What Is The Role Of An Online Reputation Management Agency For Your Business?
In the age of the Internet and Social Media, reputations can be lost in a second. Of course, they take years to build. You cannot build an online reputation in a split second but an indiscretion such as a drunken tweet can cause a lot of damage to an individual’s or a business’ reputation. Information travels at the speed of light these days and even a deleted tweet doesn’t or won’t help you recover the damage caused by it. The stakes become higher as the company and the brand gets bigger or the individual is someone with influence or a senior executive whose reputation can impact the company’s fortunes.
Online Reputation Management & How To Be Smart About It
As with many other things, it helps to be proactive rather than reactive in the matter of online reputation management. If you take care to ensure that your online reputation management plan is firing on all cylinders, then you will see that all the top Google (and Bing and Yahoo) search results related to your business or brand show only links and URL’s that show your company in a positive light and there is nothing that you do not want to be there.
If a rare small business has been careless not to bother with online reputation management, then they might discover to their chagrin that they are losing actual revenue because of their bad online reputation. It’s a bit late in the day when the damage has been done and you have to mount a rearguard action to try and regain your online reputation. But the best online reputation management agencies like Mind Digital are experts at fighting these exact battles.
If you are planning something big such as looking to raise funding from VCs, it is critical that you have a stellar online reputation. Negative online reputation may lead to negative press coverage or even may results in hiring problems for you as talented professionals who have many job options may prefer not to work with an employer with a doubtful reputation.
After all, which job candidate would not Google their potential employer. Imagine the difference in perception such a candidate (or a VC doing the online ‘due diligence’) would have regarding you and/or your business if the Top 10 results are all your official links versus a scenario where 5 out of the Top 10 links contain negative, slanderous or defamatory content and information about you and/or your business.
Examples of Events Affecting Business Reputation
Two recent events amply demonstrate the key role of online reputation management for businesses: one involved the hot new start-up Uber while the other involved Sony Pictures Entertainment. While in the case of Uber, it was a senior executive talking about his dirty-tricks campaign plans openly with media personnel and thus leaking the matter intentionally or unintentionally to the public at large, in case of Sony Pictures Entertainment, it was a double whammy. The company got hacked whereby copies of full-length versions of five yet-to-be-released movies were leaked but beyond that the hackers got access to the company’s HR documents which painted a sorry picture about the pay disparities at its senior management levels.
Consider the Malaysia Airlines tweets which turned out badly given the airline’s multiple misfortunes during 2014. Perhaps they did not “focus group” the tweets enough? No wonder the Clinton administration staffers were famous for focus grouping every little decision to death. Or consider the recent Washington Post article which revealed rather a lot of details about the negotiations between Hillary Clinton’s staffers — or rather the Harry Walker Agency which handles her paid speaking engagements — and the folks at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) who wanted Ms. Clinton to speak there. These are just some examples of why online reputation management is critical in this day and age.
It dents her reputation somewhat — creates a few chinks in the shining armor and persona; but people forget soon enough and most people are too busy to worry about such minutiae. This is in fact a major reason why individuals — whether they be the Clintons who have had a lot of controversies over the last three decade or the unique Toronto mayor or the colorful London mayor — survive reputational crises. This applies to companies too.
Companies such as Apple, Wal-Mart, various fashion clothing brands and GE have been embroiled in a variety of unsavory episodes over the years but they survive these occasional issues. People will forget any such events that do not affect them directly so Apple will be fine as long as its cellphones don’t explode in users’ hands or the laptop batteries don’t overheat. The occasional issues — such as the early issues that affected its maps application, or the one-time bad reception issues that arose as a corollary to its innovative antenna design, and the latest case of the bendy iPhone 6+ —are forgotten by the public at large in days.
Companies like Wal-Mart, Nike, and other fashion brands have had to answer complaints about the sweat shop conditions in which their products are made but these companies take measures to manage their reputation and eventually people mostly move on and the companies prosper.
Mr. Jobs’ emails to other CEOs like Eric Schmidt of Google to operate like a cartel as in agreeing not to “poach” on one another’s employees is another instance that shows Apple in a less-than-flattering light. Apple and other corporates’ habit of hoarding money outside the U.S. as one out of a multiplicity of tax-dodging techniques to avoid paying U.S. Federal income taxes again shows those businesses in a poor light. All of which can be helped by working with a good online reputation management company to help their brand image.
A recent story in The Guardian showed how instead of companies paying taxes to the U.S. government, they were instead getting tax refunds from the government. Major companies who have managed to cleverly manage their tax liabilities in this manner include companies such as Boeing, Ford and Citibank whose CEOs got more than the companies pad in the taxes to the Federal government.
How Can Online Reputation Management Agencies Help When A Crisis Hits
Despite the best efforts, reputation management-related crises are more or less unavoidable. It may be just one low level employee doing something which puts the company in a bad light or something a senior executive might utter in a moment of indiscretion which might get captured by a “hot” mike unbeknownst to the speaker which will inevitably end up on the internet causing a major reputational crisis.
Everyone faces those: individuals, presidents and prime ministers as well as businesses.
Online reputation management will sooner or later end up looking like crisis management and the best online reputation management professionals will show their mettle and prove that they are worth the money they are being paid as the official reputation management agency in such a crisis.
