Defending Your Online Reputation
This past week has seen the Pregnancy Help Community placed under attack once again by pro-abortion activists. Masking their slanderous campaign as an attempt to “end the deception” of what they have labeled as “predatory fake abortion clinics”, a small group of activists has called their followers to arms against local pregnancy centers. Their methods of attack vary, but their primary focus of energy is in a digital attack aimed at harming the online reputation of life-affirming centers across the globe.
While the campaign has been sluggish in its attempt to gain traction and create large-scale impact, it is nonetheless a testament to the importance of managing your online reputation against those that could do it harm.
In this article, I will summarize the methods that are being used in this latest attack and I will outline a few basic strategies for defending against these types of campaigns.
How their campaign works:
1. Validating Existing Negative Reviews
The campaign organizers encourage their following to browse review-driven web directories like Yelp, Google Business, and Facebook for Pregnancy Centers with negative reviews. If a negative review is found on a listing, they are encouraged to give the review a positive mark (i.e. ‘useful’ for Yelp, ‘thumbs up’ for Google/Google+, or a ‘like’ on Facebook).
2. Creating New Negative Reviews
If existing negative reviews aren’t found, the campaigners are encouraged to create one themselves. Organizers have provided a step-by-step process for their members to follow to achieve the best results for their goals. These steps involve locating a victim to prey upon utilizing the campaign’s interactive map listings of Pregnancy Centers, calling that center to provide false stories (“I'm (my sister is/friend is) pregnant, and I'm scared.” or “I (my sister/friend/partner) want to get an abortion / need to get it taken care of.”) in hopes of manipulating unsuspecting center staffers into providing some grounds for a negative online review, and writing that review in as many prominent locations across the web as possible. Campaigners are even encouraged to “…grab a bottle of wine and get your feminist book club together to organize a fun CALL-A-THON during the Week of Action! Calling is more fun when you're doing it together.” (https://exposefakeclinics.squarespace.com/callandreview, n.d.)
How this hurts pregnancy centers:
If your center is made a victim of these attacks, your digital reputation can suffer to the point that local women searching the web for the services you provide may be put off by the perceived lack of credibility for your center based on your overall negative rating online.
What can a pregnancy center do to defend against these attacks?
STRATEGY ONE – Positive Reviews:
Positive reviews can help to offset the adverse effects of negative reviews. Reach out to clients, donors, volunteers, or anyone else that has had a positive experience with your pregnancy center and ask them to write reviews on your most prominent online listings. The best places for these reviews are Google, Yelp, and Facebook.
Not only will an arsenal of positive reviews help to diminish the impact of negative reviews, a healthy online listing with many positive reviews is less of an easy target for those looking to do the most harm with a single negative review.
STRATEGY TWO – Claim Your Listings
Claiming, optimizing, and monitoring your online listings is an essential way to both defend against digital attacks on your reputation and to market your center better to your local community.
HOW TO CLAIM A LISTING:
I will outline the current process to claim your business listing on Google. Each web directory or search engine has different steps for claiming a business listing, so expect to spend several hours claiming all of your online listings. Extend Web Services is available to handle the claiming and management of your online listings via our Local Search Marketing platform.
Claiming Google Business Listing:
1. Navigate to http://business.google.com.
2. Click “Add a single location”
3. Search for your business using its name and address.
4. If you see a dialog letting you know that someone else has verified the business, follow these steps.
5. If you don’t see your business listed in the menu, click No, these are not my businesses or I’ve correctly entered the business. You’ll then be prompted to enter some details for your business. Make sure you enter an accurate, complete street address, and a phone number which reaches your business directly.
6. Click Submit.
7. You will be required to perform either a phone, text or postcard verification in order to complete the claiming process. Instructions for each type of verification will be provided by Google Business via the prompt windows on your screen.
8. Once you have verified your ownership of the listing – you are all set! Congratulations on claiming your first business listing! One down – 60+ to go!
STRATEGY THREE – Respond to Negative Reviews
If you are presented with a negative review online, you may want to respond to it. Note that you will need to follow the steps in Strategy Two in order to respond to reviews.
Reponses should be calm and polite. Don’t get defensive or angry or try to call the reviewer out or make claims that their review is fake. An overly-defensive stance can encourage the reviewer to overreact and attempt to do more harm to your online reputation by leaving more negative remarks. Responses can range widely depending on the content of the review, but make it short and friendly like “We’re sorry to hear you didn’t have a good experience with us. We’d invite you to call us so we can learn more and try to make things right.” Simple as that.
STRATEGY FOUR – Hide Facebook Reviews Tab
Facebook allows you to hide the option for reviews on your business page. If you are experiencing an attack or anticipate one, it may be a good idea to hide your reviews tab – at least temporarily.
HOW TO HIDE REVIEWS TAB:
1. Navigate to https://www.facebook.com/**YOUR_PAGE_NAME_HERE**/settings/ ?tab=edit_page (please note the “**YOUR_PAGE_NAME_HERE**” section of the URL that should be replaced with your Facebook page’s unique identifier)
2. Towards the bottom of the screen you will see a list of the tabs on your page. Click on the “Settings” button next to “Reviews”.
3. In the expanded section that appears, click the switch next to “Show Reviews” from On to Off.
4. You have successfully hidden your Facebook Reviews section!
HOW TO UNHIDE REVIEWS TAB:
1. Navigate again to https://www.facebook.com/**YOUR_PAGE_NAME_HERE**/settings/ ?tab=edit_page (please note the “**YOUR_PAGE_NAME_HERE**” section of the URL that should be replaced with your Facebook page’s unique identifier)
2. Towards the bottom of the screen you will see an “Add a Tab” button. Click it.
3. In the window that appears, click the “Add Tab” button next to the “Reviews” option.
4. You have successfully unhidden the Reviews section of your Facebook page!
For more information on any of the items I covered in this article, I invite you to contact a member of the Extend Web Services team.
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