Gossip mongers.

People from small towns aren’t very forgiving. If you betray their trust, your reputation belies you. You can’t just continue on as if nothing has happened – they will hold you to account and you have to own it, apologise and earn their respect back…and this takes time. Word travels like wildfire in the bush, especially bad word.

Reproduced from: Time Toast. “Grapes of Wrath.”

Is managing your online reputation similar to small town living? Well yes, just on a much grander scale. Your reputation is just as delicate and the online community just as ruthless. A bit like small town gossips at the local coffee shop looking for fodder to dissect and disseminate to the wider community, the online community want to know what’s going on and to be a part of the ‘gossip’, and the gossip is easy to find – you don’t even need to leave the house!

82% of consumers read reviews for local businesses, including 93% of people aged 35-54. 

(Bright Local. Local Consumer Review Survey. 2020)

How do you stop the Gossip  Mongers? Much like managing small-town reputations, businesses need to manage their online reputation and they need to do it quickly, transparently and authentically. Following a set of commandments (no, not those familiar to the community church-goers) for managing your online reputation might just save you from the devil’s hell fire:

Virgillato. 2013. Source: “Week 7 Lecture: Reputation Management in a Digital World.” MMK520 Storytelling Digital Media Week 7. PowerPoint slides.

Just like extinguishing the flames from the local Mrs Mangels, businesses need to tackle the rumour mongers head on. Walk right on up to Mrs Mangel and her posse of whispering snakes and talk (politely) about the issue! Yes, it can be confronting, but if you’re authentic and honest, you will earn back the respect. If you sit idle, you risk the negative sentiment gaining momentum and taking off like wildfire.

Can I flip them? Negative feedback isn’t always a bad thing, it can be an opportunity to grow, to be better. Negativity can provoke positive outcomes. Flipping the table and creating positive fodder from a negative situation can really douse the flames. A great example is Southwest Airlines counteract of the negative narrative with a positive PR dog rescue mission. The exercise serves as ongoing penance for their mishandled removal of a customer from a flight because of a dog allergy.

Have you experienced the wrath of small-town gossip, or online negativity? How did you handle it? Would you do anything different next time? Share your gossip with me and I’ll tell you ‘all about the time that…[classified]’.



Bright Local. Bright Ideas. April 21, 2020.”The 40 Online Reviews Statistics You Need in 2020.” https://www.brightlocal.com/resources/online-reviews-statistics-2020/

Time Toast. “Grapes of Wrath.” https://www.timetoast.com/timelines/grapes-of-wrath-a5527774-1126-4577-92a6-cdcbd752ab9b

Virgillato. 2013. “Week 7 Lecture: Reputation Management in a Digital World.” MMK520 Storytelling Digital Media Week 7. PowerPoint slides.

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