Expert Roundup: Managing your online reputation during COVID-19

There is no debate that the current climate is very testing, especially for those in the travel & tourism industry. We are all adapting and working hard to make sure our businesses exist post-COVID-19.

At Parlez Creative, we want to do our bit to help companies come out of this, not just alive but lively; ready to welcome clients, both new and old, back through your doors and onto your shores!

We reached out to four people who really know their stuff regarding online marketing and they responded with some excellent advice which you can apply to your business today.

Play to your strengths and get the right help, fast!

To effectively manage your online reputation during this extraordinary time is critical and demands a sensible approach.  Here are my top three-pointers.

  1. Remember who you are: Such a cataclysmic event throws brands under the spotlight and the light is often unforgiving. To avoid being caught without your cue cards, have a crisis communication strategy in place. If you think you should put this off another day, think again. Your staff, your clients and your opposition are watching.
  2. Ask for help: For many of us, COVID-19 snuck up on us like a thief in the night. If communication is not your strong suit, partner with companies who delight in doing the proverbial heavy lifting for you. Play to your strengths and get the right help, fast.
  3. Be available: Some leaders underestimate the power of communication. Instead, they prefer to remain mum in the face of crisis for fear of saying the wrong thing. In truth, the untold damage that radio silence in a crisis can do to your online reputation is staggering. Know your market and if you still prefer to not communicate externally then devise a strong internal communication strategy to ensure your team is kept informed as to the company’s stance. Be available to your staff and make this known. These are your brand ambassadors and if you neglect this wisdom, you’re doing a great disservice to your brand.  So, show up and be present.

The old adage rings true, ‘Out of sight, out of mind.’ To avoid this pitfall opt to be proactive, consistent and above all, be compassionate.

Amy Knight-Dawson, Scribe Consulting

Time for clarity, time to stand out!

Now, like never before, there is an opportunity to define who you are as a business. Whether you have had to downsize your business, look for new revenue streams or target a different customer base, it is important to take a step back, build your future company and stand for something.

Through our lives, we are all conditioned to fit-in. At school, we have to wear a uniform, abide by the rules, be quiet and follow a curriculum. When you grow up, not a lot changes. You are conditioned to get a serious job, climb the ladder, dress a certain way and, if you don’t get drunk on a night out, you are viewed with suspicion that increases with every round of drinks.

The same goes for business, it is a scary thing standing out when the safer thing to do is fit in. One of the most difficult challenges is defining your precise target market and why your business exists.

The perceived danger is: if you narrow your audience, you run the risk of reducing your ability to grow and get Business FOMO (fear of missing out). The reality is, however, for many businesses the opposite is true, because if you try and appeal to everyone, you will, in fact, appeal to no-one.

Sometimes the quickest way to grow is to seriously shrink the size of your audience. If you can really drill down and drill down again into the company purpose and the target market, it will enable you to create a watertight marketing plan. You will know where you need to be seen, what content to write, what your message needs to be and all of this will appeal to your exact audience. In effect, you alienate the majority of your wider market and zone in on something very specific.

So if you are a small business looking to grow fast, now is the time to work exceptionally hard to understand what you are truly great at, and who your audience is. Then, you can hit them with crystal clear messaging and relevant content that backs up your story.

Steve Howard, Finally

Build & maintain consumer trust

If you want consumers to choose you, they first must trust you. This is going to be even more important post-COVID-19.

Consumers want and need transparency to help cope with today’s ‘new normal’. They want to trust not only the business but also the people behind the business. Customers need to be earned, not acquired right now. And, the only way to do that is establishing trust through content that delivers answers and knowledge.

One of the best ways to build and maintain consumer trust is to create content which demonstrates your business as an authority in your industry. The more trust you build with your content, the more likely users will click on your content in the SERPs (search engine results page).

New content can help build trust but to maintain the trust you must ensure accurate and current information is available to consumers across all your channels. Dated or inaccurate information can confuse and even hurt consumers.

Here are a few tips for managing your online reputation during COVID-19:

  • Update your schema: This ensures that Google is showing accurate information about your company in this fast-changing environment and that users only see the latest information.
  • Regularly update your Google My Business page: Keep customers in the know by updating office open hours, operation changes and use posts to present key information and updates.
  • Keep an eye on Google Search Console & analytics data: Spikes or declines in traffic can show you what kind of information is most important to your customers and can shape your response.
  • Monitor brand mentions across the web: monitor brand mentions across the web and social media to ensure any references are accurate and correct.
Rory Gillett, Parlez Creative

De-risk your booking terms

To help shift your target clients back into the 3% of active buyers*, you have to make it less risky

Booking a tour represents a high amount of financial and emotional risk under normal circumstances.

That is why we have deposits. That is why we speak to our clients on the phone… because consistent bookings are relationships built over time.

    • Extend final payment deadline for bookings
      – We’re seeing multi-day tour operators lower this to as little as two weeks before the departure date, with the option to completely defer that trip to another date at no cost.
      – Make it as close to the tour date as you can manage.
    • Make your no-risk booking policy prominent on your website
      – Grasshopper Adventures are doing a great job of making their new, risk-free policy very clear and visible on a dedicated webpage.
    • Use a flat, simple number for deposits
      – The other thing you can do is change the deposit to a flat, simple number and make it smaller.
      – Ryan Deiss the digitalmarketer.com guru teaches that the distance from $0 to $1 is greater than $1 to $10,000.
      Desert Island Survival are enrolled in our Tour Operator Accelerator™ program and we suggested that they test this strategy out.
      – They started running a $10 booking deposit for 2021 campaign and it’s working! He plans to increase that to $100 and beyond in the weeks ahead.
  • * Understand the 3% Rule
    – One of the core concepts we teach in our Tour Operator Accelerator™ program is that even in a normal trading situation, only 3% of our potential future clients are active buyers right now.
    – Yet nearly all tour operators are set up to sell only to those active buyers.- 67% of the market that could buy from you, is where the biggest opportunities are hidden (in the Accelerator Program, we teach you how to get more bookings from them.)
    – Right now, it’s harder than ever because that 3% most tour operators rely on is now around 0.3%. But those people haven’t disappeared, they’ve temporarily moved into the segment below whilst they ‘wait and see’.
Max Hardy, 10x Travel

Listen to your customers

Online reputation is more than just making sure your brand is seen in good light it’s rather the listening to your customers as well as the overall market which is vital in terms of making the correct marketing discussion going forward. Online reputation is more than just being able to listen to your brand but rather the opportunity to track a range of messages across your direct market.

Most online listening tools allow for the ability to track a range of options that will allow for refining your marketing such as:

  • #tags  – Yours as well as key market-related #tags
  • Brands  – Obviously its good to track your own brands, but at the same time you can get to see what customers are talking about with your competitor’s brands – sometimes the negative sentiment from a competitors brand can allow for some clever marketing around your own brand.
  • Trends – Linked to our brand

For many years we have sat in boardrooms trying to work out the need of our current customers as well as new customers, but now with the various listening tools around we can get to understand them on a much better lever to make the right marketing approach and increase your cost to conversion.

Greg Smith, Zebra 360 Online

We hope you found the tips beneficial. We’d love to hear what you are doing to keep your business operational during these ‘unprecedented times’.

If you have any suggestions that you feel can help brands manage their online reputation, or their business in general, during COVID-19, please leave a comment below.

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