to your employees. If you’re giving them the tools that they need to interact with your audience, it’s going to be a great experience for everyone. If you’ve only … Especially with small businesses, if the owner and only the owner is trying to run a business, manage the social media, handle the customer service, it can be too much, and it can be really draining. If you’re not enjoying those interactions, it comes across to the customer.

Erin Jones:                  Give your employees an opportunity to help you out, and if your employees are not equipped to do that, bring in a professional. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with hiring someone to help you figure out how to either navigate those channels or how to interact with your audience, so that you’re conveying the same personality or persona for your brand in any channel that you’re on.

Andy Beal:                  Yeah, it used to be that hiring somebody to handle your online customer service was optional or at least considered optional, but now it’s an integral part of your business. You have to have somebody that engages online with potential customers in the same manner, the same tone, the same level of support as you provide offline. You’ve got to provide that congruence there, too. Now, do you have to hire somebody that only does that. The answer is no.

Andy Beal:                  I like the E-myth Revisited way of looking at this, and that is, your company has different roles, different hats for people to wear. Now, if you, as the owner, can wear the hat that provides online customers support, that’s great, but you’ve got to put it on. It doesn’t sit there and gather dust. Now, if you grow enough, and you see a lot of engagement online, and you then decide to hire somebody specific, that’s fine. You then hand that hat to them and let them do it. The key thing is here, somebody has to do online engagement, because even if you are just a brick and mortar store, you’ve got to realize that most people will research you online. There may be people complaining online. There may be people sharing great reviews on Google or Yelp, and so you have to have that engagement. You have to be there. It’s no longer something that’s optional depending on how much business you do online. Your business is online.

Erin Jones:                  Definitely. Now, let me ask you your opinion on something, Andy.

Andy Beal:                  Yep.

Erin Jones:                  I see a lot of split, especially with incredibly large brands. I mean, we all know that one person cannot handle all of Amazon’s customer service. That would be ridiculous to expect that. If you were consulting a brand, and they wanted to know if they should use one consistent voice or persona on their social media channels for responding to customers, or if you would rather have them have each employee have their own personality, but sign off on every response, what do you think is better for a brand?

Andy Beal:                  If they need it, then the latter, because your goal would be to start it a lot earlier than that. You’re looking to hire people and educate and train people to share in the corporate voice. What’s the style? Is it fun? Is it funky? Is it serious? Is it professional? Is it lax?

Andy Beal:                  I mean, whatever that voice is you have as a company, you’re looking to bring on people that share that excitement, share that voice, or at least get some sort of training from you, as to that’s what you expect. Then, you let all the different employees have the option to help. I’m of the mindset that I’d like to see more companies just say, “Hey, look. If you happen to be sitting at your computer with your feet up at nine o’clock at night, and you see someone ask a question, and you know our official support is closed, because it’s a holiday weekend, and you know the answer, go ahead and chime in. We’d love you to do that on a personal basis, because that provides great support.” You know that that person is part, shares somewhat in the company voice.

Andy Beal:                  I would rather them not keep it confined to a single person and say, “Okay, it’s your responsibility. Nobody else touch this.” However, if they’re a very small company, they don’t have a lot of interaction, then, yeah, sure, it’s just one person’s responsibility, and you rely on them, but, yeah, if they grow, I like the idea of letting different personalities come through, but with the understanding, not the policing. I’m not a fan of social media handbooks and policies that says you can or cannot say this, but just with the general guideline of, hey, this is the kind of personality we’re trying to build, the type of customers we attract, and then just let them interact.

Erin Jones:                  I love that. I personally trust brands more when I see employees being themselves. When people are being friendly, and they feel free to chime in and answer something, and they’re not afraid that they’re going to get in trouble or something like that, I really feel like that’s a more of a brand family than the typical corporate, “You’re here when you’re here, and when you’re not, you don’t get to do anything.” I think that’s a great response.

Andy Beal:                  Yeah, people … I think generally online, people would rather just hear from somebody quickly than rather hear from somebody professionally hours later. If you think about when you walk into a store and you ask a question or you need help, it’s rare that you’re going to wait until you can walk up to the manager, unless it’s a complaint, but you’re just going to ask somebody. It could be the person that’s sweeping the floor out back that’s really helpful and just points you in the right direction. I think that that should translate online, as well.

Andy Beal:                  Now, if you have a crisis, you still may have some initial interaction, but whether it’s online or offline, it’s like, “Oh, my gosh, I’m so sorry that happened to you. Let me have you speak to the manager, so that you can get that resolved. He should be here, or he should be online, within the next hour,” whatever the timescale is. You just still have that initial interaction, if it’s a crisis and it needs to be deferred to somebody, but I think there should always be some compassion at the outset, regardless who it is.

