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So You Got a Bad Customer Review …

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Public and readily accessible customer reviews are a fact of life for today’s business owners. Whether focused on a specific industry such as reviews at Hotels.com or covering a wide range of companies (i.e. Google Reviews, Yelp … etc.) there are plenty of online sites that want consumers to rate satisfaction with a recent purchase. The question for business owners and managers is what to do when they inevitably get negative comments.

Take Stock of the Situation

We may like to say that the customer is always right, but when criticized our natural inclination is to be defensive. We’ll make excuses, question the veracity of our detractors, or claim others are at fault (There are two sides to every story, after all!). Still, we should try to overcome our human impulses and:

  • Stay calm – Yep, they really said that, right there, for all the world to see. The unfairness of it all! Okay … stop. While your every instinct may be to fight back, instead clear your head and concentrate on fixing a problem. The issue isn’t necessarily a bad review. Also, if you’re wishing your customer had tried to be more understanding, maybe you could start the ball rolling by going first.
  • Investigate – Do what you can to understand what transpired to create the unhappy customer. Recalling the incident, or finding the employee who remembers what happened may depend on the level of detail in the reviewer’s account, but make a good faith effort to get the facts. Keep in mind that the in-house person who knows the most about the incident may have had the biggest role in making the customer unhappy. Don’t be accusatory with that staff member, but take pains to see the matter from the customer’s perspective.
  • Make Changes – Once you’re satisfied you have a handle on what transpired, ensure there will be no cause for similar reviews in the future. Did an employee do something wrong? Was a policy at fault? If so, address the deficiency and correct it. Was the problem unavoidable or was the customer in the wrong? Then explore measures to let upset customers in the future know you care about their feelings, even if you can’t make them completely happy.

React Positively

You’ve done what you can to uncover the facts and you have a plan for moving forward. Now it’s time to let others know you’ve acknowledged a problem and are working to set things right by:

  • Responding Online (at the review site) – Don’t just let a bad review sit there! Many customer satisfaction sites provide an opportunity for you to address a critical review. (This goes for social media criticisms as well.) Respectfully and graciously express your concern that a customer had a bad experience. If your investigation found that your business was at fault, own up to it, apologize and let people know how you plan to fix the problem. If the problem was out of your control, politely explain why. Don’t belabor your points.
  • Contacting the unhappy customer directly – If possible, contact the person who posted the negative review. Let them know you are disheartened that they had a bad experience. You may find them very reasonable as the heat of the moment has passed, They may even appreciate you reaching out to them. See if reasonable accommodation can be reached. Keep in mind: It’s not so important that they understand your position, but that they know you care about theirs.
  • Going public – Without rehashing a specific bad review, let customers (current, former and prospective) know you value their feedback whether it’s good or bad. Encourage their reviews on rating sites (suggest a few that you can easily monitor) and add the proviso that you’d always like the opportunity to address any concerns. When real problems are uncovered, let everyone know you’re fixing them. “Responsive” and “thoughtful” are very marketable qualities in a business.

Minimize the Impact

Though you do everything possible to set things right—and that irate reviewer is now your most enthusiastic advocate—a negative comment could virtually hang around forever. Here are three things you can do to mitigate the damage:

  • Overwhelm the bad reviews with good – As mentioned, you should encourage customers to review your business, and if you usually do a good job, your ratings will reflect that. People understand everyone occasionally has a bad day, and some customers are going to be unreasonable jerks, so the stray one-star rating won’t sink you. Just don’t manufacture glowing reviews—that’s unethical and there could be negative repercussions from the review site.
  • Work on Search Engine Results – Google the name of your business. What comes up at the top? If negative comments are prominent, embark on a plan to increase improve your Internet presence. The more “good news” you have out there, the less prominence any negative reviews will have.
  • Emphasize customer testimonials and case studies in your marketing – Apart from trusted word-of-mouth communication, verified testimonials and case studies are about the most effective form of advertising. Make them a component of your sales and marketing strategy on your website, in ads and commercials, brochures … everywhere! You want to people to see that happy customers are the norm, and a bad experience is an aberration.

Final thought: think of negative reviews as an opportunity. If you have a problem in how you’re serving customers, you want to know it. And if you aren’t really doing anything wrong, here’s your chance to practice your customer relations skills. Besides, anything that encourages us to look beyond our normal, everyday perspective will only help us grow and be better prepared for new challenges in the future.

The Pinstripe PR team are reputation management pros and can help mitigate negative comments. Contact us here to learn how we can help.

East-West Shrine Game is next week!

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We are in full swing with one of our most heartwarming clients, the East-West Shrine Game. This is the longest running college all-star football game in the country, and it benefits Shriners Hospitals for Children. We cherish this client! Tickets are $15 and the game is at Tropicana Field on Saturday, January 20, kickoff time at 3pm. Get your tickets here.

