Reputations don’t just happen. They are a reflection of what we do and how people feel about us. Some reputations can be unfairly tarnished, but if there is enough positive information about a company, scandals or negative reviews do not need to permanently ruin a company’s good name.
Be proactive when it comes to managing your reputation, and if you are a company manager, put socially astute people in charge of relating with the public. Pay attention to what people are saying about your company and seek the advice of reputation managers when needed.
A sea change in customer feedback
Remember when companies paid for commercials on television, posted billboards, and bought ad space in the newspaper? They would invite customer feedback through hotlines or direct discussions with company representatives. A company’s reputation was built on word of mouth recommendations and articles about its products and services. If a company wanted more positive attention from the media, they had to send press releases to journalists to persuade them to do stories. It was rare that customers could register their opinion of a company publicly.
With the rise of social media, customers can share instant feedback about a company with thousands or, if it goes viral, even millions of people. This poses a relatively new challenge for marketing strategists. Social media is an essential component to a marketing strategy, but it is essential for those managing the accounts to be adept at public relations while maintaining a natural approach. As a manager, you may feel the need to choose between assigning this responsibility to people who already work for your company, hiring professionals, or a combination of both.
Transparency and its discontents
Companies are encouraged to be more transparent in dealing with customers. In a world where people discuss their opinions so frankly and with so many people, it doesn’t pay to try to erect a defense that doesn’t consider customers’ criticisms. However, acknowledging criticisms the wrong way can be detrimental to your company’s reputation, so it is a bit of a tightrope walk.
Another challenge is knowing when to respond and when to let comments go. Responding to every online criticism may make your company seem defensive and overly eager to dispose of negative critiques. It takes experience and marketing savvy to know when and how to respond. Regarding transparency, it is important to know how—and how much—to share. Trial and error can teach you how to handle various situations, but many companies can’t handle the “error” part of that equation without risking their reputation. That is why finding professional reputation managers can be the best solution.
What reputation managers can do for your company
You may have astute employees who have finesse representing your company on social media, but it is also essential to find reputation managers who have experience in building, defending, and maintaining a company’s reputation. Working with a reputation defender can help you not only address uncomfortable public relations issues but also manage your reputation even in the best of times. A strong reputation is the best way to deflect negative stories when they arise, and reputation managers can help you be proactive in ensuring your company’s brand is strong before problems happen.
If you seek professionals for reputation management, it is best to start sooner than later. Think about reputation management as building your good name and becoming well-respected online. A PR mess can come out of the blue with a negative news story, a high-profile person leaving a bad review or a scathing tweet, or from some other unexpected situation. If your company already enjoys a positive online reputation, it can buffer against unexpected PR disasters.
Reputation managers can’t erase problems, of course. But they can boost positive news about your company to the top of the search engines and make sure you have advocates on social media. News or articles about your company that appears at the top of the search engines can be more effective than a winning business card or a website. A content strategy that focuses on getting positive stories out there is one of the best ways to salvage your reputation.
Maintaining your reputation
Don’t take a positive reputation for granted. It doesn’t simply happen; your company earns it by providing a quality products or services and keeping your customers happy. If the story of your company is a good one, a few bad reviews shouldn’t make much of a dent. That is one reason why it is important to tell your story early and often. Gaining the confidence of the public may be your best insurance against negative reviews or articles.
For more strategies that tap the power of social media, see Turning Comments Into Cash.