Ultimate Guide to Proactive Reputation Management for Communications Teams
In today’s modern world, the internet is considered the first place to go for up-to-date information about a business. In fact, 93 percent of customers read online reviews before even considering a product or service, according to recent Qualtrics data. Although the web can prove advantageous for promoting a brand, this same, powerful ecosystem can also be used to get a CEO “canceled” or lead to a company’s downfall if steps are not taken to proactively maintain a positive reputation. Understand what you can do and the tools you should use to manage a brand’s online reputation.
What is Online Reputation Management?
According to Techopedia, online reputation management, often referred to as ORM, is “the practice of crafting strategies that shape or influence the public perception of an organization, individual or other entity on the Internet.” Often, this responsibility falls in the lap of communications professionals who employ various tools and tactics to positively frame the perception of a brand online. A few examples of online reputation management include establishing how your business interacts with target audiences, building a strong online presence, and monitoring your company’s search results.
Why Online Reputation Management Matters for Your Brand
In a perfect world, your business would always run flawlessly. But since that is not the case, an employee occasionally makes the wrong decision, the business might publish a controversial statement, or your new product or service release is not going as planned. These imperfections are usually manageable, but the recovery can become nearly impossible once a mishap or damaging message is shared and amplified online. Once something negative about your brand is spread on the web, what could have been a minor situation can grow into a full-on communications crisis.
The problem might not even start with something the business has actually done. There is also the possibility that online narratives outside of your direct control can put your company’s reputation at risk. Misinformation and disinformation about a brand is another occurrence that, if caught off-guard, could lead to money lost and countless hours spent on crisis response. This was the exact case when Wayfair was falsely accused of being linked to human trafficking last year.
Your reputation matters, because it can impact every facet of the business—your customers, established partnerships, employees, and more—if not maintained properly. Lost jobs, wide-scale boycotts, and the complete shut-down of corporations have taken place when a brand’s reputation takes a downturn. The best way to prevent the worst-case scenario is to implement an effective online reputation management strategy designed to handle or mitigate negative messaging and consistently establish your presence in a positive light.
Communications Professionals Are Essential for Brand Reputation Management
Communications professionals are at the core of making sure a company’s reputation is kept in tip-top shape since they often are the first to deliver and receive information about the business with external audiences. With the right approach and tools at their disposal, communicators can even see when a viral narrative is starting to form.
To achieve effective reputation management, communications professionals should be open to utilizing multiple channels of communication to build and maintain a business’s online presence. Listed below are important brand reputation management tips, tools, and tactics your communications team can use to proactively reduce reputation risk and build a strong ORM strategy:
Consistently Monitor the Web
Use effective reputation management software to track what is being said about your brand, receive the latest notifications on trending topics, and determine if immediate response or action is needed before a potentially negative message goes viral.
You cannot get a full picture of what is being said about a business on a single platform. Having a software stack specifically designed to monitor online conversations taking place on different channels (like forums, blogs, and social media), is highly recommended and within reach. Some of the best options out there are:
Establish Your Brand Voice
If you publish a blog, build relevant social media profiles, and consistently share accurate, good news about your business, you are establishing control and placing the brand’s reputation in your hands. A company announcement or participation in a nonprofit event are just a few examples of company insights that can help shape how your brand is observed by public audiences.
Having an idea of how your business should communicate, or what it will “sound like,” is another essential component to creating your brand voice. The channels and methods used by one company may not be well suited for another. For example, Wendy’s humorous, edgy brand voice on Twitter would likely not fare well if used by Wells Fargo. Your brand voice should echo what your company stands for and align with what your customers truly care about.
It’s also important to be observant of how you and your employees present themselves online. The words and actions of each person affiliated with your company can either support or damage your brand’s reputation, and in some cases, can be the catalyst for a layoff or resignation. For instance, journalist Alexi McCammond lost her shot at becoming the editor of Teen Vogue back in May after her past, anti-Asian Tweets went viral.
Create a Safe Space for Reviews and Feedback
Customers and online users will usually rant online as a last resort, after failing to reach or receive communication from a brand. Give them an easy way to share their concerns before they decide to post online.
Setting a standard for quick response time and letting customers know that you are genuinely concerned about their interests will ultimately help most complaints end with a simple email exchange or phone call. If not accomplished, what could have been a small discussion or issue might escalate to negative commentary or reviews publicly shared online for all to see. There is customer engagement software and other messaging tools out there to help businesses foster positive customer communication and facilitate the entire process:
When possible, you should make time to see whether satisfied clients or customers will review your company to balance out any negative feedback or messaging being shared on the internet.
Have a Crisis Plan Prepared
Be proactive and prepare for the worst by having a communications plan already in place for crisis situations to prevent or mitigate reputation risks. Understanding who will oversee crisis communication planning and execution or deciding how to disseminate information across different company departments are just a few of the many aspects that should be considered when creating a well-thought-out plan for times of crisis.
The right internal communications tool or intranet software can be useful to incorporate in your crisis plan so you’re prepared to immediately pass information along to various departments in a given business. A few of the best options available on the market are:
If you need more direction on how to create a crisis communications plan, free tutorials and templates are available online, like this one on Hubspot.
How Yonder Can Help Mitigate Reputation Risk
The technology you decide to use plays an essential role in how well your communications team can track and respond to potentially harmful brand messaging online. With a brand reputation management tool like Yonder, your brand can determine where a negative message began, who started it, and who is helping the narrative spread.
Once your brand’s communication team captures the intent behind a given message, they can determine what sort of influence those online actions could have on your brand’s reputation. Spotting a problem early on could save time and money over the long term that would otherwise have to be expended towards an escalated situation with more dire consequences.
To efficiently decipher the meaning or reason behind a message shared about a business, Yonder first identifies the authenticity of the content to determine whether it’s worth responding to. With the information provided, your team can understand the possible trajectory of a given message: Will it reach key audiences that matter most to your brand?
If the viral narrative is authentic, you must take action. Inauthentic conversations, on the other hand, are spread via poor-quality accounts, bots, and other methods that give a few voices greater influence online. However, an inauthentic narrative that’s being manipulated to appear authentic can also be a threat to your brand’s reputation, so being aware of and notified when it’s happening is crucial to maintaining your business’s overall public image.
At times, addressing the narrative, whether authentic or inauthentic, can make matters worse. Reputation management tools can provide insights that help your brand decide whether or not to take action by activating your communications team. For example, Yonder can analyze the source of information and other non-mainstream channels (e.g. 4chan or Parler) in case a narrative takes a turn that could prove detrimental.
Reputation management tools can empower your strategic communications team to completely avoid these incidents, but, if an incident has already occurred, using these same tools can provide data-backed answers and help create a thorough strategy.
Managing your brand’s reputation is an ongoing, high-level operation—not a one-time need. By following these brand reputation management tips, communication teams can be prepared now and less vulnerable than those who wait until it’s too late.