The tragic slaying of Cecil the Lion dominated headlines this week as the Internet aimed its collective vitriol at Dr. Walter Palmer, the Minnesota dentist who paid $55,000 to hunt the rare, black-maned cat. Regardless of how you feel about the issue, the events that followed provide a valuable lesson in online reputation management and the role that the Internet plays in today’s public relations landscape.
Shortly after Palmer’s identity was revealed on Monday, the Yelp page of his dentist practice was bombarded with an endless stream of negative reviews. Virtually all of these reviews had nothing to do with the quality of Palmer’s work as a dentist. Rather, they consisted of completely subjective opinions about Palmer’s morality as a human being. Still, the Internet backlash was strong enough that it effectively forced the dentist to cancel future appointments and close the doors of his office.
Whether or not Palmer plans to re-open his practice in the future is unknown. What is known, however, is that it will take the dentist a great amount of time and resources to improve his online reputation and his standing on review sites like Yelp.
Although Dr. Palmer’s fate is an admittedly extreme example of negative online publicity, it does teach us several valuable lessons in online reputation management. The first of these lessons, of course, is that the Internet is a powerful tool for expressing public sentiment, and that this public sentiment can have profound effects on businesses of all kinds. The second lesson, which is perhaps more important, is that the online reputation of your business is not solely determined by the quality of your product, but also by how individuals perceive you as a person.
Sure, your community might have a resort-style swimming pool, a state-of-the-art fitness center, and granite countertops in every unit. But all of these amenities mean absolutely nothing if your renters feel as though you or your staff treated them in a way that was unprofessional or disrespectful. That’s why we at Respage have consistently advocated for apartment management companies to take a proactive approach when it comes to social media and online reputation management.
While the occasional online review may be personal in nature, and might not have anything to do with your apartment community itself, it’s important to remain level-headed and polite in your response, and to refrain from any emotional rebuttals. Doing so will demonstrate your professionalism to prospective renters, and that demonstration of professionalism will lead said renters to view your community in a positive light.
Remember that negative reviews are not the only comments to which you should be responding. Replying to positive feedback is also an extremely smart decision, as it shows that you’re grateful for the loyalty of your renters.