That’s all it takes for your online reputation to take a massive hit. Along the way, you could lose customers (prospective and current), have trouble earning new leads, and become a laughingstock of online review sites. It sounds dire, and without a solid online reputation management strategy … it can be.
The importance of positive online reputation management is simple: happy customers prefer to patronize brands with which they agree and in whose missions they believe. In one 2022 poll, 46% of Americans cited they would pay more for a brand they trust, a metric that shot up 16 percentage points from the previous year.
Whether you’re looking to upkeep your positive online perception and brand image or improve your current standing, shore up these three areas of your public relations and digital marketing strategies to maintain a positive online business reputation.
1. Crisis Communication
When it comes to positive reputation monitoring, PR teams must always be at the ready to respond swiftly and completely to crisis. A brand reputation monitoring crisis can come at any time. For example, no ad team says, “This TV spot is going to be a disaster. Let’s air it anyway!” Peloton is a prime example of business reputation missteps directly threatening the bottom line. The company’s infamous holiday season advertisement caused a $1.5 billion drop in value in 2019. Two years later, Peloton sustained a disastrous drop in stock following a murderous cameo in the Sex and the City reboot, And Just Like That…
Sometimes, companies have some control over the crisis in which they’ve landed. Other times, companies fall to bad luck or conditions entirely out of their control, such as mass flight cancelations due to poor weather. When crafting crisis communication, how you got stuck in the situation doesn’t matter because the result is the same: People are offended or frustrated or inconvenienced.
Crisis communications to maintain good online reputation require these three essential components:
Tell the truth.
Lying doubles any trouble you may already be in when the public eventually uncovers the truth. Even when the truth isn’t pretty, in PR comms, it’s always preferable to a lie. Honesty, at the very least, could earn your respect with potential customers.
Own the narrative to sustain a good online reputation.
Ambiguity or hiding the extent of the problem behind jargon or wishy-washy language could frustrate the public, including potential customers, just as much as a lie. Time is of the essence, so assemble your statement as quickly as possible and share as much information that’s available at the time. Be the first to broadcast your explanation, and make sure to do so clearly and concisely.
After a crisis, your customers want to know what steps you’ll take to rectify the situation and what you’ll do in the future to prevent it from happening again. In your communications, convey that you understand their frustration, apologize, and explain at least one concrete step the company will take to keep their good reputation and avoid a repeat.
2. Community Management
For the public to get to know your brand and form a (hopefully positive) opinion about your company, you first have to put yourself out there. One excellent way to directly connect with your audience is through community management and engagement. Community management is when a brand directly communicates with their audience. The goal is to build authentic connections, show your brand’s personality, and make the brand relatable with people, such as happy customers.
The majority of community management takes place on social media platforms. Posting regularly on social media platforms is key to building a following and crafting a brand voice that’s entertaining, informative, and appropriate to your target follower. Additionally, respond to follower comments on your posts and engage with industry influencers to strengthen social media management and your online presence. Friendly back-and-forth conversations will build your brand’s image and personality, and elevate your standing in the minds of people who are interested in a positive relationship.
Unfortunately, the community with which you’re engaging using social media accounts isn’t always interested in a positive relationship. Hiding behind a computer screen gives people the confidence to say whatever’s on their mind … and it’s often not very nice, to put it mildly. Always take the high road to keep a positive reputation on social media accounts and remain professional in all interactions. According to one survey, 88% of respondents said that they’d overlook a negative review if the company responded and adequately addressed the concern. Avoid being dragged into a heated online debate. As unfair or angering a thread is, arguing won’t change anyone’s mind. Engage politely and offer to settle the issue over a private communication channel to help support strong social media management.
3. Social Listening
Social listening – or gauging broad stroke sentiment about your brand – is a tricky measurement to use correctly. There are several tools and services that can trawl social media platforms to generate a report about how your brand is perceived online; however, be prepared to add a lot of filters and still have to filter out irrelevant results to truly understand how the public feels about you. Social listening can also unveil how the public feels about your industry, which can generate a lot of ideas about what topics you should cover and which to avoid.
The no-budget, quick way to social listen and see if you have a good reputation is by Googling your brand. What are people honestly saying on online review sites? What are their most common gripes featured in online reviews? When people mention your industry on Twitter, what flaws do they harp on? The themes you collect from your social listening research can inform how you communicate with customers, explain your company capabilities to address common concerns, or even initiate modifications to your services.
It’s a Popularity Contest
There’s no way to please everyone with an online presence; however, generally, the online reputation goal is to have the majority of your target audience view you positively. When it comes time to make a purchase, customers pit you against your competitors. From there, it’s a popularity contest to see who wins their business. Online reputation management requires a united public relations and digital marketing front to craft the most trustworthy online presence during times of crisis and times of peace.