Imagine waking up one day to not only find that an obscure website had posted a malicious and completely fabricated story about your business, but that the resulting reaction had caused your Facebook account to be suspended giving you no way of responding?
That’s exactly the situation the managers at The Globe pub in Leicester city centre found themselves in this weekend, when a spurious ‘right-wing’ website (which I won’t credit with a link!) published an article that accused The Globe of enforcing “a new scheme which seeks to ban all British military personnel from entering their premises in fear of upsetting local non British citizens”.
The accusing website was apparently acting from a ‘tip off’, and have used that to subsequently absolve themselves of any blame regarding the damage done to The Globe. The fact they didn’t request any quotes or reaction from The Globe prior to publishing the article, and even used a fake picture of the ‘landlords’ to accompany it, tells you all you need to know about the integrity of this website.
Nevertheless, The Globe had a problem. As the story began to spread, people who believed the allegations were understandably outraged. This outrage spilled out from the comments of the original article and onto social media sites – to such a degree that Facebook suspended The Globe’s page due to the high amount of reports it was receiving from angry users. The amount of threatening phone calls made to The Globe on Saturday even forced them to close, only reopening when security staff had arrived.
Speaking to the Leicester Mercury, The Globe’s Thomas Hains said:
We’ve had people phoning from all over the country with people expressing their disgust which they would have every right to do if it was true, but it is not. It is affecting our business and our staff. We are having to turn customers away. We took a decision not to open until we have security staff here. We can’t put our staff in danger… I’ve got a lot of frightened staff here, one lady has been in tears. It’s a lot to deal with.
Since the accusations have been shown to be completely untrue it has been heartening to see the Leicester business community rally round The Globe, but there is definitely a lesson to be learned here for all businesses in 2013. Online reputation management is increasingly becoming an essential aspect of operating a business, and having the means and the recourse to respond swiftly and effectively to anything from false reviews to spurious allegations could be the difference in maintaining a good online reputation. Management and staff at The Globe have reacted admirably over the weekend, from putting up the above tongue-in-cheek display board outside the pub to taking control of the story and the discussion on Twitter and Facebook (when they were allowed to sign in again!)
Once the dust had settled on The Globe’s drama, I got in touch with Tom to get his insight on what had happened:
Why do you think you were targeted by this site? Was it purely a case of mistaken identity or something more vindictive?
Tom: We believe we were just unlucky and that clearly someone is trying to incite tension in Leicester. I think that because we are a historical and well known venue that we were a good target for them.
In hindsight, do you think you could have done anything different in responding to the story and the reactions?
Tom: The main objective for us was to keep staff and customers safe which we have done. None of us have ever dealt with a situation like this before and hopefully we never will have to again.
What advice would you give to anyone else who may find themselves in your position?
Tom: Contact the police and make your story known.
The result of The Globe’s quick and decisive reaction to the crisis is that they are now receiving a flood of goodwill across social media – with many followers promising to pop in for a pint next week! So the lesson to be learned is that if the reputation of your business unfairly comes under-fire online, make sure you react quickly and positively – acting to control the story and dominate the conversation early.
If you want to show your support to The Globe, or if you just want an excuse for a cheeky pint, here’s what they’ve got going on this week – The Globe, Leicester events