Reputation management, in one form or another, has been around as long as people have been doing business. But what does reputation management mean in 2022? And exactly how should business leaders tackle a company’s reputation?
Expert advice from a reputation management company
We’ve been working with customers across all areas of reputation management for many years. This includes devising strategies for a specific brand’s reputation and how to navigate the reputational risks in today’s online world.
In this blog, we’ll take you on a journey deep into reputation management. We’ll cover what reputation management means, why it’s so important and what it takes to manage appropriately.
Get insights into effective reputation management
We’ll also provide actionable insights into how you can improve your brand perception or build a better reputation. However, we would always advise working with a reputation management company like Igniyte as the world of reputation management is far more complex than it may first appear.
What exactly is reputation management?
The easiest way to define reputation management at the core is the strategic efforts made to directly influence how others (whether stakeholders, customers or peers) think about an individual, a brand or a business. Reputation management is a deliberate strategic practice and covers a number of different areas. Efforts to shape public perception are at the heart of any reputation management strategy. In other words, reputation management is about changing what people think by changing what they see and hear.
How does that fit in with online reputation management?
So, for online reputation management, this means working within the customer experience, social media accounts, media outlets, SEO, online reviews, customer satisfaction and customer sentiment metrics. Reputation management strategies can also be implemented in the offline world. However, doing business online is now standard and so the majority of a brand’s online reputation management will include all of the above.
Reputation management aka…
While the goal always remains the same – to influence and shape public perception of a business or person – you may find that reputation management is often known as any or all of the following:
- Digital reputation management.
- Brand reputation management.
- Brand perception.
- Impression management.
- Online reputation management.
- Internet reputation management.
Who needs to know about reputation management?
Our experience shows that just about anyone and everyone can benefit from understanding what reputation management means and how much it matters. Whether you are attempting to build your personal brand online through your social profiles, or you’re taking a DIY approach to your own company’s marketing strategy, understanding reputation management matters.
At the other end of the business spectrum, if you are managing PR for public figures who are being hit with negative press, it’s absolutely essential to understand the strategic nuances of reputation management.
And, of course, there are plenty of other examples of why many businesses and individuals would benefit from further information on brand reputation and the damage that can be done by highly visible negative content online.
What are the key elements of reputation management?
Reputational issues, from customer feedback to online reviews via Twitter and Facebook, adversely impacts the subject. For an individual, this could mean dealing with the fallout from bad publicity. In extreme cases, this can be damaging on a personal and professional level. One of the key elements of reputation management in 2022 is that the majority of the strategic work takes place online.
Why a reputation management company focuses primarily on reputation online
When strategizing for a client, we recognise that it’s not possible to control what people think. But it is possible to control what they see.
Currently, the most logical and accessible communication platform is the Internet. Most of society’s communication takes place online, whether through website or blog post content, social media profiles, reviews left on an online retailer website, search engine results when looking up a brand or any number of other examples
Therefore, it’s only logical that the majority of reputation management takes place online. This is why online reputation management and reputation management are largely synonymous terms.
Changing collective hearts and minds
While reputation management is managed online for the most part for the reasons given above, there is another key reason.
Reputation management cannot change every individual’s mind. But by absorbing reputation management into online marketing strategies, we can change the way that information is presented to the collective masses.
By this, we mean targeting things like the first page of Google search engine results, for example. We’re talking about the likes of YouTube, review sites, Google, Yell and social media giants like Facebook, Twitter and TikTok.
These online channels are the filters for most online communication. Because massive platforms like Google and Facebook can and do moderate content, there is a huge benefit in working with them to better present the subject concerned.
Brand reputation management is important for individuals too
It may seem that only large businesses will be interested in brand reputation management enough to employ a firm to work on their brand image, but it’s important for individuals too.
Five minutes of Internet research shows plenty of examples of public figures dealing with the fallout from a reputational crisis. At the time of writing, billionaire Elon Musk is being sued by Twitter for reneging on the $44 billion takeover deal that he chose to make very very public.
Musk is the perfect example of an individual whose personal reputation directly impacts the businesses he is linked with. Tesla has lost $126 billion since the Twitter debacle began.
But reputation management isn’t just important for uber famous billionaires and assorted celebrities. It’s essential, for example, for anyone who is is now searching for a job or career change.
The easiest way to explain the phenomenon is that, should someone have your name – whether as a candidate for a job or because your Tweet went semi-viral – they will Google you. And what they see on the first page will influence their perception of you and the work you do.
Even if your name isn’t instantly recognisable, if someone is Googling you they will click on any negative link for the business you work for. They will click on your social channels or your personal website. They might find news stories via third party sites or they might see any number of possible forms of negative material or false information. All of this matters.
What does a reputation management company do?
At Igniyte, we have a team of experts with experience in every aspect of reputation management.
We work with different kinds of clients and create bespoke strategies to manage their reputation online, and offline too if necessary. As reputation management experts, we have the technical knowhow, the legal backing and in-house staff across content marketing, content creation, SEO, website creation, social media management and PR.
