A primer for veterinary practices
The Internet and social media bring great opportunities to veterinarians and veterinary practices, but they also pose risks to your personal and professional reputation. From bad reviews to cyberbullying, veterinarians – like other small business owners and professional service providers – are at risk of coming under attack in cyberspace. And if it happens, it can be both emotionally distressing and disruptive to your business.
But it’s not cause for panic – it’s cause for monitoring and maintaining your online presence, and double-checking your basic business practices to make sure they stand up to scrutiny.
There are many things you can do to limit your risks, as well as ways to prevent or minimize damage if you do come under attack. And just as with preventive care for your patients, regular “preventive care” for your online presence can be the key to preventing problems or allowing you to detect and address them before they become larger threats.
Perhaps the most important thing you can do to prevent damage to your reputation is to take a close look at your business practices – from pricing and billing, to friendliness in client interactions, to creating a happy work environment for your employees – to make sure all of your activities are beyond reproach. Good business practices won’t guarantee that you don’t ever come under criticism; but they can help you defend yourself, and also garner goodwill that might bring loyal clients and staff to your defense in the event that you do come under attack.
Other best practices to protect your reputation include conducting regular environmental scanning on social media and across the Internet to monitor what is being said about you, your clinic and your staff; and taking precautions to make sure your clinic’s own website and social media won’t invite criticism.
When/How to respond
It’s also important to plan in advance so that you and your clinic staff know when and how to respond to criticism. Some negative reviews can be expected in any business; not all of them will require a response. What’s most important is learning to identify those reviews or criticisms that do need a response, and how best to handle them. This Social Media Response flowchart, customized specifically for veterinary clinics, can help you make that assessment. The way you respond to complaints or criticism online can make, or break, your reputation. Your goals should focus on reputation management as well as protecting the emotional health of your entire staff, including yourself.
How AVMA can help
Ready to take ownership of your online reputation? The following resources, available only to AVMA members, provide specific advice and tips to help you take the crucial steps needed to protect yourself against online critics and cyberbullies.
AVMA members who are facing an immediate cyberbullying situation have access to a 24/7 hotline staffed by crisis management experts from Bernstein Crisis Management. As an AVMA member, you receive up to 30 minutes of free consultation and advice – enough to help you stem the tide of attack in most situations. You also qualify for significant discounts if you want additional services.
This resource was developed with the assistance of Bernstein Crisis Management.