Good news travels fast; bad news travels faster. Recent spurt in cases of rampant, and sometimes baseless, negative online publicity has affected brand image of many companies. In 2005, a single post by a blogger criticizing Dell’s support services pulled down the company’s reputation by a couple of notches. The corporate world is waking up to the necessity of playing an active role in online reputation management.
Online Reputation Management involves not only analyzing all that is being written about your brand online but also repairing any damage found and constructing a positive image. A successful ORM campaign should involve public relations and search engine marketing. You have to ensure that good things are being said about you on various websites and these websites get top search engine rankings.
How to monitor/track your online reputation
Regular monitoring of online media will help you keep tabs on your public perception. It will also alert you in cases of copyright violations, competitor smear campaigns, domain squatting, etc.
There are many online tools you can use to keep one step ahead and take immediate action. Google Alerts is the most popular monitoring tools that will track and inform you if your brand name comes up in news, feeds, videos, blogs and web results. There are blog-specific search tools like Technorati and Feedster. Twitter Search and Social Mention can also help you catch the buzz about you in social networking sites.
How to repair your online reputation
With the growth of user-generated media like blogs, Tweets and Yelps, the chances of creating negative publicity have also increased. The first step towards tackling negative comments is to create your real presence in popular consumer-generated websites. Responding to your critics on these sites will build trust around your brand. In cases of inaccurate projections, you can request the comment authors to pull down their posts by giving substantial evidence.
Press releases can be posted on popular press release submission sites. Expert articles pertaining to your industry can be submitted to reputed sites with back-link to your website.
You can also buy domains with your brand name (for example if your company is called blush, blush.com, blush.net or blushsucks.com are some domain names you can book) to prevent people with malicious intent misusing them against you.
Not to keep picking on Dell (I’m using a Dell computer right now), but here is a negative site that could have been snagged to prevent bad publicity: http://www.ihatedell.net/.
Sometimes, repair can be a long-drawn exhaustive process. Companies often use search engine optimization techniques to push down negative websites and increase the visibility of websites with positive content.
How to improve your online reputation
An important step in improving online reputation is creation of positive sentiments through various content platforms. This means you have to fully use your online assets. Start by optimizing your corporate website so that it gets top search engine rankings.
Leverage your relationship with your partners to include information about your company on their websites. Set up and maintain blogs that highlight your products, customer testimonials, services and company-related news. This idea involves grabbing as many of the search engine results as possible on the first page of search results. Using high ranking partners will help tremendously.
A proactive online reputation management initiative goes a long way in helping people and companies. It’s one of the best tools to gather useful feedback from customers. In cases of complaints, it gives companies a chance to take early action and prevents build up of a sudden crisis. Above all, what makes ORM a critical business strategy is the role it can play to influence a rapidly growing force called the online media.