The 10 Commandments of Online Reputation Management
Are you aware just how important online reputation management (ORM) has
become? The 2016 Consumer Review Survey from BrightLocal found that
92 percent of consumers search the internet when they want to find out more
about a business, while 84 percent trust online reviews as much as a personal
recommendation. Meanwhile, 54 percent of people will go on to visit a brand’s
website if they find positive content elsewhere on the internet.
Yet online reputation isn’t just about customer opinion. Social media recruiting has
jumped 54 percent in just the past five years; young professionals are searching for
jobs on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and other popular sites, and they’re evaluating
companies based on the information they find here. According to Pew research, 65
percent of adults are active on social media and these numbers continue to grow
as more young millennials join the workforce. Companies without an active up-to-
date profile on social sites will find it difficult to attract the most qualified talent.
of consumers search the internet
when they want to find out more
about a business.
92% 84% 54%
of consumers trust online
reviews as much as a personal
of people will go on to visit a
brand’s website if they find positive
content elsewhere on the internet
At ReputationDefender this doesn’t come as any
surprise. We’ve spent over a decade building and
maintaining brand reputations. A company’s online
profile is based on the results that appear on the
first page of a Google search. This can affect
almost every aspect of the business and ultimately
determine its success. Negative content hurts the
brand’s image, but lack of information online can
be just as damaging. If the Search Engine Result
Page (SERP) isn’t promoting your brand, then it’s
advertising competitors and sending potential
Reputation management is about building
credibility. Customers looking up your brand or
running a general search on topics related to the
industry need to find answers to their questions.
They need to find positive content directly related
to your company, most importantly a well-
organised website, but also relevant blog articles,
professional social media profiles, and testimonies
from customers and third party sites. Negative
comments or company scandals will take away
from this image.
Companies must put active energy
into creating a positive online profile
and building better customer relations
via the internet. If this seems like an
overwhelming task, you’re not alone.
Most company leaders know they need
to improve the brand’s online reputation,
but they’re not sure where to start.
This is why we created the 10
commandments of ORM to help guide
your brand in the right direction.
The 10 Commandments
Managing Brand Reputation
GAIN RESPECT – As a child, no doubt, you had
a teacher or a parent who told you respect
wasn’t handed out for free; it had to be earned.
Companies gain respect in the same way a
person does, by showing competence, honesty
and accountability, by admitting mistakes when
appropriate and handling conflict gracefully.
Unfortunately, the internet complicates things
since it doesn’t necessarily tell an accurate
version of events and often ranks negative and
sensational stories higher than other types
of content. An affective ORM campaign must
counteract this tendency, by placing the brand
as an authority on various topics within its field.
Companies also gain respect by supporting
goals beyond their own profit. A 2015 Cone
Communications/Ebiquity study on Global CSR
found that 84 percent of consumers say they
are more likely to buy from a brand known for
being socially and environmentally responsible.
Promoting the company’s sustainable initiatives,
employee benefit programs and charitable
causes online is another way to gain respect
among customers who take these issues
TRY TO BE TRANSPARENT – Transparency can
be risky, but companies that manage to achieve
it have a lot to gain. As in the O2 example above,
transparency is about acknowledging issues and
criticism, rather than making an effort to cover
it up. Customers respect this level of honesty
and are more tolerant of problems when they
can relate to the organisation on a human level
and feel they are part of the team. It’s worth
the investment to maintain a qualified PR team
capable of responding appropriately to a crisis
process. Some other transparency techniques
include allowing employees to discuss products
publicly, an ‘open culture’ workplace with public
posting of employee salaries and policies, and
requests for consumer feedback.
Of course, there is a downside to each of these
tactics. However transparent companies want to
appear, some aspects of the business will need
to remain private. Employees who aren’t trained
in PR may expose unflattering secrets. Public
feedback can draw attention to issues that might
not otherwise have come up.
Company leaders need to consider the pros
and cons of any transparency policy carefully
to find the approach that will create the most
confidence among consumers while minimising
reputational risk. Competent planning and risk
assessment are an important part of any effort
to be transparent.
