Your brand’s reputation is an incredibly precious thing for any brand. It takes years to build and can be destroyed overnight: just ask Gerald Ratner, who managed to destroy his own business in a few days after talking down the quality of its products. The internet means the brands of today are more vulnerable than ever to reputational damage. So, it’s essential to have management systems in place to protect against this.
What makes up your brand’s reputation?
Put simply, your reputation is what people think of you. Three factors determine this:
- The brand itself: the quality of your products, the style, and image of your brand, your values, and everything else that makes up your business will influence how people perceive you. This is all directly controlled by your brand.
- Authority figures: these are individuals or organisations that people trust without knowing them personally, such as grassroots celebrities, influencers, reviewers, and so on. They can’t be directly controlled by the brand, but there’s usually some form of regulating body such as Ofcom that sets boundaries on their activities.
- Contemporaries: people value the opinions of others. The growing importance of social media means there’s an exponentially larger network for discussion, and opinion aggregators such as Glassdoor, Tripadvisor, Goodreads provide easy ways to discover what others think of a given brand or product. Brands have no control over this discussion and can exercise little influence on the platforms where it takes place.
Common threats to your brand’s online reputation
Because anyone can publish anything on the internet, brands are potentially vulnerable in this space. There are a whole host of threats, from people who make a living by propagating slanderous stories, to sellers who reimburse buyers in exchange for 5-star reviews.
Even without tactics like this, it’s easy for brands’ reputations to suffer damage. Unhappy customers tend to make themselves heard more than happy ones, and many social media sites prioritise ‘controversial’ content, amplifying negative opinions. Because of this, brands have to protect themselves and their online reputation.
Identifying threats to your online reputation
The first, and most crucial, part of online reputation management is to know what’s being said about your brand. Brands should take a data-driven approach to analytics, quantitatively assessing customers’ opinions. This could take the form of identifying criticisms, such as a specific problem with your product. Brands should also note the source of these criticisms, such as the site where they’re found: one particularly negative platform might be a useful clue as to the nature of complaints.
The key here is to capture as much relevant information as possible from various sources. If you understand your audience, you should already have a good idea of where to look. For example, is there a Reddit page for your product, or do most discussions happen on Twitter? Once you’ve gathered plenty of useful data, you can begin working to improve your brand’s reputation online.
How to work against negative publicity online
There is a wide range of ways to protect your reputation. The particular methods used will depend on the challenges your brand faces, but may include:
- Fixing the problem: brands must address a specific issue if mentioned time and again. This may be easier for some brands than others. It’s much easier to update a digital product than a physical one. However, this is often the simplest and most effective response, demonstrating to customers that you’re listening.
- Addressing complaints: a brand that’s paying attention is better than one that isn’t, so it’s a wise idea to respond to public reviews when possible. Although the original complainant might not change their mind, it can help sway the opinions of others who read the review and provide context.
- Removing negative reviews: public platforms are vulnerable to review bombing attacks, where thousands of users leave false negative reviews. Competitors can also sometimes leave fake reviews, attempting to damage your brand. In these cases, it may be wise to contact the platform to have the reviews removed. However, this can be a slow process and there’s no guarantee that more false reviews won’t show up in the meantime.
- Amplifying positivity: unhappy customers are always the loudest, so do your best to amplify happy ones. Spotlighting them on your social media accounts is an easy way to do this, though there are many creative options for boosting their voices.
Protecting and improving your online reputation
Reputation has never been as valuable as it is today, nor as vulnerable to attack. However, the same things that make reputation easy to damage provide opportunities to enhance it.
- The proliferation of publishing platforms makes brands vulnerable online. Anyone can leave a review, potentially affecting the opinions of thousands of people.
- Brands should address negative publicity using data-driven research, before devising a targeted solution.
- Some people will always be unhappy. Brands should seek to mitigate the most common and genuine complaints. They should engage with their audience, and elevate the voices of happy customers.
Online reputation is hard to build, difficult to maintain, and very easily damaged. If your brand could use a little help in protecting your hard-earned online reputation, just contact AMBITIOUS PR today to see what we could do to help you.