How to Develop an Effective Brand Reputation Management Strategy

Reputations aren’t built overnight, but they can change in an instant – especially today. While traditional media, public relations, and advertising have long played a role in shaping brand reputation, in the age of social media, reviews, comments, and conversations between customers have completely changed the game. To keep up, many companies are investing in brand reputation management.

What is Online Reputation Management?

Online reputation management (ORM) is the process in which a company attempts to control and improve how its brand is perceived by others. This can be done internally or by hiring an outside firm. Reputation management is now playing a critical role in business strategies, with studies showing that 3 out of 4 consumers trust a company more if it has positive reviews. 

In addition, there are countless social media horror stories that companies have had to weather (at great cost to their reputation and their bottom line). These factors combined have turned brand reputation management into big business.

The PESO Model for Managing Your Brand's Reputation

The PESO model, developed by Gini Dietrich of the marketing and public relations blog Spin Sucks, identifies the four media types that help build brand identity and authority in today’s digital landscape. The model has become widely popular in the brand management and marketing industry. Not only does it show how each channel works independently, but it also shows how they work with other channels within the model.

PESO Model Graphic

Source: Spin Sucks

Here's some additional information regarding the four types of media found in the PESO model.

Paid Media

Paid media is marketing that a company pays for. While this used to consist strictly of traditional media like television, radio, and print, today it focuses largely on digital media such as PPC ads, social media ads, and search engine marketing (SEM)

Earned Media

Earned media may be better known as publicity. This type of free media wasn’t paid for, but instead a company’s actions “earned” them this attention (whether good or bad). This often comes in the form of news coverage or reporting or through mentions and links in online stories.

Shared Media

Shared media is content that is shared across social media. Much of it is user-generated content (USG), including images, videos, and text (such as reviews) regarding a company or its products that have been posted by users of various online platforms. Shared media also describes content shared between multiple owners (e.g., co-branding and tie-ins).

Owned Media

Owned media is any content controlled by a brand, such as websites, blogs, and social media channels. The more owned media channels a business has, the larger their digital marketing footprint, which means a greater ability to reach and influence consumers.

The PESO model, shown below, has become widely popular in the brand management and marketing industry. Not only does it show how each channel works independently, but it also shows how they work with other channels within the model.

Why Online Brand Reputation Management is Important

In the not so distant past, people’s opinions on a company generally had to travel by word-of-mouth (an actual conversation between people, that is). Today, opinions travel faster than ever, and reach a bigger audience, due to social media. While positive messages can give a brand a boost, negative ones can be a PR nightmare. With people having the freedom to post what they want, companies can lose control over the brand reputation.

“You can do everything in your power to boost your reputation on standard search engines like Google or Yahoo by building domain names and creating content. Social media, however, is uncontrollable,” said Juda Engelmayer, president and partner of HeraldPR, a full-service public relations and communications agency in New York. “People can tweet whatever they want, or they can go to Yelp or Facebook to post about a bad experience. This can have a huge effect on search engines.”

Whereas a company can control its Google search rankings, it cannot control individuals who may post a negative comment about its brand on social media. That’s why online reputation management is critical; supporting this statement, studies show that the majority of digital marketers (54%) consider ORM “very necessary” to their company’s success.

Monitoring social media, of course, is not the only component of ORM. It’s also about developing a strategy for how you will engage with consumers, how you will inspire conversation around your brand, how you will position your brand online, and what content you will create to draw people in.

10 Online Reputation Management Best Practices

When it comes to understanding digital marketing, entrepreneur, web influencer, and New York Times bestselling author Neil Patel is at the top of the list. He has created 10 Online Reputation Management Commandments, which we’ve listed below along with some further detail.

1. Become Well-Respected

Trust is a perishable asset that is hard to gain. To build it, you need to not just engage and interact with consumers, but provide valuable content and knowledge for free so that people can create a deeper emotional connection with your company.

2. Become Radically Transparent

Transparency means allowing employees to talk about products and services publicly, honestly answering customer questions, asking for customer feedback, and not hiding criticism – but addressing it publicly.

3. Monitor What They Are Saying About You

Alerts not only let you know when your brand has been mentioned, allowing you to respond if the comment is negative, it can also bring in business. Today, many people ask questions on social media when evaluating whether or not to buy from you. That’s an opportune time to jump in with your solutions.

4. React Quickly and Politely

Some complaints are easy to address. Others may take thought and research. However, you should always respond quickly. A simple “We are working on the problem and will get back to you as soon as possible” is better than a late reply with more information.

5. Address Criticism

When you put yourself out there on social media, you’re bound to encounter criticism. How you respond to it is what builds brand reputation. The Startup highlights fives ways to respond to online criticism, such as:

  • Making fun of yourself (self deprecation shows humbleness)
  • Playfully refuting the criticism (the customer is wrong so you’ll want to refute it – but in a light-hearted way as not to agitate them further)
  • Being overly gracious (this makes people feel heard, and if they’re simply trolling, renders them ineffective)
  • Making light of the situation (this can highlight your personality as long as you offer a solution)
  • Admit, apologize, and make an offer (probably your safest best).

The tactic you choose will depend on the situation, of course, so we recommend checking out their blog.

