“It takes many good deeds to build a good reputation, and only one bad one to lose it” Benjamin Franklin
No truer words were ever spoken. History records the tragedies of men and women who have suffered the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. Too often well-intentioned, innocent, ordinary people found themselves the victim of slander and character assassination.
In an age when most people are doing business with an online store they can’t walk into or an Internet service across the world, reputation is everything. The last thing you want customers questioning is your credibility. When they can’t see face-to-face they want to see eye to eye. Square in the eye.
So what do you do when that carefully calculated, expertly executed business plan goes haywire due to some bad online press? In the old days if your son or daughter got caught drinking on the school campus or your business was losing money from a deal gone wrong, you could hire a public relations guy to “keep it out of the papers.” But now things are virtual, viral, vaporous and nearly impossible to contain without the specialized knowledge of an online reputation manager.
Hopefully you won’t ever get to that point. All your customer reviews will be glowing. All your tweets will be sanitized. Every search of your company name will produce only favorable headlines and hundreds of hits.
But in the unlikely event controversy in the form of an EPA dispute or an irate ex should shroud you in misery, you’ll want to have an understanding of how to regain control and get things back on course quickly. You’ll want to know about and possibly enlist the services of a good reputation management company.
Dirt Rises: The Case of The Careless Assistant
Several years ago a young newspaper reporter was doing a profile on a prominent historical biographer. He had a vague yet favorable impression of his subject and was eager to expound on the virtues of this much-lauded public figure. Beginning the research, he looked online for the author’s Wikipedia entry.
The first bits of information to come up were all related to a plagiarism problem twenty five years earlier. Clicking through he learned it was alleged an assistant to the author had failed to label research as ‘taken from another writer’s book’ on the same subject. The author claimed she thought she had written the typed notes herself so sections were used verbatim. The expensive lawsuit was settled.
The point is, while that author went on to subsequently write ten more books, win international awards and appear on national television, her good name will be permanently linked with shame. Looks like they need some online reputation repair.
So What Is Online Reputation Management?
Employers, school recruiters, even love interests routinely search the web these days for anything they can find about a person confirming or contradicting their candidate’s credentials. Even consumers click around searching for something negative or positive about a product. Virtual voyeurism? Maybe. They could be digging up dirt or just doing their due diligence.
In the past decades with the advent of the forever-and-always memory of the Internet came many new professions including the small business reputation manager. This essential business protection has two goals:
- The focused and dedicated act of managing what people see when they search your company or brand online
- The concerted understanding and handling of negative social media and customer reviews
The web is like an elephant, it never forgets. Stuff isn’t swept under the carpet: It rises to the top as if to say “Look at me, I’m juicy.” So what is the solution? That’s what we hope to show you in the balance of this book.
This Could Come Back To Haunt You
It’s a well-known fact that most of us never go past the first few pages of search results. That’s why it’s so important to have a high ranking based on quality content to insure that first impression is a positive one.
People can be mean and thoughtless. Anonymity is a great shield of secret power and this power can damage a reputation permanently whether it’s warranted or not. Fortunately or unfortunately, readers put a lot of trust in online reviews from strangers when making purchasing decisions. You see this all the time on user-generated review sites like Yelp where customers have the ability to make or break a new restaurant. However, one lukewarm bowl of chicken soup does not a one-star make.
It doesn’t matter if it’s true or not, a single malicious, merciless mention can wreak havoc on your life and livelihood, and there’s little you can do about it. Even cyber-lawyers can’t find precedent to get the offending content removed to fix an online reputation. It may help to contact the owner and ask them to remove the offending verbiage. We understand that in some cases you can even offer to pay for this courtesy.
We’re One Big Glass House Now
Big brother (and his entire family) are watching all the time. Every search, every share, every tweet, every like, even the recipes we pin on Pinterest are recorded and ready to be regurgitated at any time. So what’s the defense, the ounce of prevention, against getting caught off guard? If you value your reputation, we urge you to take the prescribed steps set forth here to protect your priceless, irreplaceable reputation.
Constant monitoring and measuring of online search results will let you know when something is amiss. When the process of reparation begins, you’ll be forearmed and ready to devote the sometimes lengthy period of time it takes to resolve the pressing issues.
The 3 Most Important Ways to Protect A Reputation
1. Build Up Quality Content
In other words, you can’t fool mother nature.
