How to protect your brand reputation online

Not giving a damn about your bad reputation is a great attitude if you’re an 80’s rocker. However, it’s not a great attitude for businesses. In the past businesses had to rely on traditional media campaigns, along with word of mouth for their reputation. Today, brand reputation is more prevalent than ever. With multiple online review platforms that are easily accessible for customers to share their experiences, prospective customers can read everything that’s being said (good and bad!) about a business. Knowing how to protect your brand reputation is an essential skill for businesses today.

As an agency, you likely deal with creating brand identity for businesses. From logos to mission statements, this is how brands see themselves and want to be represented. The other side of that coin is brand reputation.

What is Brand Reputation?

Brand Reputation is how others perceive and hear about a business from external sources, including customers and the market. It’s the general sentiment made up of feelings and experiences that the majority of people share about that business.

Why is Brand Reputation Important?

Brand Reputation is more important now than ever. With an online presence being compulsory in today’s world, most customers interact with a business online first before ever experiencing an in-person interaction. And, for many customers, their experience with a brand or business is solely online.

When prospective buyers look for something online, they often read reviews first, even before consulting a business’ website to see if the product or service is worth checking out. Or if they’ve taken a look at the website, the next place they’ll head is the reviews to see if customers agree with what the website promises. Either way, one of the first few things they’re looking to find is what other people have said about that business.

If businesses allow their reviews to go unmonitored and unanswered, they’re leaving their reputation up for grabs. Ultimately, businesses need to understand that they aren’t always in control of making their own first impression. As an agency, you can help ensure that a business’ online brand reputation is strong, and allow them to regain control of their online reputation.

How to Protect Your Brand Reputation

As an agency, you’re likely the first point of contact when your clients have any marketing questions. In the event they find themselves in a battle to protect their brand reputation against bad online reviews or comments, you’ll need to be prepared with a surefire strategy to get them back in the good graces of customers.

When it comes to protecting your brand reputation, it’s easier to take a proactive approach instead of a reactive approach. If your brand reputation is already solid when you receive a negative review, it’s much easier to deal with a small blip rather than having to hop on the defence and try to build your reputation up from the ground.

Depending on your client’s current online reputation situation, there are a couple of different routes you may have to take.

How to Protect Your Brand Reputation Proactively

If you are in the lucky position to be helping a client with a neutral (or better yet positive) online reputation, things will be a bit easier for you. Building up a business’ brand reputation before an online attack allows you to control the narrative. After all, the best defence is a good offense.

1. Promote your positive reputation

Make sure potential customers are seeing the real you and the best you. Businesses who work hard to provide great experiences for customers get rewarded with great reviews... and now’s the time to shout it from the rooftop. Any feedback that aligns with your client’s brand identity is absolutely worth sharing! There are widgets that allow businesses to embed their Google reviews directly onto their website to share positive experiences with online visitors. For social media platforms without review functionalities like Instagram and Twitter, feel free to screenshot positive feedback from Facebook and Google reviews to spread the love even more. Charity and community involvement are also awesome to share and further enhance a positive brand reputation.

2. Encourage customers to leave feedback

Deal with clients online? Attach a link to leave a review on Google or Facebook in your email signature. Meeting clients in person? A small sign at checkout or a message at the bottom of a receipt is a great prompt to leave a review. Many businesses sweeten the incentive for customers to leave a positive review online with weekly or monthly draws for prizes or a gift card. Any longstanding, loyal clientele your clients have may be receptive to them asking upfront for reviews online as well.

3. Respond to reviews

Many businesses think they only need to respond to negative reviews, but it’s important to amplify positive feedback as well. Thank the customer for their review and reiterate some of the positive elements that they mentioned in their review. This helps to boost their SEO for any positive terms mentioned and improve the sentiment analysis of your reviews. Wondering how to respond? Here’s a guide on How to Respond to Positive and Negative Reviews.