LISTEN TO WHAT PEOPLE ARE SAYING – Don’t
dismiss customers’ comments. Even the most
highlighting the root-issue and fixing it, you reduce
the chances that someone else will make a similar
comment in the future. At the same time, analysing
positive feedback will give you a chance to see what
customers appreciate and make sure this becomes
an even more integral part of the brand’s image.
Today, listening to people online means using the
right technology. The internet is too big and there
are too many different platforms to monitor each
one separately. Depending on the size of your
company, a simple Google Alert for the brand
name can help to track content that is indexed by
search engines; however, you’ll still be missing
social media platforms. Social monitoring
software such as Hootsuite, Social Mention and
others can address this issue. Most programs
have a basic service that is free, with advanced
options requiring a subscription.
At the high end of the spectrum, there are social
analytics firms that specialise in tracking online
content. Crimson Hexagon is an international
company that has worked with many well-known
brands in the UK, including BBC, O2, Barclays and
Manchester City Football. Whatever technology
you choose, remember the more data you have
at your disposal, the easier it will be to design a
reputation that appeals to real customers.
REMAIN POLITE AT ALL TIMES – Remember, in any online interaction, you’re the professional. Consumers
frequently post comments that are unreasonable and even offensive; a brand response that is defensive or
argumentative will only make the issue worse.
In a well-known example from 2010, one coffee house responded to a complaint about too few electrical
outlets with a Tweet claiming “We are in the coffee business and not the office business.” The sarcastic
comment garnered a lot of negative attention because it was insensitive to the customer’s experience and
failed to acknowledge that many people use electronic devices in coffee shops.1.
84%of consumers say they
are more likely to buy
from a brand known
for being socially
In most cases, it’s best not to respond to overly irate
comments or obvious trolling. The authors of this type
of post simply want to argue, and by responding, even
politely, you will give them a chance to do so. However,
some companies have successfully broken this rule. In
2012, O2 responded to a number of vitriolic complaints
about a wide-spread power outage with Tweets that
were both sensitive and humorous, and turned the
crisis into a reputation boost rather than the opposite.
O2’s writer was able find the lighter elements of the
situation without belittling the problems customers
faced dealing with the outage. This is a difficult balance
to achieve, so it’s best to avoid humour unless you’re
quite sure about what you’re doing; but injecting
company responses with a personal touch is better
than a generic formal acknowledgement.
TREAT THE GOOGLE SERP #1 AS YOUR FIRST
IMPRESSION – Some company leaders who
came of age before the internet still think in
terms of business cards and flyers. This is a
mistake. Today’s consumers are on the internet,
and that’s where they will be looking for you
as well. The Google SERP is now your calling
card. It’s the first thing the customer will see,
and, unless there’s positive content that attracts
their attention, it could be the last as well.
This poses something of a problem for company
leaders. It’s easy for marketers to design,
draft and publish content that represents the
brand, but ensuring that these are the results
ranking highest on a Google search requires a
different skill-set. Search engine algorithms
use various ranking factors designed to promote
content that attracts the most organic traffic.
There’s no sure-fire way of controlling them,
but there are a lot of techniques that can help
promote your content and generate positive
autocomplete suggestions. This element of ORM
is quite technical; it requires a specialist with a
thorough grasp of Google’s latest algorithmic
updates. Using the wrong techniques, even
unintentionally, can result in content getting
penalised or banned.
Online reputation isn’t built overnight. It takes
a month to six weeks to see results and even
longer to rank enough content to fill the SERP.
This is why it’s a good idea to invest in reputation
management early in the business so the online
profile grows along with the customer base.
LEARN FROM YOUR MISTAKES – It’s impossible
to build a business or a reputation without
making mistakes. The important thing is to
learn from these errors and use them to build a
better company image. At ReputationDefender,
we don’t believe people or companies are
defined by past actions, but this is what happens
when events become memorialised on the web.
Reputation management is a chance to explain
your version and show why the brand is much
more than one recent misstep.
In 2009, the North American health-foods
chain Whole Foods came under fire after the
CEO published an opinion piece on healthcare
reform. The article attracted negative attention
and several groups began boycotting the brand.
Whole Foods moved quickly to address the
mistake, with a public response on Facebook
admitting there were “many opinions on this
issue” and inviting customers to share theirs.
