Who Controls Your Narrative?
Who controls your narrative? Odd question to ask a business, I agree. Yet most business owners would say that either they or their CEO is the voice of their company.
It is true that up to 10 years ago, business owners controlled their own story. They controlled the image of their business and could direct the narrative as it pertained to their company’s values. And it was easy to do so. You only had a few channels to cover. Newsprint, radio and television were the only means of telling the story of what your business stood for.
Often that was all you needed. Unless there was a person with an agenda and they were able to bend a news reporters ear. Then you might have a PR issue on hand. If a person had an axe to grind and their story took hold, it could cause some potential problems. Yet you still had the ability to put out these fires as they came up, solely out of the fact that there were only these 3 channels.
Then the internet came. This was a brand new channel for you to have to keep an eye out on, and it quickly became evident that your business needed a website. This was to keep your narrative in line with your business’ values. Yet it quickly became apparent that the internet is a different animal than the traditional channels. This channel is not easily controlled. At first there were Forums and bulletin boards that allowed for people to talk to each other more freely. These new forms of communication quickly spread words of wrong doing and so if a problem arose, it wasn’t just a PR problem, it was a Nightmare!
Your Narrative and the Web
Now, fast forward up to the internet today and you have Facebook, Twitter, Glassdoor, Yelp and other social networks that allow for people to easily take your business narrative and do with it whatever they want. They can help you and provide a good narrative or they might just run your business out of town on the rails, if the problem becomes too big.
How can this one channel have that much power?
People can tell when the business didn’t hold to their core values like they claimed. People hear about a company that has become corrupt or maybe there was just someone with an axe to grind and you were the perfect whet stone. People, perhaps competitors(?) are able to take their version of your narrative and they can run with it. Why? Because it fits their agenda. With so many channels, there is a need for you to put your name out there. To own who you are, and control what your business stands for.
Many people may say, “My Business’ reputation is all I need” or, “We have treated our customers fairly and we have stood firmly by our values since day one”. If that is true, then yay! There is a very good chance that anybody that does try to tarnish your business’s image will not gain any traction.
To achieve that level of customer service you have to develop some very dedicated customers. These are people who are more than just your ordinary average run of the mill customer. This customer has to be someone that you have spent lots of time with and have developed a relationship with. You know how many kids this customer has. You might even know when their wedding anniversary occurs. You could be invited to one of their celebrations. This type of customer is the result of exemplary service and years of relationship building.
If you have that with every single one of your customers you can save yourself some valuable time and stop reading because this article doesn’t provide you any value. If, however, you are not able to say that and your service or business is often changing customers, then you might need to read on. It could be that you need to start looking at how you can build those lasting relationships so that you are able to retain control your narrative.
Social Media the Narrative Guard
In today’s business environment and with the integration of the Internet into the fabric of our society, most businesses have realized that they need to have a website. This is your home online. In a way this can be viewed as your first line of defense and the building blocks for your reputation. You website is the first step in controlling your narrative.
Most people – certainly potential customers – who want to get to know who you are, will go online and look you up on Google. What is the first thing they will see? Is it some complaint that a person has about you on a referral website? Or is it your site? Fortunately, it is easier for your website to rank higher than a referral website. So in that instance, it is easier for you to be the first to set the story. I often encourage high school student that they need to have a website of their own because of the very same reason. Are potential bosses looking you up these days and seeing drunken parties and drug references all over the place, or are they seeing your website, that shows off what you are able to do and how you think, and what type of personality you have? In other words, are they finding your story.
Social Media has become the place to talk. Social Networks are for the dissemination of thoughts and ideas, often in the form of stories. Those stories will at times be about you and your business. Does that narrative shine on you in the light you would like to be seen in? If not you can work to shape that light.
Whether it is you and/or your business, other companies are doing some type of research on you. These people want to know what makes you tick? Is your business reliable? Can you be trusted to complete the task at hand in the time that is allotted? How have your previous customers talked about you? Are they saying good and positive things? Are you just giving these people the bare basics of what they need and that is it, or are you going the extra mile? This is information that is available to people on Social Media. So having just a website is not enough. Not any more.
You want to control your story
People like to go where they are comfortable. They will do searches where they are at. So what is one of the first places people will look? Well there is a good chance that the first site they will search is Facebook. Yep the Big Blue “F”. Do you have a Facebook page? No? Did someone just make a Facebook page so that they can talk about your business? Possible.
