“How do we get people to give our nonprofit great reviews?” I get asked how to do this all the time. It’s an important question in an era when charity rating sites allow reviews of nonprofits and anyone can proffer opinions good and bad online.
Photo source: Big Stock Photo
Inkling Media has done a great job answering this common question. Ken Mueller listed bad ways to try to solicit good reviews. I agree all of them are to be avoided. He also shared a tip on the right way to do this.
If you want positive buzz and reviews about your organization, do not:
1. Pretend to be a fan of your organization online. This is horrible, and it has caused real pain when the inevitable truth comes out. It always does. DO NOT DO THIS. EVER. If you ask your best friend or consultant to do it for you, make sure they disclose who they are. Keep it honest.
2. Pay someone to do it. Not only is this sleazy, if anyone were to find out, it would really hurt your reputation. The toll on your brand would far outweigh any small gain from a fake plaudit.
3. Bribe. No matter how tempting it may be, don’t offer people blatant incentives to go post a review. Also don’t offer a quid pro quo. (such as, “I’ll say nice things about your charity if you do the same for me.”)
So what are good ways? Ken says there is only one and I AGREE. He says, do your job well and encourage reviews.
How do you encourage reviews? Here are some real-life scenarios:
1. Someone writes you or comes up to you and says, “I love your organization.” When this happens to me, I say thanks and ask if they’d be willing to post that online. Or if I ask if I could share their quote as a testimonial on my website.
2. Someone donates because they love you. On the donation thank-you page on your site, include social sharing links so people can spread the word.
3. In your outreach, note if you’re listed on Guidestar, Great Nonprofits and Charity Navigator and that those sites invite charity reviews. Your supporters may not know about that, and if they love you, they might take the time to post a review. However, if they’re annoyed, they may do the same. Be prepared for all forms of feedback!
So, how do you deal with the negative?
1. Listen for it. Be sure you monitor what people are saying about your organization online. Keep tabs via Google Alerts if nothing else.
2. Assess who is saying it and who is listening. Is this one crazy person with no audience? You might want to just watch and wait. Or is it someone who talks to people in your audience? Even one noisy person can be a problem if she has or can rapidly build a following with people who matter to you. I generally err on the side of judging someone worth responding to rather than ignoring negative remarks.
3. Act fast on the site where it started. If you need to respond, do it now (as soon as you finish being annoyed inside), in the venue where the situation started. Things move at lightning speed online, and you don’t want something to spiral out of control before you get in a response. It’s OK if you don’t have all the answers or every piece of needed information — just be transparent about it. “I’m really concerned with this and am looking into it” is better than radio silence. “I’m concerned our staff said that to you and am finding out what happened so I can give you the response you deserve” is better than nothing. But do that on Twitter if the negative comment was a Tweet. No need to issue a press release over a Facebook comment. Respond on Facebook.
4. Be honest, transparent, friendly and non-defensive. This is key. If there is misinformation out there, correct it in a helpful, non-combative way. Network for Good’s own crisis communications plan (and we hope you have one, too) sets out the following principles if we’ve made a mistake:
- Be sincerely apologetic if we’ve done wrong.
- Take responsibility.
- Err on the side of open, frequent communication.
- Be absolutely honest.
- Ensure what we say is accurate — if we’re not sure, say we’re not sure.
- Do all we can to fix problems and mitigate harm.
- Say what we’re doing to ensure it doesn’t happen again. This one is especially important.
5. Remember, it is a conversation. This isn’t a monologue by the critic or by you. Nor is it a war. It’s a conversation. When you respond, be open to reactions, and answer questions. You can’t post one response and call it a day; you need to keep tabs on the situation and participate in the ongoing conversation.
The bottom line? Breathe deeply until you find yourself able to type the words, “I’m so glad you took the time to tell me how you feel.” Then respond, graciously, from there. Assume responsibility broadly and be generous. When you do that in public, with everyone watching, you gain so much. People always appreciate those who care - and take the high road. Slinging mud back feels good for a few seconds, but it causes years of damage. Especially online, where a hot-headed response will never die.