Most marketing strategists agree that successful online reputation management (“ORM”) is critical for both business and individuals alike. With that in mind, it goes without saying that negative online reviews can lead to lost revenues for corporations, and missed opportunities for individuals (jobs, press mentions, speaking opportunities, etc.).
As an industry, ORM is small but growing quickly, as many corporations are now beginning to focus on performance optimization initiatives. Here’s are some core considerations for senior marketers to keep in mind while tackling reputation management issues.
No industry category is immune—Ask any restaurateur what he thinks about Yelp, and it’s likely that lots of shouting and cursing will follow. Few will sing its praises, but most will be able to tell you what reviews have been submitted over the past couple of weeks.
At the other end of the spectrum, large B2B enteprises worry less about the occasional shots published on industry blogs or publication websites, but more on overall corporate brand management. That’s not to say ORM doesn’t matter, but it’s not necessarily a day-by-day consideration for marketers are global B2B corporations.
Takeaway: Be cognizant of your industry category and plan accordingly. Some require daily or even hourly scrutiny and aggressive countermeasures, while monthly monitoring and case-by-case responses will accommodate others.
Quantify the starting point—Audits can uncover unfavorable mentions that are dated, not relevant, or not applicable. These simply need to be deleted. At the same time, audits also identify hidden gems that can be resurrected to great value, like an old baseball card found in an attic. One of my clients forgot about a favorable quote in The Wall Street Journal from 10 years ago that surfaced during an audit, which then played a big part in his optimization strategy.
Takeaway: Canvass the internet for relevant keywords and company and executive names, then document the collateral and relative strength and weakness of its effect to determine its role in the optimization plan.
Get executive teams and staffers involved—Every employee is a company ambassador. Emblazoned with the corporate logo, his or her LinkedIn profile should reflect his or her job title and responsibilities and the company mission. Most staffers will be agreeable to pitch on the company’s behalf, but most everyone will require specific direction and close oversight to implement ORM strategies.
Takeaway: Work with HR to develop policy protocols for LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and Google+, and recruit an executive sponsor to roll out a company-wide online reputation management plan and training sessions.
Be prepared for crisis management—Just as IT groups have disaster recovery plans in place for unexpected power outages, marketing groups must be ready to act in the wake of a reputation management crisis. Most situations are unsavory but undeniably common: drunk driving arrests, regrettable social media posts, and messy divorces that generate abundant publicly available materials. These aren’t typically covered by the mainstream media, but they do show up online, and can be problematic when a prospective customer or employer conducts research during an evaluation process.
Takeaway: Identify an example or case study in your industry category to help educate marketing executives about the issue, and design a crisis management plan to be ready if something similar happens to your organization.
The best defense is an aggressive offense—For both corporate brands and senior executives, the best ORM defense is typically an aggressive offense (at least for the foreseeable future, that is — internet strategies change frequently, based on algorithm updates, new entrants to a marketplace, and competitor behavior). Having a solid foundation intact (i.e., robust domain authority) with multiple digital touchpoints amplifies the impact of every outbound message.
A formidable digital marketing foundation means that campaigns can be quickly deployed with maximum effect. In the event of a crisis or a negative media mention that requires management, the infrastructure exists to facilitate an offensive response.
Takeaway: A close cousin of SEO, the most successful reputation management plans rely on a strong digital foundation, and are designed to accommodate a company’s unique requirements which are proactively managed over time.
Tim Bourgeois is a director at East Coast Catalyst, a digital strategy consulting company specializing in online reputation management, digital marketing audits, and online marketing optimization programs.
This article was originally posted on eContent magazine, a leading authority on the businesses of digital publishing, media, and marketing, targeting executives and decision-makers in these fast-changing markets.
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