4. Monitor reviews

It can be tricky to stay on top of reviews with everything else going on in a business, but services like Reputation Management can help them stay on track. Instead of logging in to multiple accounts, tools like Reputation Management let your clients respond to all reviews from one software platform. Not only can they easily manage reviews with this tool, but they can also get AI-generated insights about the general sentiment of their brand reputation, along with allowing them to be found more easily by potential customers.

5. Answer questions online

Google’s new Q&A feature allows businesses to engage with potential customers and provide customer service. Tools like Reputation Management also allow your clients to track questions asked of their business so they can ensure accurate information is going out to their customers and not being answered by unqualified people. Looking for more information on Google’s Q&A feature? Check out this blog on Best Practices for Making Google Q&A Part of Your Client’s Reputation Management Strategy.

6. Have a point person (or two)

Someone should be checking for feedback and Google questions daily. The longer these go unanswered, the more likely something could go awry.

How to Protect Your Brand Reputation Reactively

Sometimes businesses are faced with a crisis after a bad online review. While there is certainly a sense of urgency to get any reputation management emergency sorted immediately, it is also important to sit down and develop a game plan with your client. Rather than defining a brand’s narrative, when you are dealing with a reactive brand reputation crisis, you are trying to reframe the negative narrative that has already been created.

1. Take a moment to reflect

While negative feedback can be hurtful to your clients, it is important to examine reviews thoroughly and look for areas that can be improved. Advise your clients to listen to all feedback with open ears and reflect on what could’ve done better. 

2. Make sure the bark really does match the bite

If a client’s website promises great customer service, but the reviews don’t line up, it’s likely time for a refresher on what great customer service really means to that business. When hiring, it’s important to look for employees who will uphold a company’s values and deliver what the company is promising. In the same vein, if your clients website boasts that they are a great place to work, and they have scorned former employees leaving bad reviews online, it’s not a great look. Plus, happy employees lead to happy customers. Ask your clients to reevaluate and realign their goals and execution if things are not lining up.

3. Take it offline

The initial response to a bad review should invite the customer to contact your clients via phone or email to further discuss. Ideally, your clients don’t want a paper trail dragging out all the dirty details of how their business failed online. However, they shouldn’t skirt the blame either. Advise them to acknowledge the customer’s bad experience, apologize, and take the conversation to another platform. 

4. Don’t get defensive

Yes, you are trying to protect your client’s business from being attacked online, but you are also trying to help  preserve a damaged relationship with a customer. Remind your client that they are responding as a business and not as a person. Defensiveness often doesn’t work out well for businesses in a “customer is always right” world. Regardless of whether they or their employees are in the wrong or not, acknowledge the customer’s complaints and do your best to make it right. Encourage them to be accommodating without being a pushover. If they handle the situation well enough, it’ll be a win/win/win - your client will regain trust with a customer, that customer will remove or positively amend their online review, and your client will be thankful for your expert guidance. 

5. Don’t get in over your head

In extreme cases, it’s best to let the legal professionals handle it. If a review goes beyond a run-of-the-mill bad experience, and into libel or slander territory, get legal counsel involved before taking any next steps.

6. Build the online reputation your clients want

Refer to the steps above in How to Protect Your Reputation Proactively and begin to help your clients solicit more reviews. The more positive reviews they collect, the more the negative reviews fade into the background. The quicker your client can get more positive content about their brand out there, the better, and any negative reviews will be a thing of the past. Encourage your clients to closely monitor any incoming reviews with a Reputation Management tool, in addition to seeing how their sentiment analysis improves over time.

How to Sell Brand Reputation Protection

Brand reputation protection is a great service for agencies to offer to businesses along with their branding. Businesses often invest a great deal of time and money into making sure their branding reflects their values, from their logo to their branding. When their brand is attacked, it often feels very personal to them since they are so invested in this brand they’ve so carefully created. Showing clients the importance of protecting their brand reputation as part of their marketing plan is a great way for agencies to add more services to their marketing stack, in addition to providing big value for their clients.

Want to learn more about Reputation Management and how you can add it to your lineup of marketing products and services? Book a meeting with one of our experts today!

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