As we learned in Part 1 of our Online Reputation Management (ORM) guide, ORM is a strategy that helps you influence the way your brand appears online. ORM encompasses a wide range of activities that can assist in achieving a set of positive search engine results when users search online for your firm and your services. It encompasses review sites, your website, social media mentions, press articles, microsite content, Wikipedia entries, and more. Here are 7 most important steps to help you improve your online reputation:
The first step in any ORM plan is to collect your research – you can do this through monitoring the way your brand is appearing across different online sources which involves researching keywords and phrases, collecting and analyzing paid media mentions, reviewing hashtags and social media mentions, collecting website analytics, reviewing news and press sites, and even checking company review sites to fully understand the conversations happening around your brand.
This process can be tricky, as often negative reviewers will not tag the company on social media, or negative articles may not appear with the keywords you are searching. Using tools like keyword research sites, Google Alerts, and content management platforms, or working with a service provider that offers Data Analytics and Data Reporting can help streamline this process and save you time.
2) Develop an ORM plan
Once you have set up monitoring and determined where your reputation stands, it is time to take that research and turn it into a plan. Where are your strengths? Where are your weaknesses? Do you have poor employee reviews? Bad service reviews? No Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) program? These all matter, and you need to consider where you may be falling short.
Once you have assessed these strengths and weaknesses, make a plan that clearly articulates your goals and objectives, timelines, strategy, tactics, and how you plan to monitor your results. The best plans will combine marketing, public relations, communications, web development, social media management and customer and employee engagement.
3) Bury or remove bad SERP results
If you have established that your brand is being impacted by negative media, you need to determine a plan to ensure these cannot be seen on the results pages. This is easier said than done, but generally speaking you have 2 options: Find a way to remove the result or bury it by getting other content to rank higher in search appearances. (Or you can hire a marketing firm that understands online reputation management, just saying).
Removing content can include petitioning a poster/blogger/website to take down an article, a search engine to remove content (e.g., Google will ban search results if it violates their rules and regulations), or a newspaper or other media source to retract their post. You may also need to follow legal processes to get the information removed, especially if they refuse to remove the content and it is defamatory or libelous. Often, removing content can be almost impossible, so if this is your choice then make sure you understand the work and cost involved.
Develop new content
Your second option is to develop new content that is search engine optimized to rank above the existing negative content, thereby burying it. This option can ensure the negative results do not show up, all while contributing positively to your organization with your new optimized content. A strong content and SEO strategy can boost sales, referrals, retention and more, so this method can serve multiple purposes and, if done right, will be worth the time and effort it takes.
The choice you make is largely up to the content out there, so make the decision that best benefits your business and makes the most sense based on the goals you have established. In most cases, a combination of the two approached may be the best option.
4) Don’t neglect your internal resources
Having a good online reputation can help you recruit and hire the best talent. In fact, a recent study by SCG Advertising and Public Relations suggested that 84% of respondents were willing to accept lower financial compensation to work for a company with a stellar reputation, so it is worth taking the time to consider using internal and employee branding to boost your reputation. Here are a few simple steps to engage your internal resources
Step one: review the content
The first step is to ensure the poor reviews are not accurate. Do you have policies and practices that are negatively impacting your employees? Are you ensuring a positive work environment? Do you do everything possible to attract and retain top talent. If a review is unfair, consider commenting on the review, apologizing, and explaining what you are doing better so potential employees can see you are engaged in the well-being of your employees.
Step two: engage your staff
Secondly, engage your current employees to write their own company reviews expressing why they like working for your organization, and post them on social media. Asking employees to leave reviews on Glassdoor, Indeed, and other recruitment sites can be a great place to start; however, make certain that you never offer compensation in exchange for a review. This can be seen as a bribe and reflect negatively on the organization.
Step three: develop guidelines
Finally, develop clear internal guidelines for external communications and social media – you want employees to post about your company’s positive initiatives. Just make sure you have inner guidelines to ensure communications are fair, accurate, and on brand.
5) Develop and share content!
Now that you have a plan in place, it is time to develop the content that will improve your reputation. Incorporating a mix of content types is the key to achieving a good overall reputation online. A plan may include:
- Drafting press releases about your newest service offerings to gain earned media mentions.
- Developing content for your website and microsites, while using SEO best practices to ensure the content is a top search result.
- Implementing a well researched, paid advertising campaign across search engines or social media, or publishing sponsored content on websites or blogs that your target audience enjoys.
You may also consider participating in charity events, establishing a CSR program, or creating thought leadership content on social media to get your name in the news and ensure that you are promoting your brand in a beneficial way.
6) Plan for a crisis
No matter how well you monitor the media, respond to issues, and produce good content, there inevitably will be a time when a crisis occurs and you need to respond. Having a plan for when this happens can help you to mitigate the risk, respond appropriately, and ensure your reputation can be preserved.
A 2019 study by JOTW suggested that 59% of business communicators say they have a communications strategy drafted but only 45% admit to having a documented crisis communications plan. Developing a process for who handles the crisis, preparing all levels of the organization to respond to a crisis, drafting templates for communications, and finding ways to monitor the impact are good places to start. A strategic crisis communications plan can limit the damage and ensure your reputation is able to survive. Make sure you invest time into this process.
You can find more information on developing a solid communications plan on the Canadian Public Relations Society (CPRS) website.
7) Stay engaged and proactive
After you have built up your reputation, it is important to stay engaged. Update the methods you have incorporated, respond to positive AND negative comments and mentions online, identify areas of your business that may need improvement, and keep your processes and plans moving forward. The key to managing your reputation is by staying in the loop about what people are saying. Make sure this is a continuous effort.
Overall, building a positive online reputation will take time and resources. It will not happen overnight, and it requires planning, time, and dedication. However, if you take the time to develop the right plan and invest the resources to make it happen, your business will see the benefits.
Need help? Contact Cubicle Fugitive!
If you are looking for assistance on managing your brand reputation, contact Cubicle Fugitive to discuss how our team can help!