Online trolling and smear campaigns have become the tabloid sensation of the digital era. A single tweet or a Facebook post can bring about a viral stream of negativity to a brand’s reputation. In most cases, the subject of the troll may be very irrelevant or even false, but the damage it can cause has no limitations.
One of the finest examples in recent times was the social media backlash faced by Nike when Colin Kaepernick created a storm by kneeling down during the US national anthem as a sign of protest against police cruelty to the black community. Kaepernick had a huge endorsement deal with Nike and was the face of several of their promotional campaigns. Online trolls mercilessly bashed Nike for continuing their association with Kaepernick and it almost led to sales of the US sporting giant declining for a brief period. We’ll talk about how Nike emerged out of the fiasco a little later in the blog.
A viral negative attack on a brand is often the PR team’s biggest challenge. The damage could be done before the brand comes up with a statement. A brand cannot respond to a troll-like how an individual does irrespective of whether the troll is genuine or a false attack. Let’s have a brief look at how brands can manage their reputation in the age of internet trolls.
A humorous response may turn the tides
Most online trolls leverage the comic value of their statements to push the troll to become viral. A clever brand PR exercise to counter such trolls is to mix humor in the response and match them tit for tat. While doing so, the brand has the potential to win over the entire social buzz and traffic that the troll had generated in the first place. The point to note while adding humor is to ensure that the matter raised by the troll is acknowledged if it was genuine and the response could be a solution.
Avoid automated responses
Automated responses are good for generic feedback and sentiments that surround your brand in social media. But when the subject of focus is a troll that promotes negativity, an automated response can do more harm than good by adding more fuel to the fire. The trolls may use the response as a sequel to their campaign and invite further negative attention to your brand.
Get professional help
Not all communication, especially online communication can be managed in-house. When trolls take a brand reputation for a spin, it is wise to entrust response and management of the crisis to a professional agency. They would have better resources to minimize negative impact and can advise on the next steps to be taken to regain lost ground in online presence.
Stand up for what is right
It is a good practice to ignore small-time negative trolling as the internet has quite a short memory. But when your organization is trolled for initiatives or business models that are for the right cause, make sure to stand by it and do not take it down due to the trolling. This is where we visit the Nike saga again. Nike chose to stand by Kaepernick and even launched a campaign featuring him and a slogan that reads “Believe in something, even if it means sacrificing everything”. The brand found support from most corners and brilliantly came out of the negativity even when the trolls had support from prominent members of the ruling party in the US.
The rules of online reputation management are a continuously evolving chapter. As newer events rise, brands get a good lesson on how to manage them. The wise ones learn from the mistakes made by others and in turn, create an action plan to contain the negativity when it pokes them.
If you want assistance on handling trolls from a professional ORM company, please drop us a line.