Erin Jones:                  I love that, and I think it gives so much more personality to the brand. This is a really rudimentary example, but it’s how … I don’t know if you have Chick-fil-A in your area, but when you walk in and everyone is smiling, and everyone is “have a nice day-ing” and “my pleasure-ing,” and telling you that they want you to have a wonderful day and smiling at you, it’s just really nice.

Andy Beal:                  That, yeah, absolutely.

Erin Jones:                  You feel welcome, and I just love that. I feel like, not to pick on Home Depot, because I do feel like they are very much that way in store, and I feel like they are very much that way online, there’s just a link missing in the chain.

Andy Beal:                  Yeah, yeah. One other thing that I wanted to talk about and recommend is I see a lot of disparity, in terms of promotional offers and pricing from stores that have an online presence and an offline presence. You really need to try and bring the two together. You need to combine the pricing and homogenize it so that it’s not more expensive one place or another.

Andy Beal:                  Let me give an example. I went into Walgreen’s just yesterday. I looked up a product online, and it was $11.99, $12.99, something like that. I thought, oh okay, that’s good. I walked into the local store, because I knew I was going to pass it, and it was $19.99. Would they have price-matched it? I don’t know, but you know what? I was thinking to myself, oh my gosh, I am not going to go through the next 15 minutes, while the employee figures out where the price is online. Can they price-match it? What do I have to prove? It should’ve just been the exact same price.

Andy Beal:                  That’s definitely something I see a lot of companies, where they’ll have an online promotion, and it’s this price, or … Costco, big fan of Costco. They have great customer service, in general, and great shipping policy, ship to store, easy returns, and all of that. Yeah, I bought a shirt there yesterday for $20, went online, and it was $14.99. I’m like, uh, this is creating a negative experience. Why are you doing this?

Erin Jones:                  Right, and it’s not enough of a discrepancy that it’s worth your time to get in your car and drive to the store and show them your phone and show them your receipt to get your $4 back, but it’s really irritating.

Andy Beal:                  And if they add up, those irritations chip away at their reputation, so you’re absolutely right. If it was half the price, ah, that’s a big deal. I’m going to be upset. If it’s just $2 or $3 here or there, it’s just, ah, it’s not enough, but if that happens on a regular basis, it’s just chipping away at their good reputation, and they need to be wary of that.

Erin Jones:                  Yeah, not only their reputation, but their trust. The whole feeling … You know, one of the reasons that people love Costco so much is that trust, and if people stop feeling that way, then the loyalty is going to fall off.

Andy Beal:                  Yeah, and then on the flip side of this, there are companies that do a great job with … You can earn their store cash promotion or a coupon or something like that. Sometimes it’s only valid in-store, but there are companies that know that they have valuable shoppers online, as well as those that come into the store, and so whether you make your purchase online or in-store, you get their cash that you can redeem either place. What comes to mind … The Gap store does a really good example of this with their Gap Cash. I’ve seen … Kohl’s does it, too. There’s some others, where it doesn’t matter where you earn it. You can redeem it either online or offline.

Erin Jones:                  Right, and it’s all one company, so I don’t understand more why places don’t do that.

Andy Beal:                  Yeah, no, there are definitely some that it’s limited to either online or offline.

Erin Jones:                  Yeah, the best is when you go into the store and tell them that you saw this deal online, and they say, “Well, that’s because they want you to buy it online. We can’t do that here.”

Andy Beal:                  Yeah.

Erin Jones:                  You know, no effort, no explanation. That’s a really good way to get me on a rant.

Andy Beal:                  Yeah, absolutely. We won’t go through that, but we’ll just … We’ll end it with a lesson that really there should be a combination between your brands. You should not … Just as you cannot have a personal brand and a corporate brand, you can’t have an offline brand and an online brand. Your reputation spreads across both, and so you need to make sure that you offer the same type of experience. If one is more extreme than the other, then you may need to figure out how you can tone it down on one end, so that you can still offer the same experience for both, whether they shop online or offline. What are your final thoughts, Erin?

Erin Jones:                  I completely agree, and I don’t think we should limit this just to retail brands. Consultants, if your customers meet a version of you online, and then you show up to their office, and you’re completely different in person, that throws everybody off their game. It messes with the trust. Really, it all goes back to that authenticity. Empower your employees. Be authentic. Yeah, just make sure that people are conveying the message that you want them to see.

Andy Beal:                  Absolutely. Well, we hope you found that useful. If there’s a specific topic that you would like us to discuss or provide advice on, please go to our Facebook page, which is facebook.com/andybealORM, or you can go to andybeal.com, find the latest podcast, and just leave a comment. We’d love to get your feedback. We’d love to get your advice, anything that you do that you think is valuable, or if you have a question that you’d like us to answer, we’d love to hear from you, as well. We will be back again soon. Erin, thank you for joining me, as always.

Erin Jones:                  Thank you, so much, for having me.

Andy Beal:                  Thank you, guys, for listening. We’ll hope you tune in again next time. Thanks a lot, and bye-bye.