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What Is Reputation Management? How Do You Manage It Successfully?

Larry VanDenHandel on April 2, 2020

The internet’s potential in aiding businesses was not as perceptible as it is today.

A few years ago, firms weren’t captivating customers — they were transacting with an uncooperative audience. Nowadays, circumstances have drastically changed. Websites don’t just feature a mere preview of the brand’s products and services. User-generated content is observably encouraged.

Regardless of the size of your company, a number of people are expressing feedback about you. Whether they are posting it via a Facebook update or posting it on other social media platforms, you need to take their comments and opinions into account if you want to make it big (or continually make it big) all throughout.

One of the best ways to maintain credibility and fight off negative feedback is by reputation management. Let’s see what it is and how you can manage it.

What is reputation management?

The role of online reputation management is big in modern business and media setup. Firms, regardless of how small or big they are, can gain an advantage from establishing a clear outline of its concepts.

Without constant monitoring, the image and credibility of your brand are drawn on the internet by a machine. Reputation management allows a level of message control that’s particularly bespoke to the online environment. Amidst all the resources that you spend on building the public’s impression on the brand, it’s your company’s reputation which truly matters.

In essence, reputation management refers to the steps and measures implemented to help form and shape what and how the public views a certain business or person when checked on the internet.

What is reputation management?

In the world of business, reputation is key. However, as much as technology can help, artificial intelligence systems can also twist and contort reputation. This is the reason why online reputation management services exist — to create stability and provide a certain measure of control.

In other words, character means who you are, while reputation refers to what others think you are. Unfortunately, some people only consider what is written on the internet as ‘reputation,’ which prevents others from building a first-person experience with your brand, especially if your reputation is deemed negative and unresponsive.

Reputation management is also known by other terms like brand perception, internet reputation management, and online reputation management (ORM). No matter what term you use, the objective of reputation management is still the same — to influence public perception about a person or business.

However, you might be surprised to know just how hardly brands can control their reputation.

Understanding reputation management on a deeper sense

To understand the hows and whys of reputation management better, let’s first understand the term a little deeper and figure out the essential measures needed to implement enhancement on how other people perceive your brand.

If your business’s reputation is on the line, keeping up with the basics of reputation management is necessary for it to survive. Here are three concepts to further explain it:

1. Necessary for a business’s survivability

Research indicates that 90% of customers base their purchasing decisions on the reviews they find on the internet.

This goes to show how fragile a brand’s reputation is. People can now post and rant against a product on social media and have the post read by millions due to its shareable option. Clearly, one mishandled circumstance can turn into a blown up crisis that can lead to losing clients and profitability.

What makes it even harder is the fact that the media does not care about permanently damaged reputations. It only reports issues regardless of its nature. Moreover, corporate social media channels that are open to comments are susceptible to backlash.

When a crisis starts, companies must be quick to respond. Take Samsung, for instance (Washington Post). They made all the efforts necessary to find out what caused many of their Galaxy Note 7 phones to catch fire and explode. Warning statements were issued, which takes so much courage to do and admit that many of their premium products were defective.

An exploded Samsung Galaxy Note 7

Meetings with mobile phone carriers were conducted to trace and retrieve phones that were sold, stocks were pulled back, and everybody was working hand-in-hand to face the issue head-on. Rigorous tests were made and battery consultancy firms were hired to refine its batteries and software was made to completely disable the usage of note 7. In addition to that, financial incentives were offered to those who bought the device.

From this example, you get to understand that reputation management is a collective effort. It doesn’t end on apology alone. It involves doing something about the problem, finding its root cause, going beyond the extra mile to appease your customers, and doing whatever might be done to avoid the same mistake from happening ever again.

As you can see, rising back from predicaments such as these are expensive. For those who are already considered giants in their respective industries, repairing a tarnished reputation can cost a company up to billions. Smaller-scale businesses, however, might not be able to bounce back.

That is how important reputation management is — mending things on the instant that the problem begins.

2. Usually done online (along with sales and marketing)

With the advent of technology, communication is easier than ever.

More often than not, emails are commonly used by companies to communicate with their audience. Others meet and welcome new users, solve issues, discover partnerships, and even update themselves through the online world. That’s why it doesn’t come as a surprise that reputation management usually takes place in the online space.

People choose to create conversations and associate with each other via online platforms. This is what leads reputation management firms to utilize social media and SEO techniques to accomplish their objectives.

Plus, reputation management is a necessity in sales and marketing as it involves encouraging people to purchase a certain company’s products and services based on the latter’s selling points and remarkable characteristics. It involves coaxing people to trust and believe in the quality of the things a company has to offer.

Because reputation management is such a wide concept, there is no single method to properly address it. However, there are many ethical, effective, and legitimate ways to handle the process.