How do you battle the disinformation that is on a site like Facebook? Ask Facebook to take it down? They might be nice enough to just take it off. Sue them? You MIGHT technically win there, but who really wins in lawsuits? I will give you a hint: it isn’t you. The best bet is to put your name on Facebook. Get your page and own it. Even if you are a Business to Business type of organization, people will look there for your company and it is better for you to be there than that they find nothing. So you want and need to be ready. Claim your Twitter name, Google Plus pages and LinkedIn page.
Where are people saying about you? Be ready to face the discussions. What if someone starts to complain about you or your service on Twitter? If you are not on Twitter how are you going to head off the bash-fest? It will be tough, because humans often will share negative stories a lot more frequently than they will share positive reviews. If you are not there, all you can do is hope that there is someone in your corner. All you can do is pray that the person defending you is eloquent enough to set the record straight. If not then you might just lose several customers because all they are seeing is wrong information and you are not even around to dispute it.
How does it look if a potential customer needs help with your product and you are not there to answer their questions? Better yet, what if the only person who is willing to answer your questions is a competitor. It would help if someone who represents your brand wss present at these places, looking out for your company’s values and sharing with people that your product or service is exactly what they needed for their particular pain.
What if traditional media was looking for your company? Say a news organization is wanting to talk to you about a topic that is in your field of expertise. They are going to search Social media to see what is being said about you and your company. If you are not controlling your narrative, then traditional media might just pass you over. The free publicity your company could be receiving is passed on to the company that has a vibrant online community and who controls their story. If the Media catches some unsavory news it helps for them to have positive information about your company instead of relying on what other people are saying. It is good to have a social community manager at the ready for times that information is being shared.
One line of thinking is you will not get hit with egg if you are not standing in front of the target. Yet, what if your target is your prized car? It could be said that it is better to take the blows for your product. You can be small and try to not get noticed. But if you are not being noticed by the troublemakers and trolls then guess who is also not seeing you. Yep, your potential customers. So do you really not want to be the target?
Why you want your name out there
- When you are able to control the narrative, you can help control the relationship. People want to get to know you and your business even when it is a B2B. People inherently want a relationship. They want to know what side to cheer on. It can be your side if you give them a reason to choose it. This is largely in your hands. Many people just want to know that they matter, and if you prove that they do, you will be more likely to have a dedicated customer than not. All because you put your name out there and you’re providing a service that has gone above and beyond what was expected.
- People will have issues. They might even have big complaints that they wish to air. You can help head off that complaint and come to a resolution in a public forum, while showing other potential customers that you do care. Then again it could be you helping your competition’s customers out with a problem, and you just might entice them to give your service or product a try since the other company doesn’t care enough to be available to help.
- Putting your name out there in the social media arena is a good way to build critical relationships. Where else can an ordinary person go and actually have the opportunity to talk to the CEO of a company? Social media is that place. Social media is where relationships are started and those relationships bloom into fierce fans of your products. Don’t believe me? Look at Apple. They control their narrative on many fronts. Go to an apple fan boy and tell them their phones suck. Then I would advise you duck for cover.
If your name isn’t out on social media…
- People will start their own stories about you. It doesn’t matter that they are true. If you aren’t online to dispute it then it is just as good as being true. You have heard even bad PR is good PR? Well that’s true until your customers go to a company that people are saying good things about. If you are not telling your own story people will fill in the blanks.
- Customers will find a place to talk and if it is at a place where you have a presence, you can help fill in the blanks.
- Your competitors might just start using you as a reference as why your customers should switch to them.
How to Control your story
Be online. Put your name out on every network you find to be relevant to you and your customers. Have a presence wherever your customers are in any any numbers. Is that everywhere? Possibly. So have somebody monitor the channels. Make sure they know what the narrative is. Help them! If you are used to having a Social Media Manager run everything, imagine the surprise and respect it will build if the owner jumps on and starts to help also. The bottom line is be online and be present. Help your customers out.
Make an impression on your current and future customers. Let them know and fully understand what your message is. Tell your story. Don’t be bashful about it! Mediocrity is the reward for those who don’t take a chance. You can become the talk of the town if you are being social. So use and embrace social media. Yeah there are going to be mistakes. Even the experts make mistakes. But those show your audience that you and your business are human. To do so, just start or find a social media manager that is willing to help you out with some coaching. We are around and we love to help you get started on putting your name out there so that you are controlling your narrative.
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