6. Treat Your Google Page 1 Like Your Business Card

First impressions count, and people have a tendency to judge books by their cover. If negative reviews and words like “scam” or “rip off” are associated with your brand on page one of a search, this can be a big problem requiring some serious cleanup (more on this in a bit).

7. Understand Your Detractors

Criticism is a learning opportunity, especially when it comes from consumers. By listening to your detractors, you may be able to find ways to improve your products or services, refine your marketing messages, alter your manufacturing processes, and much more. All of this can help to build your brand and your bottom line.

8. Attack Your Illegitimate Attackers

Yes, there’s a right to free speech online, but sometimes defamatory language, false information, and threatening language can go too far. In these extreme cases, you may want to seek legal counsel and pursue a cyber investigation.

9. Learn from Your Mistakes

Mistakes are the stepping stone to learning, so after you’ve made one, be sure you don’t repeat it in the future. For example, some companies simply hand off social media duties to a young intern (after all, they’ll understand this stuff). Over the years, this has resulted in many social media gaffes. Then, the company spends time and money on damage control. Lesson learned: hire a seasoned social media expert who understands your brand!

10. Ask for Help if Necessary

If your online reputation management efforts are not enough to protect or restore your brand image, you have the choice to request help from an outside ORM professional.

6 Online Reputation Management Tips for Ecommerce Businesses

Ready to develop an eCommerce brand and get starting with your ORM strategy? Here are some of the things you’ll want to do first!

1. Audit Your Company Name

Before getting started, it’s important to take stock of what’s already out there about your company. Google your company name (and perhaps key players within the company such as the CEO) and look through the first couple of pages of results. 

In order to begin cultivating a position brand reputation, you need to know what you’re up against! You may need to perform some aggressive SEO (creating good content to outnumber the bad) or consulting with a legal expert about getting false information removed.

2. Claim Your Online Space

Each domain name your company owns can help buffer against negative results, bumping negative items off page 1 of a Google search (this is generally where most people’s searches stop). So, set up accounts on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest, TikTok, Google+, Snapchat, Tumblr, etc. Depending on your business, you’ll want to brand out to web properties on professional networking websites like Meetup, Quora, Yelp, and the BBB. 

Don’t worry, you don’t have to use all these profiles, you just don’t want anyone else to use them. There’s nothing more frustrating than finding your name has been taken, and there’s nothing worse than someone using your name to post inflammatory or embarrassing content on social media.

3. Establish Your Digital Brand

Chances are, you’ve already established a personality for your brand offline (voice, tone, style, imagery, colors). This needs to carry over to the digital realm so that consumers recognize your brand across all channels (check out our recent blog Ecommerce Branding Guide to Building a Loyal Following for more information).  

4. Establish an Online Presence

First, make a regular posting schedule that’ll keep you active on all your social media networks and create positive content on a blog. Then, decide what types of content you’ll be posting. Create a variety of content in order to keep things fresh. Depending on your industry and product/service, you might consider:

  • How-To Videos
  • Tips
  • Quizzes
  • Did You Know?
  • Engaging Imagery
  • Company News
  • Product Information/Demonstrations

Also, be sure to share other posts or stories that are of interest to you; in time, other companies will begin to share your posts. That’s a win-win!

5. Engage with Your Customers

We’ve talked a lot about this already, but it can’t be stressed enough: engage with your customers. Today’s consumer wants to feel a connection with the brands they buy, and they like to feel that their voice is heard. By interacting with them, you can help keep them as a customer, and you know what they say: It costs five times more to acquire a new customer than it does to keep an existing customer

So, thank customers when they have something positive to say, and take their criticisms to heart and respond in a thoughtful manner (and then make good on any promises). Of course, understand that you will undoubtedly encounter trolls who don’t have legitimate complaints. Instead, they’ll post derogatory or inflammatory messages designed to get a rise out of you. Our word of advice: Don’t feed the trolls. You could wind up saying something that reflects poorly on your brand, so it’s best to just ignore them and they’ll eventually go away when they see you’re not taking the bait.

6. Set Up Alerts

Setting up monitoring accounts like Google Alerts keeps your ear to any conversations surrounding your brand, letting you know the moment it hits search results. This allows you to promptly respond to negative content, which looks good to people searching for your brand (and can even result in the negative comment being removed). 

You might also monitor keywords or topics related to your industry or product; sometimes, people may post a question and if you’re the first with a response, this looks good and can earn you new business.

7. Create or Hire a Team

Online reputation management, and social media itself, shouldn’t be handled by an intern or someone unskilled in the medium. Instead, depending on the size of your business, a team should be assembled who can develop a strategy, engage in monitoring, create posts and content, etc. 

Of course, you may not have the manpower or the time for such an undertaking. After all, to be successful at it, it’s a full-time job deserving of someone’s full attention. In that case, consider hiring an outside ORM firm to help manage your online persona. Trained professionals will be better equipped to handle the more technical aspects of removing negative content, and can alleviate the time-suck of monitoring content and posting new content.

Start Creating Your Online Reputation Management Strategy Now

In the US alone, it’s expected that there will be 300 million online shoppers in 2023. And, more than 90% of them read online reviews before making a purchase. Not only that, 244 million Americans use social media, and they’re paying attention to what people are saying about your brand. So, Online Reputation Management can no longer be ignored or relegated to a little side project. To protect your reputation, and retain (and gain) customers, brand reputation management is a must for your eCommerce business.

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