3. The presence of a dark side

Just like other things, reputation management can be used with terrible intentions. If a certain person or a company badly wants to make their business shine without any regard as to whether the material is purely made up or legitimate, then anyone can put up “good” things and make it look real, despite it being a complete PR gimmick.

Also, just as how it can bring flowers and sunshine to a brand’s name, it can also bring a flamethrower to the reputation of others.

How do you control and manage reputation management?

The first on the list of things that you can control is your actions. However, even in that area, your control is still limited.

Handling a business is tough, as businesses have a lot of processes to deal with. As a business owner, you have numerous things to manage. However, although you control some things, there are still other factors that you don’t have a hold of.

The things you do as the leader of your business creates some impact on the reputation of your brand. But no matter how cautious you get, your reputation takes a form of its own in other people’s minds as some matters are subjective in nature. Meaning, no matter what you do, people will still have their own thoughts and opinions about your products and service.

Reputation and Communication

Reputation develops in the same way that communication does.

Here’s why:

You, as an establishment, do your best to build your reputation by maximum branding, web presence, messaging, and other components of a brand. The receiver, which is the public, tries to internalize your efforts and translates this message through a particular mode of communication.

When received, this message connects to the public’s interpretations, experiences, biases, and other aspects that influence the way that somebody perceives information. As the process involves a lot of aspects, something can go wrong in communicating a reputation at any point.

Clearly, reputation can’t wholly be controlled. Despite how advanced reputation techniques are, it would take time and effort to alter people’s perceptions. This goes to show that reputation management centers on what the public sees. You can take hold of the things you want people to see, but you can’t control how they perceive it.

However, reputation can be managed. Here are some sources of reputational issues that reputation management intends to combat with:

Social media: Social media channels are helpful tools for managing reputations. But they can also be a source of gossip, complaints, and criticisms that brands may suffer from.

Review sites: Review sites such as Yelp are made to aid consumers in choosing the best products and services they need for a certain event or experience. However, a dissatisfied customer can write negative reviews, which can shut off businesses for a long time.

Negative online photos and news articles: Luckily, there are lawful regulations that state when such photos can be taken away from search indexes. On another note, news articles are the first items you see whenever you look up businesses online. The sad part is, not everyone knows how to distinguish fake news from the real ones.

Blog posts: Anybody can create a blog and write about anything they want. However, the result can sometimes create confusion and misinformation for others. Blogs can also write about businesses and can either promote them or destroy them. Clearly, this is an area where reputation management can use to its advantage.

Wikipedia: Despite the number of professionals discouraging people from using Wikipedia as an information source, Wikipedia still seems to be a standard knowledge base. Unfortunately, a Wikipedia page can be edited and all but still rank high on search engines. Search results can be around for a long time so if a company’s reputation blows up, no matter if the company’s undoing is fake or legit, it will linger in the search index and will be remembered for years.

That is where the science of reputation management enters. Utilizing methods like cognitive psychology, user behavior, search engine optimization, and human-computer interaction (HCI). Reputation management experts can bring back balance to search results and other types of data accessible to the public.

Reputation can be managed. The extent of it may be limited as no one holds the public’s views. Still, firms can influence what people can see on the internet at some point — and that can help a lot in keeping a positive reputation and ensuring a business’s survival.

How can you monitor your reputation online?

Brands may opt to manage their reputation on their own or by a reputation management firm. No matter what businesses choose, it all comes down to a single method — improving search engine results.

One of the best ways to do this is by establishing Google Alerts. From the name itself, it will send alerts whenever your business is being mentioned in sites. You will be able to see what people are saying about you on the internet.

TrustSpot on Google Alerts

If negative reviews and opinions show up, reputation management can be applied. However, it may take time and hard work to mitigate negative publicity. Fortunately, there are steps you can follow to turn the crisis around.

The road to reputational recovery can be simplified into four steps:

  1. Study the problem. Find out what caused the negative feedback.
  2. Assess the degree of damage. You have to understand the extent of the damage prior to implementing steps to resolve the issue. Investigate. Track existing negative and damaging press. Research.
  3. Plan the next steps. If you have found out the source of the problem and had identified the extent of damage that your company is in, it’s time to plan what to do next. Come up with long-term strategies that will help you in avoiding the same situation that you are presently in.
  4. Execute. Do what it takes to turn the tides in your favor. Issue an apology if necessary. Don’t forget to give updates on the progress of the situation. Create a recovery roadmap. Oftentimes, simply issuing an apology isn’t enough to recover from a bad online reputation.

Once you’ve done all you can do to immediately try to improve the situation, start thinking about long-term strategies such as creating and promoting positive content.

As technology improves, information can reach the public at a quicker pace but can linger around the internet for years. This makes every company susceptible to reputation damage. This is why reputation management is key.

Larry VanDenHandel
Larry VanDenHandel

Larry is the co-founder & CTO of TrustSpot. When he's not developing a new feature or managing our engineering team, you can find Larry at Disney with his wife and daughter.

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