How to Avoid Being the Next ‘Instagram Kids:’ A PR Approach to Product Reputation Reviews

Early last month, the Wall Street Journal reported Facebook is conducting reputation reviews of its products. This followed whistleblower Frances Haugen’s leak of documents alleging Facebook knew one of its products had adverse effects on young womens’ mental health but had done nothing about it.

This tumult triggered yet another wave of congressional hearings about the tech giant and coincided with Facebook pausing release of an Instagram product for kids. Apparently the pause was the result of more than a dozen Facebook employees now reviewing projects and planned product releases with an eye to public response.

Given that a company of Facebook’s clout and perceived indifference to public scrutiny seems worried about product-related backlash, it follows that communicators at all organizations should consider reviewing products and services prior to launch.

As such, we asked PR pros to assess the state of reputation reviews.
Do Competitive Research First
Gene Grabowski, principal at kglobal, has conducted internal product reviews for corporations, universities and nonprofits. While an internal review is crucial, he believes competitive research should be a keystone of the review strategy.

Anticipate audience questions
Sarah Evans, founder and CEO of Sevans Strategy, stresses sniffing out the why of a potential product-related backlash and preparing responsive messaging up-front.

For example, if a backlash is anticipated from customers unhappy because a product or experience has changed, she advises holding focus groups and tracking customer questions. That way, PR pros can generate FAQs and how-to content pre-launch.

“If no answers are available to the public, audiences will always create their own narrative,” she says.

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