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On Boxing Day, members of my extended family took a walk near the seaside in Wales. My husband always takes his camera on these outings and when he spotted a local bistro advertising itself outside a public toilet, he found it funny so he took a photo.
He subsequently uploaded the photo to Flickr - along with all the other photos he took over the holidays - and titled the photo with the name of the bistro, assuming that people would realise it was a joke and that the sign and the building did not go together.
Mostly what he thought was that it was poor marketing to advertise by a toilet. Why would any restaurant want people to associate it with human refuse? Surely this photo would sit well alongside all the others in the numerous Flickr groups cataloging amusing signage.
Well, last night we came home and found the following comment on the photo:
Does that sound like a request from a business owner who is concerned about the reputation of his business?
Getting online reputation management very wrong
First of all, the comment comes from a Flickr user with no avatar, no profile details and no photos - so how do we know that it's not just a troll looking to cause trouble?
Second, the commenter spells my name incorrectly, despite it being on our Flickr profile in more than one location and does not bother to capitalise either my name or my husband's name - indicating that he or she has little or no respect for us, or the English grammar skills of a schoolchild just starting to learn to read.
Third, the curt tone of the comment is an order, not a polite and reasonable request. Why not just say,
In fact, had we received that comment we'd probably have removed the photo straight away because it would have been a reasonable request. It would have been even more reasonable if the request had been by private message instead of publicly on the photo page. By leaving the comment on the photo page the commenter has ensured that anyone seeing it will think that the restaurant's owner may not have the best customer service skills.
Finally, threatening legal action before simply appealing to reason makes me wonder why the commenter is so very defensive and angry from the start over a photo of a marketing blunder by the restaurant - not a staged smear campaign on the part of my husband.
The photo is ranking on the second page of Google - with actual photos and reviews of the bistro above it. How much damage could it possibly cause? Is it really worth the expense of a few hours of legal fees? I wouldn't have thought so.
When dealing with strangers in regards to your business you should always be polite, and always remain calm and reasonable. Everything you say or do online is available to the public in exactly the same way as whatever you do or say offline and when you're trying to protect the reputation of your business it's imperative that you do it by making yourself look better and more reasonable than the person from whom it needs protecting.
Certainly, you should think about how everything you say and do publicly reflects you and your brand and make certain that what you're saying and doing reflects how you want your customers to perceive you.