When we get in a hurry and are tempted to slap something up just for the sake of getting it out there, it’s obvious to all concerned. You wouldn’t cut corners in manufacturing or skimp on delivering a service. Don’t do it with the online marketing program you’ve worked so hard to put in place.
The modern algorithms used to search, rate and rank websites place a great deal of emphasis on finding content which is “relevant,” that is, informative, important and of interest to the reader. These search engines are able to determine if a website features in-depth, useful articles, numerous links to other related sources and plenty of people “liking” the content and sharing it with others.
That means no muss, no fluff.
If you’re having trouble generating enough fresh material, try hosting a guest blogger. This could be a supplier, a trade journalist or even a customer–preferably someone with an established following. When search engines see you have a guest blog, they tend to mention it above any negative comments attached to your name.
Let us repeat, you can’t put a price on the value of creative, concrete marketing content. Make sure your website and social media sites are continually being updated with a comprehensive offering of new and newsworthy information.
As far as reputation management is concerned, high-quality content goes a long way toward deflecting problems. The higher the quality of content, the better chance you have of outranking negative information or even pushing it off the first page.
2. Maintain Transparency
We hear so much about being transparent. How does that play into the practice of best reputation management? When a situation arises and threatens to damage the good standing of a business or personality, there is a tendency to pretend it isn’t happening. Denial is not a river and honesty is still the best policy. Hiding criticism, rumors, negative feedback and the like only increases your chance of looking guilty, dishonest and ultimately disreputable. There’s only one way out: address it openly!
We can’t stress enough the importance of getting involved with social media to maintain credibility and reputation. You should set up a profile and maximize your social media presence on them all: Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, YouTube, Pinterest, Instagram and many others. Having said that, by having such a public presence you do set yourself up for those oh-so-helpful constructive critics.
Resist the impulse to delete negative comments, complaints or feedback unless they are offensive to others. Consumers are looking for the honest approach to problem-solving: acknowledge, admit any wrongdoing and fix the situation. Transparency shows you’ve got nothing to hide.
3. Monitor And Handle Problems Head On
Even if it hurts, knowing exactly what’s being said about you is your first line of defense. You may think, “How could they say that about me?”, “Can’t they take a joke?”, “Must you bring that up again?”, “Can we just drop it?” Don’t despair. The truth will set you free, but first it will give you a headache.
Just jump in, bite the bullet and Google yourself. Beyond just typing in your name and pressing search, there are many other ways to essentially “listen in” on the conversations about you travelling around the Internet. Start by identifying keywords and hashtags related to you, your industry and even the competition. Then use one of the tracking services like SocialMention or Google Alerts to do some virtual eavesdropping.
If you discover a problem, as stated above, you must respond quickly. A negative review can spread like a California wildfire, seen by thousands within a few minutes. You never want to delete negative comments unless of course they are offensive. Once aware of customer unrest, respond appropriately. This will minimize the damage. Remember, it’s essential to get your point of view out there in the politest, most diplomatic way. That way it’s in writing. If something arises in the future, you don’t want to appear to be covering up or admitting guilt.
No matter how big you are, as the saying goes you’re not “too big to fail.” Think of a recent example. When a bank got caught opening thousands of bogus accounts to boost sales, it took serious sudden measures. One of their ads featured that notable team of black horses drawing a classic coach with the voiceover “Wells Fargo is making changes to make things right.” The ads alone would not have assuaged customer outrage. The CEO had to go.
Sometimes it’s just better to take the whole conversation offline and deal with an irate individual one on one.
If you respond promptly and courteously, a customer may thank you by taking down their negative comment. They may even become a customer for life! Win, win!
How Much Does All This Damage Control Cost?
Battling a bad rap not only sounds hard, it sounds expensive. And in some cases it can be. But you’re not hiring someone to go on television and spin the story. There are very specific strategies to proactively improve your online presence. The technology exists to identify and influence the information that is made available to the public. Chances are you don’t have the time or team to investigate and implement these processes yourself. In that case you’ll want to contact professionals who can estimate the cost and time table once they understand your particular needs.
Undoubtedly you’ve learned some fascinating facts about the importance of reputation management. If you found this eBook helpful, you might be interested in talking with us at iwebcontent. Our reputation management experts can help implement the steps needed to improve what comes up on your Page One.