Crisis or reputation management professionals will need to have immediate access to the top management especially when a full blown crisis is on hand. The best online reputation management professionals will deal with the crisis in a steady manner. It will take interaction between key decision makers inside the company and the online reputation professionals to come up with an appropriate response to whatever the crisis is and then push out a uniform message across all the channels. Use all the resources available to the company — press releases page on the website, Twitter and Facebook accounts, etc. — to respond to the crisis and resolve it. Quick response makes the response way more effective than a tardy response as the former makes the company look professional while the latter makes the company look unprofessional and worsens the crisis and the company’s reputation.
Apart from ongoing crisis situations that need to be addressed immediately, online reputation agencies will deal with ongoing reputation-related issues such as negative Yelp reviews for your business.
Take two types of negative Yelp reviews.
A negative review may come from two different sources:
a) It may be posted by a genuine user who had a negative dining experience at a restaurant. If you are the restaurant owner, you should address the genuine concerns of the customer and try to offer something to make things right for the customer. Perhaps offer to host him in the restaurant again while giving him assurance that he or she will have a positive experience this time around. If you make any such promise of course, you have to take the care to come good on your promises of correcting it next time. These are things that an online reputation management company can help you with.
b) It may be posted by a business competitor who merely wishes to malign your business and damage your reputation. In such a scenario, Yelp is supposed to filter out fake reviews posted by anonymous users that seek to skew the perception about a business one way or the other. But these filters may fail at times. If a review is overly emotional or amateurish or obviously false, you may either report it or just simply ignore it as savvy consumers of your business will be able to sense that it is an obviously fake review. If it is not obviously fake, you can respond to the negative review pointing out any inconsistencies that may be there. If it is a fake review, you will find something that will be ‘not right’ with the review. If it’s too general, you can ask the reviewer to be specific and to provide further details of the bad experience so that it may be corrected. If you attempt to counter anyone who wishes to adopt such unethical means, you may succeed in deterring them from continuing to do so.
Social Media Reputation Management & Online Reputation Management
As noted above, a proactive approach works better than a reactive one. From celebrities going on racist rants on Twitter to corporate Twitter accounts committing various other faux pas, Social Media meltdowns and embarrassing incidents and worse are too numerous.
But can companies just choose to be absent from popular Social Media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Pinterest, Instagram, SlideShare, and all the rest? No way! Businesses have to learn to harness the power of Social Media and use these to their advantage. If professionals are assigned to be in charge of the company Twitter, Facebook, and other Social Media accounts, the mistakes and melt downs can be minimized, if not eliminated entirely.
Take the recent Twitter exchange between the American Airlines Twitter account and an irate passenger who was complaining about the lack of leg room. The airline initially responded in a manner that suggested that it did not understand the passenger’s problem or approached his problem in a rather cavalier devil-may-care manner. However, the airline eventually realized its mistake and apologized to the passenger. That’s a key lesson to remember in Social Media reputation management — acknowledge your mistakes and apologize. There are actually too many Twitter fails happening that relate to airlines Twitter accounts for some reason.
Blogging is one other activity that is ‘social’ in nature but also helps enhance the company’s reputation by sharing information about its products or services with the public. Blogging also leads to better search engine results page (SERP) placements as search engines give preference to websites that are frequently updates. A company or business blog can be one such website that is frequently updated with fresh content.
Take The Good And The Bad of Online Reputation Management
The reason why businesses should be present on Social Media is so that unscrupulous elements do not squat on your user names. When the founders of Tesla Motors settled on the name for their electric car company long before the participation of current owner and CEO Mr. Elon Musk, they first booked the domain teslamotors.com.
In today’s world, if you are an entrepreneur, you will need to book not only that web domain, but also create the Twitter account bearing your business name or brand name as well as your Facebook and Google+ pages. Pinterest and Instagram are essential weapons in the Social Media arsenal as well.
What you get from your Social Media presence is essential customer feedback — both positive and negative. Customers are inclined to share a positive experience they had with a company, a brand or a business to their Social Media account. Brands should not lose the opportunity to say ‘thank you’ to such grateful customers. But even more important from a reputation management perspective is the need to respond to customer complaints and respond fast. This is what professional reputation management entails.
Businesses can also be proactive in a way in terms of ensuring a positive Social Media reputation. You can search for your brand name on the different Social Media platforms and listen to the chatter happening about your company. This is especially important on Twitter which is a public platform and tweets can be indexed by search engines and can show up when someone searches for your brand name in Google. If you see a problem, you can try to resolve it. Customers may delete a tweet complaining about your business; this will nip the problem in the bud or at least prevent the problem from getting magnified.
How To Choose The Best Online Reputation Management Agency – Effective & Cost Effective
Depending on your online reputation management needs — whether you are doing this in a proactive manner or whether you have an impending online reputation crisis or are in the middle of a online reputation crisis — you should opt for an agency that will show you the path forward in terms of how to counter the crisis and ensure a stellar online reputation.
A professional online reputation management agency like Mind Digital will be able to map out the precise strategy that they are going to adopt to ameliorate the crisis and improve your business’ online reputation.
The best online reputation management agencies will have a professional staff who are well versed in all the Social Media platforms as well as corporate communication professionals. At Mind Digital, we tailor our online reputation management strategy to meet the specific needs of every client. Our strategy is client-specific, industry-specific, and business-specific.
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