Gone are the days when PR communications in a crisis comprised of dealing with just traditional media: the press and broadcasters.

Today, any organisation lacking the know-how to carry out online reputation management in a crisis is leaving itself and its brand wide open to potentially irrecoverable damage.

For postings in real time by eye-witnesses, plus negative commentary by your stakeholders, or even just Joe Public at large, can cause untold harm to your brand in an instant.

But if your role is to select the best crisis PR agency to prepare you and, if necessary, represent you to limit damage when the balloon goes up, how do you know what to look for?

Online reputation management is all about correcting damaging perceptions there and then, as your crisis unfolds.

A smart PR agency will already routinely be monitoring online for mentions of your brand. It will have a process to divert resources to step up this monitoring the instant it shifts into crisis management gear.

By the way, a ‘crisis’ doesn’t have to be a physical incident with emergency services in attendance.

Here, we look at an award-winning Outwrite case study, giving you pointers about what to expect and ask of your agency, should your reputation suffer a hit online.

Take the example of a retail business with zero PR and marketing activity. Inevitably, a majority of online comments about it were negative.

The comments were making a dent in sales. The company realised, belatedly, it needed urgently to limit the bad reviews and instigate positive comments online, to fairly represent the views of the majority of its customer base.

It initiated crisis PR from Outwrite, whose team has expertise in online reputation management.

Our tactics to gauge the extent of the problem included reviewing search engine results, analysing social media channels and identifying potential sources of new complaints.

Outwrite’s digital crisis PR experts identified, among other problems, an unofficial Facebook page heavily critical of the company.

We set objectives including to educate Google as a search engine, that ‘Name of company complaints’ was not an accurate reflection of what people thought about the brand.

We also asked the business to change its complaints handling process, which it did.

We split our crisis PR activity into Google reviews, search engine activity, and Facebook management.

The team set to work, generating and placing positive content as well as giving a company response to certain categories of complaints as they were being published online.

We know our way around online analytics, setting up measurement and evaluation at the outset, so we would be able to prove how negative impacts were being avoided, positives achieved, and improvements made.

And the results? Our achievements included dozens of pieces of editorial coverage among target media, and a stop on negative articles appearing on page one of Google for brand-related searches.