Top Online Reputation Management Tips for Brand Marketers
Online reputation management clearly has a big impact on a company’s revenue.
What are some online reputation issues a brand might experience?
Business owners are often taken off-guard by online reputation issues. Many don’t even realize they need to be concerned about their reputation online. A common question I hear is: “Why are people saying bad things about us on the Internet, and what can we do about it?” Executives can spend long years developing a strong brand. It can be beyond unsettling to wake up one day and see defamatory remarks appearing online, particularly when the items move beyond constructive criticism to include outrageous accusations and even slanderous or libelous remarks. Even worse, the negative reviews are often on websites that rank high in search engines, so anyone doing a search on the company name will probably see them. Whether the comments are true or not, these negative search results jeopardize the company’s online reputation.
Many executives don’t consider the potential losses in sales, press coverage, hiring ability, and more until long after the damage is done. That’s understandable, given all they’re responsible for, but it leaves them vulnerable. It’s a lot more expensive and difficult — sometimes impossible — to clean up a reputation after negative comments appear online than it is to be proactive. I’ve seen more than a few companies plagued by a small group of individuals with a vendetta against a company who leverage the Internet to do damage. These people often have goals to critically damage the company or even profit by a company’s poor reputation by shorting their stock.
Do you see executives’ personal reputation affect their companies’ online reputations these days?
Definitely. Top-level executives’ names can become synonymous with the brand, especially CEOs, so their personal reputations can affect the company just like corporate reputations do. Shareholders might look into executive reputations before investing, and well-known customers sometimes do that before buying from or endorsing the company. Executives’ reputations can also affect the amount and kind of press the company gets and the angle journalists take. Executives with strong personal reputations often become known as thought leaders and industry experts, which has major benefits for the company.
Won’t positive Google results stay where they are and serve as protection against reputational hits?
Just because the results are good today, doesn’t mean they’ll be that way tomorrow. Search engine results can change at any time based on recent news, social media, algorithm changes or a number of other factors. Creating and keeping a positive online reputation is a continuous, ongoing process that all brands need to be involved in.
How should companies consider expanding their crisis communication plan to handle reputation issues?
In today’s online-focused world, any crisis will shortly be an online reputation crisis thanks to the real-time nature of social media. Even if a major news publication doesn’t report a negative story about a company, blogs, tweets and other social media can do great damage.The first step is to do everything you can to prevent a problem from becoming a reputational crisis. That includes planning how to best use every online platform your brand is on, not just jumping on the hottest new trend because everyone is doing it. It also includes constant monitoring of online brand mentions and sentiment, and strong threat detection and protection.
During a crisis, you’ll want to have someone on call who can monitor your online reputation, assess the reputational risks of various events and solutions, and suggest reputation-protection measures. Whether this person is in-house or an outside reputation manager, they need to be able to communicate with several teams and all key decision makers to make sure the solutions to the crisis are good for the whole company and solve more problems than they create. Because social media happens in real time, customers expect fast responses. To prevent minor problems from becoming reputational crises and to maintain a good reputation during a crisis, communicate and respond quickly. Fast communication is especially critical if the crisis involves product/service quality and safety or the security and privacy of customer or employee information.
What are the key reputation management tactics you recommend and employ for your clients?
1. Own Your Search Engine Results Page (SERP)
Don’t be content with only a handful of links at the top of a search engine results page for your brand. Take full advantage of your SERP by working to control as much of it as you can from top to bottom.
2. Be Social
Claim your brand’s social media profiles and use them. Some of them will have more benefit for you than others, but you still want to claim your brand name on all the major social networks and update them regularly. This prevents others from hijacking your brand name, gives you a bigger presence online, and helps you control more spots in SERPs. The major social profiles that do well in Google results include: Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Google+, YouTube, SlideShare and Pinterest. Be sure to link all of your social profiles together.
Blogging is another way to get your brand out there on the web. Buy a domain that includes the brand name, and then develop your blog with professional, positive information about the company, products, industry trends, support issues and other topics. In addition to showing up on your SERPs and publishing positive information about your brand, blogging also attracts more traffic than static websites, so it helps your reputation and your lead generation.
4. Think Outside the Box
Opportunities to get noticed on the web abound. For example, encourage customers to show how they’re using your product through YouTube videos. Videos tend to rank very well on Google and other search engines.
5. Have an Active PR Strategy
Don’t simply rely on “company news” for your press releases. Look for unique ways your products are being used. Publicize partners you’re working with. Sponsor events that may get press.
Is it worth developing an in-house department to tackle online reputation management issues?
It is possible to do some of the top-level ORM work within a company. Some of these tasks include:
public relations campaigns
social media updates
development of company-related websites like blogs and support forums
But beyond these, most companies don’t have the resources or experience that comes from working on multiple ORM campaigns. With an experienced reputation management firm, you get the advantage of their leveraged knowledge from working with many companies and diverse situations.
Is online reputation management help expensive?
It can vary greatly depending on the unique factors of each reputation. When I give a quote to a potential client, I consider if the ORM work to be done is proactive or reactive. Maintenance and preventive measures are generally less expensive than trying to repair an online reputational problem after it’s happened. I also consider the size of the company, the scope of the work, the specific countries they are doing business in and the estimated return on investment.
Thanks to Don Sorensen for this interview and for his contributions to the ongoing dialogue on ORM. Readers can reach Don directly through his website www.bigbluerobot.com.