Businesses should be aware of how important online reputation management (ORM) is. After all, the first place most people look for information about your company is via a search engine, and negative results can seriously harm your brand image.
You should make sure to implement ORM strategies before unfavourable results have a chance to affect your reputation. Otherwise, it may be too late, and you’ll have to engage damage limitation.
What is an ORM strategy?
Undertaking an audit is the first step of an ORM strategy. You need to consider answers to questions such as “Where is my online reputation susceptible to negativity?”, and determine what can be done to counter these potential threats. Try to answer objectively: don’t be naive to your own vulnerabilities.
What might threaten my online reputation?
Negativity — often anonymous — can be directed at your brand through a variety of channels, including:
Search engine result pages (SERPs)
A simple search for your brand online will return both positive and negative results, the prominence of which depends on the authority of the associated websites. For example, a Facebook page entitled ‘Boycott 1and1 Internet’ ranks seventh when you Google ‘1and1’.
To assist searchers, Google offers an autocomplete feature that suggests search terms according to what you are typing. Negative phrases can appear alongside these, promoting a harmful view of your brand. Search ‘Apple are ’, and ‘…evil’, ‘…rubbish’ and ‘…overpriced’ are the top three suggestions.
The number-one choice when people want to vent about a company, it is almost impossible to control what is being said about your brand on social media. However, it is also the perfect medium for addressing any concerns online.
Social media is such a hotbed of ORM-gone-wrong that there are regularly lists drawn up to honour the ‘fails’.
Brands encounter criticism for a variety of reasons, including:
- Low customer service standards
- Inappropriate staff conduct
- Poor product quality
- Negative news
- Legal cases
But this is just the tip of the iceberg: you can never completely predict what will affect your brand online. Developing an ORM strategy is the first step towards taking control.
What should you do if you’re experiencing an ORM problem?
Although it’s better to prevent negativity coming to light, it is possible to clean up negative results. Some are easier than others in terms of time and implementation, but unfortunately there is not a single solution to ORM and the impact it is having on your brand.
However, there are a multitude of counteractive practices you can employ to help eradicate negative results.
Promote positive news to reduce exposure to negative news
The success of this tactic depends on the severity of the negative news. Obviously, if you are responsible for a major catastrophe such as the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, it will be very hard to hide this from users. And any attempt to save your reputation could backfire (look at the treatment BP got from South Park), causing further unwanted exposure.
Introduce corporate and social media responsibility policies
By doing so, you are not only holding your business to account for how it is perceived online, but you are also ensuring your staff conduct themselves appropriately. We don’t recommend monitoring your employees’ personal social media accounts, but where they are in control of business profiles, they should operate within a pre-determined set of guidelines.
Ensure important stakeholders have an online presence
When business stakeholders may be targets of complaints — like Bill Gates is for Microsoft — they should set up and carefully monitor social media accounts. These profiles should rank above any negative comments in the SERPs, ensuring fewer searchers notice the criticism.
Consult an expert
Speaking to an ORM agency can help you implement a strategy quickly and efficiently, ensuring that your problem does not escalate.
At Mediaworks, we have helped several clients quietly and efficiently with ORM problems, as well as speaking at ORM events such as Brand Aid.
Speak to us in confidence today if you need help with ORM.