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The 10 Commandments of Online Reputation Management

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92% of consumers search the internet when they want to find out more about a business, which shows the importance of a positive online reputation.

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The 10 Commandments of Online Reputation Management

  1. 1. REPUTATIONDEFENDER® 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 recommendation. of people will go on to visit a brand’s website if they find positive content elsewhere on the internet Creating a Positive Profile 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 customers elsewhere. 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. OnlineReputation Management The 10 Commandments Managing Brand Reputation
  2. 2. 10 Commandments 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 seriously. 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 andkeepingconsumersuptodatethroughoutthe 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 unreasonablereviewprobablyhasagrainoftruth.By 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. 4. 2. 3. 84%of consumers say they are more likely to buy from a brand known for being socially and environmentally responsible 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.
  3. 3. 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 company.NikeSupporthasitsownemailaddress, @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. 6. 7. 8. 5.
  4. 4. 10. 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. 9. 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 hello@reputationdefender.com 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 downward spiral. 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.

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