A recent job applicant opened my eyes to just how exposed we are when we have web sites and use social media. This particular person reviewed our website to learn more about our company before sending in her application. On the site she found that one of our staff members was involved in fox-hunting. Instead of applying for the job she wrote us a scathing letter deploring our support for a staff member who participated in a sport that she thought was cruel to animals. I was not expecting that when we advertised for a job to say the least.
There were two ways to deal with this situation; either ignore this person, or try to engage her and explain our position. Unfortunately, ignoring people in this age of exposure makes one a prime target for negative online reviews. As we use the web to reach current and potential clients she could use it with equal effectiveness to create an uproar and spread negative comments. Instead, I quickly responded and thanked her for the email. I explained that the staff member in question is involved in “drag hunts”, where a lead horse drags a scented cloth through the countryside that the hounds can track and chase after. In effect, it is an organized cross-country romp on horseback. The enraged job applicant was immediately mollified and apologized for the misunderstanding. She admitted that she wrote us without proper investigation and now wished even more to have a job with us. I in turn thanked her for exposing something on our website that could have been badly misinterpreted. We corrected the staff bio on our web page and everybody was happy. We put out a potential fire and at the same time elevated our reputation with this applicant.
There are three important lessons to be learned from this situation:
You and Your Practice are Being Judged
People will be looking at your practice to see if you walk the walk and talk the talk. For example, if you are into calf roping, you must be prepared to accept that there will be people in your community that may not agree with the sport and will judge you based on your pastime. The separation between your private life and the perception of your practice is non-existent. By all means do what you enjoy but don’t be surprised if you get feedback on your personal life. This will happen if there is even the slightest perceived contradiction to the perception of veterinarians as healers of animals.
Deal with the Negative Feedback… NOW!
Two current situations in the news illustrate how companies can either rise to the occasion or badly fumble when coping with a problem. BP is doing a horrible job dealing with the fallout from the Gulf oil spill. They are slow to respond to new developments and appear to be fudging the facts in an attempt to minimize the fallout. On the other hand, McDonalds released promotional drinking glasses that turned out to have a toxic substance in them. They responded openly and quickly, and took full ownership of the screwup. Ultimately, McDonald’s reputation is intact and even enhanced. Deal with a negative impression quickly, respectfully, and honestly. Even if you are not successful, your accuser will respect your candor.
Prepare Your Defence
Sorry, but when your personal life becomes your public life you must have a story prepared to defend yourself for everything. No intelligent adult should have to defend personal choices but as soon as you have a public profile be prepared.
Here is the key point.
If you aren’t prepared to or don’t want to defend a hobby, club affiliate, religion or political point of view, do not put it on your web site, Facebook page or practice brochure. Keep your private life private. On the other hand if you don’t care what people think about your life go right ahead. Just don’t be surprised if not everyone thinks the way you do and you lose a client.
The web makes it so much easier to reach so many people and yet so hard to remain private. Are you prepared?