A new Pew Research Center study found that Americans rate made-up news as a larger problem than racism, climate change and terrorism. According to the study, the public pinpoints two perpetrators as the primary sources for spreading misleading news: political leaders and activist groups.
Unfortunately, the pest management industry is no stranger to activism and is well aware of the misinformation being shared by groups across the country, whether it be online via social media, advertising campaigns, grassroots efforts or in media coverage in local markets. While activists may believe their motives to be altruistic, some organizations’actions can have damaging consequences. Broadcasting biased or inaccurate information to the masses in an effort to sway public opinion is not only destructive to those directly affected by the accusations, but to the public as a whole, making it harder for everyone to discern fact from fiction.
Like all industries, the professional pest management industry is susceptible to these situations, and members should be prepared to respond professionally and truthfully should they become the target of false claims spread by a person, group or company.
To help the public distinguish fact from fiction and to establish your company as a trusted resource and community thought leader, here are three crucial tactics to remember:
STAY ON TOP OF LOCAL NEWS
Herd mentality is a very real and powerful thing, and can at times create mountains out of molehills if a problem is left to fester for a long enough period of time. Timeliness is key. Begin by monitoring social media for news and relevant groups, people, posts and hashtags so that all commentary, both positive and negative, can be captured in real time. Sign up for alerts from the top broadcast stations in your area through their websites, and be sure to like and follow your local news outlets on social media so that you can track any posts and comments relevant to the pest control industry.
If you’re looking for something a bit more comprehensive, there are many free monitoring services available online, including Hootsuite, which allows you to monitor what people are saying based on keywords, hashtags, locations and even specific users.
TAP AVAILABLE RESOURCES TO PROVIDE ACCURATE INFORMATION
If a concerning post or news story is discovered in your local market that contains factually inaccurate information about your company, the industry at large, or the services you provide, start a discussion with your internal team immediately so that next steps are properly taken. Forbes notes that although it’s easy to be reactive when your brand or industry are at stake, it’s important to confer with your team or PR council for approved language crafted specifically for similar situations.
Sometimes it’s as simple as getting the right information out there to help provide a reputable voice. Industry partners are also able to assist you and have resources available to help you navigate such situations. The Professional Pest Management Alliance (PPMA) has prepared messaging on a plethora of topics relating to pest control and has materials such as customer and media talking points, interview tips, suggested social media posts and more.
TURN UP THE PR TO DROWN OUT INACCURATE NEWS
Once you’ve determined if and how to address a concerning post or article, the next step is to activate your PR efforts. In order to drown out activist claims or negative commentary and ensure accurate information is reaching consumers instead, a concerted PR push is essential.
Google prioritizes new content when serving up results to users. As such, if your most recent press coverage concerns a particularly delicate topic, securing new coverage that positions your company or industry in a credible manner will slowly but surely help push the older, negative news further down Google’s list. Business.com also recommends focusing on social media as well, as Google will always serve up at least one social profile in its search results. By increasing the volume of coverage surrounding your business or industry and remaining active on social media, you’ll communicate to Google that these items are more relevant than anything else being said.
So, get right in front of it by posting helpful, accurate information on your social media properties, offer to give an interview on the topic with local media and distribute your own press releases and eBlasts to educate consumers about the diseases and dangers posed by household pests and the role professionals play in protecting quality of life. Keep the value and importance of what you do front and center.
Every industry, business or person with enough exposure is susceptible to negative backlash in the news or on the web. How you handle that backlash or next round of made-up news is the difference between successfully navigating a difficult situation and leaving the public out there with misinformation, which can sometimes have irreversible consequences. By monitoring the news in real time for any concerning post or coverage, tapping available resources to help provide accurate information to consumers and actively offsetting negative press with positive publicity, you’ll be able to not only counteract negativity, but be potentially viewed in an even more positive light as a result of your efforts.
Cindy Mannes is the executive director of the Professional Pest Management Alliance. Visit www.npmapestworld.org/ppma for more information on how you can become involved.