Check out our case study video with some great Shrine Game, practice, and hospital visit footage.

It’s Time for the East-West Shrine Game!

shrine game pr_news

If you know us at all, you know that one of our busiest times of year is “Shrine Game Time,” and it’s starting now! Tickets for the East-West Shrine Game go on sale Friday, December 1, and we have been gearing up for this game for months already.

The Shrine Game is the longest running college all-star football game in the United States, and this is its 93rd year! The game is driven by the desire to support Shriners Hospitals for Children in its mission to help children in need of expert medical care. More than 1 million children have benefited from Shriners Hospitals’ unique way of providing hope and healing, regardless of the families’ ability to pay for services.

Each year, we accompany the players and coaches to the Shriners Hospital Tampa so they can meet some of the patients, play with the kids, dance, sign footballs, play basketball, and in general have a ton of fun. This day shows them why the East-West Shrine Game is “More Than Just a Game.”

Click here for tickets to the January 20, 2018 game.

Et Cultura Festival – Interactive Sessions, Music, Art, Film, Craft

et cultura public relations_news

Et Cultura Festival wrapped up last week, and we wanted to share just a few of the interesting things we saw and experienced over the five-day festival’s myriad activities. It was definitely a whirlwind week and since we do public relations for the festival, the few weeks before were pretty hectic as well, but we had a great time and we’re already looking forward to next year.

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Some of the highlights that we were able to catch:

SEEDS interactive sessions at the Morean Center for Clay were phenomenal. There were several presentations throughout the day, all related to gardening, plant-based diet, sustainable living. It was incredibly interesting and enlightening, plus some of the presentations were interactive. One presenter, Kim Campbell, Director of Recipe Development and Culinary Education for PlantPure, Inc., even did a recipe demonstration where she prepared 3 giant pressure cookers full of Ethiopian butternut squash and lentils with brown rice. She made enough to go around the entire room, and the whole room smelled incredible. Not only that, the dish tasted amazing, so we are definitely going to try making some recipes like this in the future.

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Another highlight of the SEEDS interactive sessions included live gardening demonstrations by some of St. Pete’s local farmers, which sparked some of the Pinstripe family to go home and start gardens. The weather was perfect and the crowd was thick for these sessions, which means a lot of people are interested in growing food.

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A panel discussion called “Prescribing Food as Medicine” provided some fascinating insights into how diet directly affects physical health and illness. One fascinating case in particular was a diabetic patient who was very sick changed their diet to plant-based and no longer had to use insulin. Other panelists discussed the affects of diet on heart disease, obesity, and even cancer.

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Lots of interested folks at the SEEDS interactive sessions all day long.

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The Future City interactive sessions at Station House featured a wide variety of topics focused on economic development, supporting local businesses, affordable housing, social justice and more.

Small Is Big discussed the importance of championing locally owned and operated businesses and using entrepreneurs, citizen volunteers, events and artists for community development as well as an economic driver.

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What Is “Affordable” Housing These Days? featured speakers representing the city, developers, the tiny house movement and others. The discussion highlighted the needs for a variety of places to call home that we can afford and want to live in as our city grows, continues to attract young talent, and needs to support a service-oriented workforce and address the changing needs of an aging population.

Et Cultura St Pete

Perhaps the most interesting discussion on Thursday was Inclusive Cities featuring social justice advocate, Weldon Angelos. The panel discussed ideas for building a more equitable system in our community and beyond for citizens who break the law, serve their time, and want to re-enter society. Weldon Angelos story is fascinating and infuriating. He was sentenced a mandatory 55 years in prison for selling a few pounds of marijuana while possessing a firearm – a sentence so extreme that his judge, unable to go below the mandatory minimum, called on the president to commute Weldon’s sentence. Barring such a presidential commutation, taxpayers would spend more than $1.5 million to keep Weldon behind bars until he was 80 years old. Weldon’s sentencing provoked unprecedented public outcry. Twenty-nine former judges and prosecutors filed a ‘friend of the court’ brief beseeching Weldon’s sentencing judge to declare the sentence unconstitutional. At sentencing, Judge Paul G. Cassell called Weldon’s punishment “unjust, cruel, and even irrational,” comparing it to much shorter federal sentences given to repeat child rapists and airplane hijackers. Judge Cassell wrote a 67-page opinion urging President Bush to commute Weldon’s sentence to 18 years or less. Unfortunately, none of these efforts proved fruitful until recently, when President Obama commuted his sentence– after Weldon served 13 years in prison.

You can see more of Weldon’s story here:

On Friday we were fortunate enough to join a group of educators for the RADICAL SCHOOLS interactive sessions. The keynote speaker was Geoffrey Canada, who flew down from Harlem, New York City to discuss his work with the Harlem Children’s Zone and the philosophy of his educational approach. He and his colleagues seek to change the lives of inner-city kids, prevent youth violence and foster community development through education reform. The model encourages educators to meet students where they are and use their own interests and needs to create active participation in their education and future.

