You hear the term, “Reputation Management” and what comes to mind? It is one of those things that often conjures up a response of “I have it covered” or “I’ll get it covered someday.”
Maybe you do have it covered, and if so, that is great!
But, have you taken the time to sit down and think about Reputation Management? Including what it entails and whether or not it even matters to your business? Have you considered its impact on professional or personal branding?
Considering Online Reviews and Freedoms
Somehow, the term “reputation management” doesn’t have the best reputation. Many brands associate this term with crisis management. Because of this interpretation, it sometimes means we don’t consider it until there’s a problem.
In many ways, the reputation management industry has reinforced this negative way of thinking. The industry may instill a fear that our businesses will be ruined by scathing reviews.
Hey, the industry isn’t wrong. Also, if that is how money is made by the experts, that makes sense. It is not an entirely unfounded fear. This is a world where consumers have immediate accessibility at their fingertips. The way they think about a brand’s reputation has changed.
Reputations now consist of comments, mentions, reviews, and recommendations from universe-altering online commentators and/or applications. Our online reputation is what differentiates us in the marketplace. It doesn’t matter if we’re selling hot dogs in New York or applying for a job in Kentucky, we are affected.
Both small business owners and Fortune 500 companies recognize this fact: Our reputations have the power to bring opportunities to our door. At the same time, it diverts customers to our competitors if not used properly.
So, what do we do about all this reputation stuff?
Shifting Gears and Introducing Reputation Management
What will happen if you start thinking about your brand’s reputation the same way you think about your marketing strategy?
The first issue you will encounter is the marketing channel. As odd as it may sound, it’s unlike any other. A brand’s reputation relies solely on what others say or do not say about them. Your customer’s voice is not something you can buy or control. Or, at least not in a perfect world, eh?
Online reviews have an enormous influence over potential customers’ behavior. Not only do reviews determine whether a brand is visible on social media, but also how people perceive it. In turn, they play a key role in whether or not consumers will purchase anything from that brand.
First Steps in the Reputation Management Process
In some cases, companies and brands may not have had their reputation management in place in time to avoid a bit of a crisis. In those cases, your brand may have suffered some hits to your reputation. And, in that case, it is probably time to get some help.
It is also possible that you haven’t suffered a crisis (yet) and that you are at this point for another reason. Maybe you just need to ensure that all of your ducks are in a row. The reason that this topic comes up may be to ensure that you are ready in case “hits” come your way later. In other words, maybe you are the type of person who would rather be prepared than unpleasantly surprised. That is great! You are taking things into your own hands at the right time.
There are different approaches when it comes to a reputation management plan. This includes the process of strategizing.
Two of those options include:
- Do-it-yourself approach;
- Hire experts.
Do-It-Yourself Versus Expert Management
You could do it yourself, and that is likely a good approach when attempting to use money wisely, but you also need to be careful that you do not repeat common mistakes in reputation management because of a lack of experience in the area.
Another option is to hire experts to do it for you and save the day. This allows you to take advantage of the experience that others have in the area of reputation management. If you have the money to support hiring someone, it is usually better to have the experts do it for you. They have been there and done that. They are less likely to make those common mistakes that beset newbies.
An example of a service that can help you in that area is the one mentioned on Wikipedia (ReputationDefender).
Another key advantage to hiring an agency is that they can help you setup your reputation management system. So, the benefits of using an agency that specializes in reputation management include:
- The knowledge that comes with experience.
- The experience that comes with the knowledge AND experience.
- Getting the job done right… the first time.
- Continuous process improvement.
What You Need to Know About Reputation Marketing
There are some things that stay the same, whether you choose the do-it-yourself route or you hire an agency. We can start with what you need to know about reputation management and reputation marketing.
If you are taking the do-it-yourself route, this is the outline that you would be using to formulate your own plan.
If you are taking the agency route, this will help you to understand the process and what questions to ask when deciding on who it is that will be handling your reputation management.
Since customer reviews are probably the most dynamic element in building a brand’s reputation, it’s a good idea to focus on reputation-building venues in order to:
For a small business owner with a minimal marketing budget, monitoring online reviews can become a painful process. Staying abreast of what your customers say can be challenging, particularly if your business’ footprint spans across several online review sites.
But, in spite of the pain, monitoring gives you the opportunity to influence potential customers. It allows you to read feedback from current ones. While it may not be fun, if you are able to take in these reviews (monitor), you are well equipped.
But, keep in mind; you can hire an agency to do this for you if the pain of reading the bad reviews is too much for you. This is one of the reasons why hiring an agency may work out better for you than the do-it-yourself method.
And, remember, just because there may be bad reviews does not mean that you are bad. Sure, if there is valuable feedback, use it and improve. However, if it is not applicable then that is where it just causes pain and either we grow tough, thick skin, or hire someone to monitor for us.
What business doesn’t want to see glowing reviews online? Unfortunately, the majority of reviews we see are negative.
What is it with human nature that we seem to be eager to say all the negative stuff and we keep the positive stuff to ourselves? Shouldn’t we share the positive stuff? That is the thing; it tends to be what we see in human nature… unfortunately.
So, how do you generate more positive reviews? A genuine request is the best route to go. When brands go the extra mile for their customers, you see a reciprocation of the generosity. We have seen that happen, time and time again, in our own business. So, it is true that that seems to be the best approach to acquiring positive reviews.
Here is an example:
Building a credible reputation is what makes or breaks a brand.
To kick things up a notch, take those positive reviews and implement them into your marketing mix. For example, if you primarily participate on social media platforms, transform those positive reviews into social media posts. You can use them in blog posts, too.
Here is an example how-to:
Consider capturing positive responses via screenshots. After doing so, build them into a shareable media component. Use it to encourage others to add to the positive flow. It is amazing how much the positive reviews result in more positive reviews. My testimonials SlideShare, above, literally doubled just by sharing the SlideShare!
A brand’s reputation is invaluable. Far too many brands remain in the mindset of tending to their reputation only when problems arise. With a little adjustment in approach, brands can seize an enormous marketing opportunity. This allows them to win over both current and potential customers.
Now, it is time to take notice and take action!