A few years ago, if you were looking for a new restaurant to try, you probably would have called up a friend and asked for suggestions. If you needed a lawyer to help with estate planning—you probably asked neighbors or coworkers for a recommendation. How times have changed! Online reviews are now the main source that consumers rely on for recommendations. Hungry for Italian? Google it and check out the reviews. Searching for a new doctor? Pull up WebMD.com and consider your options.
Online reviews proliferate across the internet. Even if your business never signed up for a social media account or claimed a business listing on the internet that does NOT mean you don’t have an internet presence. There are a multitude of online review sites that allow consumers to post their comments and ratings of businesses.
Most people are familiar with the larger review sites, like Google, Yelp!, Yahoo, and Bing, but many don’t realize there are also industry-focused sites. There is Healthgrades for doctors, TripAdvisor for the hospitality industry, Zagat for restaurants, G2 Crowd for software, Glassdoor.com for employers and many more. In addition to all of these websites, reviews can also be posted on social media sites. Facebook has its own review feature but others post reviews on Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat to share with their friends and followers.
In some cases, business information listings is aggregated from other online listings or customer reviews and sometimes it is created, based on information you provide. While it’s nearly impossible to track down every single review posted online, it is important for businesses to monitor select sites. It’s best to focus on the sites that garner the most reviews, or those which are the most influential in informing consumers’ opinions.
Once decided, the business should start managing their online presence by claiming the listing and populating content. The next step is responding to any reviews that are posted. Plenty of businesses do not respond to online reviews, but this is a huge mistake. Both negative and positive reviews merit a well thought out response.
On average, 84%* of people trust an online review as much as a personal recommendation. Only 9%* of people say they never read online reviews. That means 91%* of people are doing some type of internet research before making a buying decision. If a business leaves reviews unanswered, then the consumers doing research only have the original customer’s comments to make a judgement. A business that takes the time to respond shows customers that they are valued.
There are many review sites out there, so where should you start? It’s always a good idea to claim business pages on Google and Facebook. Many people use Google every day to look up information so make sure you have control of your listing, so that you are prepared when reviews start coming in. Even if you don’t have a page, Facebook will create a user generated page for your business, which captures user contributed content (check-ins, reviews, and messages). So, make sure you search for your business to claim the page or create your own if there isn’t one already.
After that, do an online search for: “review sites for [your type of business]”. There will most likely be quite a few sites for you to investigate. Do a little research and decide which sites are most important for you to maintain then go ahead and start building those strong relationships with your customers. It will pay off in the end.
*Statistics from BrightLocal’s Local Consumer Review Survey, 2016
When RDH Consulting, a nationwide consultant in the parking industry, approached our creative team about invigorating their brand, it was an opportunity for AdAbility Marketing Communications to apply our know-how in a new industry. Like most drivers, most of our experience with the parking world revolved around finding an open spot to park. We had no idea of the expertise that went into the planning and managing of parking operations.
The first step was to rename RDH Consulting with a moniker that would better describe what the company did. One of the biggest challenges in naming a company today is being able to reserve a website domain name that matches. Many domains have already been snatched up. Another consideration is if the company wants to trademark their new name within a state or nationwide. Legal research is required to verify if other entities have incorporated under or trademarked similar names.
Optimum Parking Solutions Is Born
After careful consideration of various options, Optimum Parking Solutions was selected for the company’s new name. The consultancy provides innovative guidance and recommendations to the parking industry in all aspects of operations to maximize the value of their parking assets. So, the Optimum Parking Solutions name explained and encompassed all that is offered.
With the name selected, we were ready to begin exploring some concepts and designs that would differentiate the company and create a unique brand identity. In order to clarify the brand’s essence; a central idea, underlying concept, key messages and voice were explored.
Our creative team developed several brand identity concepts for consideration. Three critical aspects of the brand identity design include:
The next step in the branding process is the corporate identity concept phase, with the creation of a logo - a brand's focus point. The initial designs (above) were done in black & white, so that color did not influence the selection decision.
Color plays a key role in brand identity. Each color conveys a different emotion and can influence how your brand is perceived. Optimum Parking Solutions brand positioning is as a strong, innovative leader in the industry. Once the black & white logo design was selected, we developed three different color combination options (below).
Both red and orange are seen as bold colors that convey confidence. Red expresses power and passion while orange is creative and enthusiastic. Blue and green are common colors but each give a different feeling. Blue means strength, integrity and dependable while green showcases growth and health. The combination that best portrayed OPS’s vision was red and blue, colors which represented being bold, innovative and dependable. The new brand identity was then applied to collateral materials including letterhead, envelope and business cards.
For the Optimum Parking Solutions business card, we opted for a creative twist. Instead of a traditional rectangle, the card is square with rounded corners. The entire back of the card is the universal “P” parking symbol. Everything about the card – the square shape – the rounded corners – the parking icon printed on the back - automatically communicates that Optimum is not a run-of-the-mill consultant.
Most companies don’t expect to have to deal with a public relations crisis. Whether that mindset is borne out of some consideration of the odds against it or a naive belief that their company will never be involved with undesirable news - many fail to prepare.
A public relation crisis can take many different forms and could be triggered by no fault of your business. You could become enmeshed in a crisis simply by providing services to a person that attracts intense media attention or being in the same industry as another company that’s being investigated. Or it could be a misinterpretation of a social media post or ad or negative news released about your company.
No one can predict the timing of a crisis. If your communication with the public and media is poorly handled, the potential for damage to your company’s reputation, employees’ well-being and customer loyalty is immense. That’s why it is important to have a crisis communication and management plan in place beforehand, so that you can to effectively manage any PR situation.
There are many advantages of having a crisis communication plan during a crisis. One being that the company will be prepared to give a timely response after the event has occurred. Businesses who prepare will have the peace of mind knowing that their advance planning will empower employees to navigate any situation. Having an effective crisis plan may also shorten the life of the crisis, as well as minimize downtime needed to deal with the issue.
Creating the plan is the first, but a critical part of a successful strategy is effectively communicating it beforehand among all parties. First and foremost, the management team and all employees must be informed and properly trained on the plan. This should include media training on proper ways of handling media inquiries and interviews. When the incident occurs, it is crucial to have planned out how the company’s responses will be communicated to each affected stakeholder.
There are many elements that go into developing a crisis communication plan. It might include identifying potential crisis situations, training for the incident and preparing possible responses. Although each plan is unique, it is an important business safeguard to develop. The task of establishing a crisis communication plan can be challenging, consult with a public relations professional for guidance.