There’s very little we don’t know about the importance of a person or a brand’s online reputation.
You can read more about the kinds of strategies we employ to work on brand image and to improve the client’s customer experience. This has a knock on effect for existing and potential customers, as a single negative review can travel surprisingly far on the Internet.
Are potential customers really put off by reputational problems?
Absolutely. In fact, research shows that 87% of consumers are willing to totally rethink their spending decisions when faced with negative feedback about the company involved. This could be via social media, online reviews on the brand’s own website or on independent review sites. It could be as simple as the potential customer typing your name into Google, and seeing a bunch of negative links on page 1 of the search engine results.
The point is, reputational damage is caused by any or all of these phenomena. Which is why online reputation management itself has grown into a significant market sector of its own over the last ten to 15 years.
Wouldn’t reputation management software do the job?
This may seem like a logical step for a small business or individual if they want to try do their own online reputation management. However, we see reputation management software as one tool in an arsenal of many more.
Packages that include things like review management software are absolutely useful in quantifying the customer feedback and sentiment analysis that the business needs. But it doesn’t go far enough in analysing the holistic picture surrounding the subject’s brand presence.
There are three stages that should be implemented to manage online reputation effectively. And while reputation management software can help, it doesn’t give the whole picture.
What are the three phases of reputation management?
We will sometimes work with clients who are in the middle of a reputational crisis. This needs a different approach to the phases of reputation management appropriate for a business or individual who wants to improve or build their reputation.
This may be totally from scratch and start with building a website and establishing a web presence. Or it may mean retrofitting content on an established website, working with the brand, doing outreach PR and proactive social media channel management.
In this latter case, we can split the main phases into three:
To meet your business needs you most likely want to increase sales and attract new customers.
Building a positive reputation for the business is therefore where you start.
And, as today’s world is largely online, that’s where we also start when strategizing for a client.
A good reputation flows when you have various ‘build’ steps in place:
- A professional, engaging website. This is the one platform from which the rest of your online presence will originate.
- The website must be configured to work across all major browsers and to include correctly all alt tags and meta tags. This is how Google search finds the site and displays it.
- The website design should give an excellent customer experience, be intuitive and user-friendly and show the company and its services at its very best. Without this level of care at the first stage of reputation building, the customer leaves and simply spends their money elsewhere.
- Social media channels must be set up across all relevant platforms. This includes business social media platforms, such as LinkedIn and any that your customers frequently visit.
- Don’t forget public review sites, such as Google and TrustPilot. Building a presence on these sites is an integral part of the conversation customers will be having about your business.
- The idea is to encourage customers to leave positive reviews about your services and for the business name to show up on the first page of the search results.
- When building all of the above, make it very easy for users to post positive content about you. Include links to all of your profiles across the Internet on your website and ensure that leaving positive reviews is as simple as possible.
- Draft clear internal standards for how you and your team will engage with customers going forward. Have a plan and ensure that everyone who needs to see it, has a copy. It’s much easier to do this with a written document rather than a quick chat. This step should include decisions on how often you will respond and the timings of responses.
- As part of the standards, it’s essential to have a process for interacting with customers who have left negative content, negative reviews or have discovered negative search results when they Googled your company name. None of this is a disaster, as long as it’s handled appropriately.
Here’s where a comprehensive reputation management plan comes in.
This needs to include monitoring mentions online, keeping track of negative reviews, posting relevant content on social media, managing engagement levels and much more.
Understandably, most businesses don’t have the capacity to do this in-house. A reputation management company is best placed to get this right.
To keep momentum up and to actually make a difference to the reputation of the business, there is ongoing work needed. This is the only way to reap the benefits of a properly managed reputation.
This includes (but isn’t limited to):
- Website content optimisation. Just building a site isn’t enough. It needs to be populated with always up to date, relevant, high quality, optimised content.
- Content must be useful for customers, clients and any other stakeholders.
- Content must also be refreshed regularly, as this helps to keep it towards the top of search results. In turn, this then helps to push down any negative results that might be lingering. Once these are off the first few links of results, they cease to be damaging to your company.
- Search engine optimisation (SEO) is an absolute must. Your content could be the best in the world, but if no-one actually finds it, it’s not worth anything.
- Igniyte has a strong content creation and optimisation team, armed with all of the technical knowhow to build the relevant information into your site’s metadata.
- Outside of ensuring the company website works in the best way possible, we also offer content creation services. This is important in order to link your website with other, high quality and highly credible websites.
- This is where our marketing, public relations expertise, technical knowledge and expert content creation skills come into the mix.
The third broad phase of reputation management is about recovering from the inevitable hits that will happen at some point.
Maintaining vigilance across all the steps above will absolutely go a long way to helping your reputation grow and, ultimately, work for you.