One really cool element of the RADICAL SCHOOLS interactive sessions was a portable skate and BMX half pipe. They set it up right in the middle of 2nd St between 1St Ave and Central in downtown St. Pete, closed off that street, and had professional BMX riders and skateboarders doing tricks. It was definitely a good way to get every kid’s attention, and a huge crowd of both children and adults gathered to see the talented athletes doing cool tricks and defying gravity.

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Of course, we also caught a few of the concerts, films, art shows and the makers market – Et Cultura is a week of what is best in St. Pete!

Our public relations efforts for Et Cultura included media relations and leveraging our relationships with local television stations to book morning shows for Et Cultura founders and other interesting interviewees. It’s a win-win situation, as the hosts get to meet great people who are making cool things happen in our community, and our clients have the opportunity to discuss their events and draw more attendance to their events on television shows with thousands of viewers across the Tampa Bay area. Next time you have an event or news-worthy business happening, get in touch with Pinstripe and we can help you get the word out to our community, both in television and in print.

East-West Shrine Game Wrap Up

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Saturday, January 21, 2017, marked the 92nd annual East-West Shrine Game and Pinstripe’s sixth year managing the advertising, social media, public relations, media credentials, pre-game and much more. While preparation for the game takes a couple months, the week leading up to it is an action packed time for us, and we love every moment of it!

 

Kicking off the week with a visit to the Shriners Hospitals for Children – Tampa with four busloads of all-star football players, coaches, team managers and other staff is incredible. We couldn’t think of a better way to remind ourselves and these young rising star football players what the Shrine Game means.

Monday am – We start the day by visiting the Game Office at the Tradewinds Hotel on St. Pete Beach. We check in with the staff there, pick up the most up to date rosters and practice schedules, and just say hi to all of our wonderful colleagues that make the Shrine Game possible.

Monday lunch – We collect and organize all of our media interview requests for the players and coaches. These have been arriving via text, phone call, email – any method the press can connect with us, they do! Our goal is to make sure the press gets what they want, but also that the players get exposure for the week – they’ve worked hard to get here and deserve some recognition for that.

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Monday afternoon – Head over to Shorecrest Preparatory School football stadium, where the East Team practices. We set up our media table, where we distribute rosters, schedules, and check-in writers, photographers, and videographers who are approved for credentials to access the practice field and press box at the game. We even hand out mints and sunscreen, because we’re just thoughtful like that. You’d be surprised at how many people take advantage of both. We take photos and video of practice and post to all social accounts. After practice we pull players aside for in-person interviews with media, and give them instructions for radio and interview call-ins they will need to do in the evening. Later in the afternoon, we head over to St. Pete High football stadium for West Team practice, where we do the same thing that we did with the East Team.

Monday night – We all meet to go over media requests, recap the last two days, look at photos/video, and make sure we’re on track for the rest of the week. The whole team is always checking in with each other to make sure all bases are covered and to see if anyone needs help with anything.

Tuesday – Thursday – These days are much like Monday – we attend practices, connect with media, and make sure that social is alive with photos, updates, and fun, interactive posts to keep our fans engaged and make sure they can follow what is going on. Some of the players’ families are not able to attend the game, so our posts are their way of seeing what is going on during the week.

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Thursday, Friday, Saturday mornings – Prior to the week, we booked morning shows for the executive director of the game and the Shriners Hospitals patient ambassadors, so we attend these morning shows for support and guidance, as well as to connect with the patient ambassadors. This is our first time meeting them and it is always a pleasure!

Friday evening – We attend the banquet! The Shriners, players, coaches, and the Shrine Game team come together at Tropicana Field for a night filled with food, awards, and celebration. The executive director of the game, Harold Richardson, presents the Pat Tillman Award. Pat Tillman was a professional football player who walked away from the game after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 to join the U.S. Army and fight for our country. After just three years in the NFL, Tillman turned down a multi-million dollar contract offer from the Cardinals to enlist in the U.S. Army. He was killed during a mission in Afghanistan in 2004. This year the award, which recognizes the player who best exemplifies character, intelligence, sportsmanship and service, went to Air Force safety, Weston Steelhammer.

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Saturday – GAME DAY! Although kickoff is at 1pm, the Pinstripe team is at The Trop at 10am to set up the press box, go through the production schedule with the Rays video team, and get ready to provide last-minute media credentials at will call. We manage the pre-game pageantry, in-game video and graphics, half-time show, sideline photography, press statistics, MVP voting, the final game press releases, and more! It feels like we fit a month of work into a single day that lasts well into the night. It is a tremendous sense of satisfaction as we look out over the dark, empty Tropicana Field where just a few hours before, a hundred young football stars burst onto the field to play for their futures, for their families, for many of their own reasons, but most of all, for the millions of Shriners Hospitals for Children patients who benefit from the game.

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