The mistake turned into a way to generate
positive feedback and helped to solidify the
brand’s reputation for listening to its customers.
FOCUS ON THE POSITIVES – Posting positive
content about the company is the best way to
improve a brand’s reputation. This rule holds true
whether things are going well or you’re in the midst
of a reputation crisis. Remember, many of your
customers still haven’t heard of the issue; they had
a good experience working with you. They just need
some encouragement to remember that.
There are a lot of ways to generate positive
content that feels genuine and authentic. Share
your own personal story on the company website,
or write a motivational blog post on what inspired
you to become an entrepreneur. Ask a long-time
employee to share his or her experiences in an
interview or a blog post. Request customers to
send you written or visual testimony of how they
use your product.
Positive content that resonates emotionally with a
wide audience is the best way to create your own
high-traffic results capable of countering negative
stories. Check out some of the top motivational
blogs (Addicted2Success, Motivation Grid, Pick the
Brain are some examples) for ideas on how to use
a positive message to your advantage.
DON’T IGNORE VALID CRITICISM – Companies
that ignore criticism often end up paying a high
price. An isolated incident may be forgotten, but
a complaint that resonates with a wide-audience
can quickly go viral and company leaders will
have a reputation crisis on their hands. It’s
important to take reputation issues seriously
from the start. Accept complaints as constructive
criticism and thank posters for expressing their
opinion. If customers have faced difficulties with
a defective product or a sub-optimal service, an
apology is in order, followed by an explanation
of what happened and what actions have been
taken to address the issue.
It’s tempting to delete negative comments from
customers, but this is almost always a mistake.
Nothing on the internet is erasable; there’s an
archived copy of the original somewhere and
taking down a comment posted by someone else
is likely to generate more negative attention.
A better option is to create a channel for
customers to take their complaints directly to the
@NikeSupport, where customers can contact
service reps about the issues they are facing. This
allows the company to collect all complaints in
one place and handle them efficiently before the
customer becomes irate. As a result, Nike has an
excellent reputation for customer service.
FOR MORE INFORMATION ABOUT WHAT WE DO,
CALL ONE OF OUR EXPERTS OR VISIT
THE COMPANY WEBSITE
KEEP AN EYE ON COMPETITORS – You’ve taken a
good hard look at your own reputation, but what about
your competitors’? If there are companies ranking
higher than you on an important keyword search, this
means you’re losing business. It may not be possible
to immediately out-rank big brand names, but you
can target your content towards long-tail keywords
and phrases that have less competition. This will
allow you to start building a reputation based on a
specialised corner of the market where you offer
better service than your competitors.
Don’t forget to monitor customer comments for
competitors as well. There’s no shame in eaves-
dropping when it comes to public content on the
internet; it’s all fair game and you can be sure
competitors will also be tracking what people are
saying about you. If customers are raving about
some aspect of a competitor’s service, make sure
this is part of your platform as well. A negative
comment about another company gives you a
chance to emphasise why your brand doesn’t have
this issue. Don’t be too obvious about what you are
doing since this could become its own damaging
story, but remember you can’t manage your
reputation effectively without ranking the brand
against its competitors.
The importance of a positive online reputation cannot be underestimated.
If you are worried about your online reputation contact the experts on
0800 131 0700 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
ASK FOR PROFESSIONAL HELP WHEN YOU NEED IT
– Reputation management is as time-consuming as
it is important. Many company founders think they
can handle it themselves, but as the organisation
grows, this will get harder and harder. ORM
requires specialised knowledge and expertise that
can’t always be found on a typical marketing team.
Ongoing initiatives are needed to create fresh
content and update the brand’s strategies based on
public opinion and the latest algorithmic changes.
Many companies only invest in professional ORM
services when they face a crisis. Unfortunately, this
is a flawed strategy. Every brand will eventually
generate negative publicity online. Preventative
efforts help build reputation capital before this
happens, so that negative stories never gain much
ground against the brand’s own positive content.
Timely reputation management can avoid a drop
in revenue and even pull the company out of a
ReputationDefender has many services to choose
from, whether you are in the midst of a crisis, or
just want insurance against future issues. Our
professional reputation specialists regularly help
companies to build and improve their online profile,
and we also manage damage control after the fact.