By JJ Rosen, an EO Nashville member and founder of Atiba
“Glass, china and reputation are easily cracked, and never mended well.” – Benjamin Franklin
Reputation in the business world is both a valuable and fragile thing. The value of a great reputation is measurable in sales, profits, accolades and growth. Businesses and brands with great reputations almost always achieve long-term success. The challenge, especially in a world where anyone for any reason can communicate to millions of people with ease, is that a great reputation can be destroyed much faster than it can be built.
The evolution of social media, search engines, online reviews and constant connectivity all but guarantee that every business will eventually be faced with an online attack on their reputation. One angry client, one disgruntled employee or one piece of negative press, and your business could be in deep trouble. Google and Facebook can become your worst enemies when your name or brand is being trashed online for the world to see. Enter the relatively obscure field of “reputation management.”
Reputation management is an important, but often ignored, marketing task that has become essential for every business. The primary objective is to keep any negative content related to your brand and business from being seen. This is, of course, easier said than done. The intersection of search engines, social media and mobile devices can allow a negative comment or bad online review to go viral easily and quickly. Successfully managing a business’s reputation online requires a combination of technical, PR and marketing skills that need to be applied consistently in order to work.
Ideally, a business reputation management strategy is proactive rather than reactive, and starts before negative content appears. Preemptively filling the web with positive or neutral content that you control is much more effective than working in crisis mode. There are multiple ways to protect your reputation online, and one size does not fit all. The approach can vary as well, depending on whether there is already negative content about your business on the web or if you’re putting a plan in place to mitigate any future online-reputation issues.
Reputation management is a tough do-it-yourself task, but having a base of knowledge is important for all business owners to help navigate through the various approaches and different firms that can help. Here are some key things to know before you embark on a reputation-management plan:
- Constant monitoring is needed. This is the easy part. Be sure you’re the first to know about any mentions of your name or brand. To proactively track your online presence, use free tools like Google Alerts, SocialMention.com and Technorati.com.
- The more content, the better. It’s hard to completely remove a bad review, tweet or news item from Google search results. The key is to turn any negative content into a needle that is buried in the haystack of good content about your business on the web. Filling the web up with websites, blogs, videos and positive comments will help dilute what is bad.
- Providing customers and employees with a productive way to complain is good business. Having a structured, easy and responsive way for an unhappy customer or employee to communicate with your business will help keep complaints private. Reputation attacks often occur publically on the web simply because it is an easy (and sometimes the only) forum in which to vent. Giving a complainer an even easier way to complain (that you control) will help keep small issues from becoming a PR nightmare.
- Reputation management is an ongoing endeavor. If any reputation management agencies make you any promises, get up and walk away. With Google constantly changing algorithms, new review sites coming up, new social networks sprouting and increased mobile access, there is no magic bullet. Reputation management takes hard and persistent work.
Reputation can make or break a business. In an online world with very public forums for airing grievances, monitoring and managing your business’s reputation is mission critical.
JJ Rosen (pictured) is an EO Nashville member and the founder of Atiba, an IT-consulting, programming, networking and web-development firm. Contact JJ at firstname.lastname@example.org.