Last week I wrote about the Hotel that had a policy where they would fine newlyweds $500 for negative online reviews, whether written by the newlyweds or by any of their wedding guests. (If you haven’t read the post, yes this is a true story, as shocking as it sounds.)
Today, I want to point something important out. The hotel’s (ludicrous) policy was posted to their website last year, yet it only went viral against them last week.
This is important to realize and here’s why:
- Just because you get away with something for a while, it in no way means that you’ll get away with it forever – not in today’s virally connected world.
- They had all this time to smarten up their act and delete this nonsense before it went viral. This means that the excuse they used of “it was meant to be taken down long ago”, is not a valid excuse at all. If it should have been deleted (or rather, never published in the first place) and you didn’t delete it, then you’re probably deserving of the repercussions you’re now facing.
So, now that I’ve made my point, let me ask you: What risks are currently lingering that you’d be wise to prevent before they explode?
Author of Crisis Ready: Building an Invincible Brand in an Uncertain World, Melissa Agnes is a leading authority on crisis preparedness, reputation management, and brand protection. Agnes is a coveted keynote speaker, commentator, and advisor to some of today’s leading organizations faced with the greatest risks. Learn more about Melissa and her work here.
Melissa, this is so basic and true it's almost a wonder why you would need to even write a post about it. Then you have this perfect example of the hotel that proves just why you must point this out. I was wondering, though, how you feel about deleting negative posts after the fact. In the case of the hotel, this policy was to be removed long ago, but by someone's oversight, it just was never done. Would it be a story today if the policy was only up for a short time but still was found before deletion? It was recently suggested that a crisis on Facebook could be handled directing all comments about the event to a certain tab on the organization's page, which then could be removed once the crisis was over – no signs of its existence later. Very similar to Google's situation with the Right to be Forgotten in Europe. What is your opinion of deleting negative references after a crisis is finished?
Melissa Agnes says
Hi Monica, great question! Let me answer some different points/questions you've brought up:
Q: "Would it be a story today if the policy was only up for a short time but still was found before deletion?"
A: Maybe it wouldn't be a story today, but on a previous day. The fact is that this policy should never have been published, and when it was uncovered it was bound to cause a stir.
The suggestion about directing all negative comments on Facebook to a certain tab and then deleting them… if it is truly a crisis, it will not take place solely on Facebook and it will be impossible to delete all signs of its existence. This may work for handling an issue that plays out on Facebook alone, but even then, I would not advise to delete it after the fact. I would instead advise to handle the issue appropriately and to find the opportunities. Then you can feel comfortable leaving it up because it will be a testament to how well you respond / engage with your audiences and how your goal is to put them first. Deleting can always lead to more issues.
In general, my opinion on deleting negative references after a crisis is finished is:
1- Depends on the situation (there is no one-size-fits-all answer to everyone).
2- A crisis cannot be truly deleted, as I stated above.
3- Focus on providing human, sincere and transparent responses / communications in a crisis, and you will come out looking like a pro.
4- In general, deleting is the opposite of transparency so can result in more issues and criticism. Not to mention that if you handle the incident well, others will want to use you as an example. If you delete, they will not be able to do so.
I hope this answers your questions!
Thanks, Melissa. This is great information. I felt uncomfortable about the suggestion to delete the comments, and I really think the idea of transparency and showing just how the organization handled a crisis is important.
Melissa Agnes says
It really is important. The focus is to respond / manage the crisis appropriately. Then leave it there as a battle scar you're proud of. You've grown and, most importantly, it's proof that you put your audiences first and don't hide or attempt to cover up. That can lead to so many worse outcomes.
I wish that when new leaders take office in government or in the military here, we could give them a tattoo that reminds them "just because you get away with something for a while, doesn't mean you will forever." I don't know how much it would fix, but at least we could point to something and say, "told ya so."
Melissa Agnes says
LOL I know it's unrealistic, but I really like the concept – and the way your mind works, Kristin!