The Starts and Stops of Reputation Management During a Crisis

Car Start and Stop Button

When a crisis happened back in the day, your biggest concern from a reputation standpoint occurred when a TV news crew drove up to your community.

Today, the news crew can still do some damage, but the more painful damage comes from your residents posting on social media and review sites. That’s made managing your online reputation critical during a crisis.

Based on my experience, there are a few starts and stops that most apartment owner/operators should consider with regard to reputation management during a crisis. We’ll start with the starts:

Start checking social media and review sites immediately. Crises incite emotional responses, and the best place for residents to vent today is on social media and review sites. With just a couple of taps on their phone, they can be on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Yelp and Google Reviews. After all, what else do residents have to do while they’re evacuated from their apartment homes for a hostage situation, fire, flood or any other unforeseen crisis?

If you’re not monitoring what they’re talking about, you’re missing an opportunity to gather data that will be critical when you respond to them. Check the social media and review site feeds immediately. But don’t respond just yet. Wait for the facts to become clear.

Start determining what you’re going to do to address the incident. Not every incident requires you to do something. But if you’re not prepared to do something, you’ve already lost the reputation management battle.

The days of just showing empathy are over. Residents expect action when there’s a break in, vandalism, shooting or any violent crime. You might say that safety isn’t your responsibility and you’d be right. You will, however, have to answer to the disparaging reviews that will negatively impact your occupancy and subsequently your revenue. And you do have to answer to those performance indicators.

Stop responding to reviews before you have all the information. Yes, it’s a good idea to check social media and review sites before the crisis is resolved. No, it’s not a good idea to start responding before you gather all of the information. Gathering all of the information means waiting until the police or fire department has left and they have provided you with a pretty clear explanation as to what they believe happened.

Often this means you should wait until the next morning before drafting that resident letter or posting responses to those nasty reviews or social media posts. The last thing you want to do is share false, inaccurate information with residents. You need residents to look to you as a trusted source during times of crises.

Stop posting promos on social media sites. It’s easy to forget to turn off that automated status update that tells residents where to get the best burger in town after a resident was shot and killed on site. It’s also extremely damaging to your brand and appears heartless. Simply turn off any automatic posts as soon as a major crisis hits and communicate with your social media partner if you have one.

Trivial posts that go up on social media accounts during or immediately after crises not only show that your social media account isn’t as authentic as you say it is, but also that you aren’t taking the situation as seriously as you should. You can bet residents will share what they think about that on review sites and your social pages.

Finally, it’s also a good idea to work with a public relations agency with crisis experience to manage your reviews. The best of these agencies also offer reputation management services, responding to every review in a collaborative manner with your onsite teams.

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