But it’s highly unlikely that you will never deal with some kind of public relations crisis, whether that’s negative publicity in something like the Wall Street Journal or simply a negative review that has found its way around the circuit for some reason.
Being prepared is your best bet to deal with any negative comments or unfair search results.
What is the reputation management process?
Tactics for managing bad reviews that show up on search engines are a vital part of managing your reputation. This is obviously unpleasant for anyone, but businesses do tend to get attacked at some point. Or they may have the odd negative review.
It’s how you handle it that makes the big difference. Always acknowledge the problem or issue that the person has brought to your attention. Do this explicitly, so that they know you are listening. Creating responses that hit the right tone is also important.
By responding in this way, it’s not only the reviewer that will come away with a good opinion of your brand. It will, through search engines and social media, come to other people’s attention too. They are then far more likely to have a higher opinion of your brand or business.
What does a reputation manager do?
Some businesses will choose to employ an in-house, dedicated reputation manager to deal with all of the above. But more often, it’s in your best interests to outsource it. This is because, as you’ve now seen, the entire process of managing the opinions of potential customers online needs a lot of man hours. It also needs the kind of professional insight that a reputation management business has.
A reputation manager should come within the marketing budget or department, as they are both part of the same mix of services necessary to build and maintain a positive reputation.
Is reputation management illegal?
This is a question we sometimes see floating around the Internet. As a business that deals with the legalities of things like content removal, content creation and all of our other services, we can categorically say it is not illegal.
It’s likely that this question is asked by a business or person who doesn’t know the ins and outs of the sector. Perhaps they assumed that creating a content creation plan is somehow not an organic process, and therefore may not be allowed.
This is far from the case. In fact, it’s easiest to think of reputation management as part of the marcomms strategy of the company.
Reputation management services sit within traditional marcomms. It also overlaps PR and digital marketing too. As the world continues to morph into an almost 100% online space, the lines between these different disciplines continue to blur.
Watching out for unintended consequences of communication
It can be tempting to assume that a reputational crisis will never come your company’s way. However, communications can be subjective. What you transmit is not necessarily understood in the way that you intended it. And this can go on to adversely impact any business associated with you.
For example, a business leader who Tweets a political opinion may have the best of intentions. They may even think that their meaning is perfectly clear.
But it’s the public’s interpretation of that Tweet that matters more. If the Tweet is read in a certain way, you might be surprised just how quickly it can spiral into a discussion online that the Tweet owner never saw coming.
That’s how easy it is for reputation management to go from an interesting esoteric concept to a real-world situation that is impacting the bottom line.
Is it really possible to manage reputation?
We’ve just highlighted an example of a communication that goes off the rails without negative intent. But the good news is, reputation management can absolutely rectify problems like this.
At Igniyte we’ve been working on reputation management for 20 years. And in that time we’ve evolved our strategies, knowledge and services to keep up with the changes we see in the online sphere.
Online reputation management means a more positive public image
By taking the appropriate online reputation management steps, businesses can mitigate damage caused by the following list of common scenarios. These can affect any company, regardless of their market share or how long they’ve been around.
Negative media coverage
When someone Google’s your name, they will notice any negative links first. Despite the widespread understanding that fake news and clickbait exists, it’s just human nature to tend to believe what we read.
Negative images online
This is something that not only affects online reputation, but also real world reputation too. Public figures and members of the public alike are increasingly dealing with problems caused by either leaked photos or some kind of negative imagery about them.
The distress this causes often goes beyond online reputation, and can have a hugely detrimental impact across the board. There are, however, legal guidelines for removal of images from search indexes. We work with legal experts to ensure we have all of the strategies to remove these kinds of images.
Unreliable Wikipedia entries
This is perhaps less obvious when it comes to managing online reputation. However, Wikipedia is the default for the majority of people. At the same time, information on Wiki pages can be biased, negative or simply not true. Because Wikipedia also ranks highly for the major search engines, we ensure that close tabs are on any Wikipedia entries related to our clients.
Unfair or defamatory blogs
It’s fair to say that blogs are generally less well regarded for being automatically true. However, they are still a massive platform for potentially damaging and uncontrolled information.
Online reputation management can absolutely ensure that any kind of negative blog is dealt with without causing a problem.
There are so many independent or industry specific review websites that are routinely used by consumers today. They exist to give consumers information on the kinds of choices that they can make. However, there is little to automatically stop a single troll from going after a business for nefarious reasons.
In an ideal world, we would be able to state that this kind of negative content won’t damage a business. But the truth is, for small businesses in particular, a campaign of negativity can do serious damage to their online reputation.
Getting the balance back
The most important takeaway from this blog is that online reputation management is within reach for everyone.
Online reputation experts like Igniyte use a mix of tried and tested strategic techniques to restore balance to a person or brand’s reputation.
Managing Director at Igniyte – The Reputation Experts
Roz is an industry spokesperson on all areas of online reputation management and our resident digital media expert. She regularly writes about reputation management research, online reputation risk and industry best practice.