Online reputation damage control

Jul 10, 2013

The Moerlein Lager House now has an employee who constantly monitors social media and immediately brings any unwanted publicity to the boss's attention. It's been that way since the restaurant was embroiled in controversy more than a year ago when it took out full page ads calling itself "Wrigley South."

This prompted a Reds fan and blogger to say this. The restaurant apologized, kept its Facebook comments up and the Cincinnati Reds came to Moerlein's defense saying, as a small market, it's important to appeal to fans from other cities, as seen in this WLW video., a Cincinnati company, wrote about the controversy last year in an online article:

The whole success or Moerlein Lager House is based on repeat customers who live in Cincinnati and attend Reds games. Alienating that group isn’t the best recipe for success in building a user base. If they could turn back the clock, the lessons would be: Have multiple people proofread any marketing material, even if from different departments, to be sure it makes sense. Examine the goal of the marketing material. Is it to allure new customers? If so, at what expense? When you make a mistake, own up to it…the first time. We live in a forgiving society. Taking ownership of an error always ends better than trying to make excuses. All said, I still make my way down to the Lager House quite often, and wish them the best of luck. I just hope they learned from this snafu for future promotional initiatives.

A rash of people and businesses recently, including Paula Deen, J.C. Penney and United Airlines, have been scurrying to improve their online images.

Paul Deen's supporters take social media by storm:

Paul Deen, celebrity chef and money making brand, is doing damage control for her use of the "N" word. Supporters are coming to her defense and boycotting the Food Network which fired her.

But meanwhile, Walmart and restaurants owned by Caesars have cut ties with Deen. Target, after "evaluating the situation," also decided to end its relationship with Deen.

Deen told the Today Show she is not a racist. Deen's situation is not the only situation corporate America is trying to delicately manage on social media. J.C. Penney introduced a teapot that some say looked like Hitler.


How J.C. Penney responded to its Hitler teapot controversy:It didn't take long for J.C. Penney to sell out of this kettle.

Marketwatch reports prospective sellers on eBay want more than $200 for the teapot. After a rash of Twitter and Facebook posts like this one,  J.C. Penney responded:

The responses weren't so nice from Amy Bouzaglo, owner of Amy's Baking Company in Scottsdale, Arizona. She faced a flood of hateful Facebook posts this spring after customers were disappointed with the food. She went to the show "Kitchen Nightmares" to prove critics wrong. She the show.

Experts say the responses from Amy's Baking Company backfired. In subsequent posts she goes on to call readers "stupid people."

Drew Boyd is an assistant professor of marketing and innovation at UC’s Lindner College of Business and reacts to Amy’s Baking Company and J.C. Penny posts. “When you look at the mistakes companies are making. The other one that continues to be referenced is the United Airlines breaking the man’s guitar and not addressing it right away. I think that is what makes companies fearful about social media.

Boyd says businesses make the mistake of seeing social media as a corporate communications function or something the legal department must deal with, rather than training all employees to respond. He says, “Social media is a managerial tool for everybody and yes, you can assign it to particular people to handle ... it can be other people in the business that address that, but they have to have the skills to know how to listen to the conversation.”

Boyd sums it up in a list of dos and don’ts.

  • Do  take the high road
  •  Do take responsibility 
  •  Do take action.  

He says:

  • Don't flame
  • Don't blame
  • Don't claim (to do something that you aren't going to do)

He says in the future, you’ll see better corporate practices in terms of training-responsibility and accountability. "... where web 1.0 was all about access to information, web 2.0 is all about access to people. I think web 3.0 is going to be access to the truth.”