Online reputation management: how to protect your brand in 2023

Online reputation management strategy: how to protect your brand in 2023

With consumers relying on online sources to inform purchasing decisions more than ever before, your brand’s online reputation is something that simply can’t be ignored.

Your brand’s online reputation can be a complex thing to manage with many different considerations including communications channels, review, branding and content creation elements that you must consider. Let’s explore how you can get started.

What is online reputation management (ORM)?

Online reputation management (ORM) or digital reputation management is the online component of your brand’s reputation. These are processes of monitoring and managing how your target audience perceives your business online and taking strategic action when necessary to improve your brand’s image.

ORM techniques also apply to the reputation of individual business leaders because they are seen to represent the brand.

A typical ORM strategy should include online review management, social media marketing, public relations, content marketing and search engine optimisation (SEO), and customer service tactics.

The PESO model

Here at AMBITIOUS, we recommend that our clients follow the PESO model which encompasses all of the important areas of ORM. This model takes in all important forms of media that are relevant to marketing and PR and combines them in an easy-to-follow framework.

P is for Paid Media

Paid media covers any advertising that you pay for. This includes:

  • TV and radio
  • Print ads and advertorial
  • Influencer marketing
  • Google Ad campaigns, retargeting strategies and native ads
  • Email marketing for lead generation.

E is for Earned Media

Earned media covers third party endorsements – mentions of an individual or brand that you don’t pay for, but you have to work hard to get. This might include:

  • Online reviews, for example Glassdoor or TrustPilot
  • Blogger and influencer relations
  • Media mentions in newspapers, magazines and websites
  • Link building
  • Broadcast interviews.

S is for Shared Media

Shared media refers to references of an individual or brand on social media. These can be positive or negative and require monitoring.

O is for Owned Media

Owned media covers all content owned by a brand or an individual. This includes:

  • A company website
  • Blogs
  • Newsletters
  • Reports, and white papers
  • Audio and video content.

For more detail on the PESO framework, read our in-depth guide.

Why is your brand’s online reputation important?

In basic terms, online reputation management has a direct effect on a business’s bottom line with regard to sales and revenue.

Influence on buying decisions

More consumers are using search engines like Google before making a purchase than ever before. According to BrightLocal, in 2021, 81% of consumers they surveyed did. This means that your brand’s online sentiment could be a make or break.

The online equivalent of word-of-mouth referrals

Consumers are also relying on online reviews to vet your business more than in previous years. Positive reviews can improve business and negative comments can severely damage it. In 2021, the same BrightLocal survey as above found that 77% of consumers ‘always’ or ‘regularly’ read them when browsing for local businesses.

Additionally, 89% of consumers are ‘highly’ or ‘fairly’ likely to use a business that responds to all of its online reviews. So, tardy responses could affect your bottom line.

Valuable feedback to inform business decisions

Online reviews can offer you something very valuable – feedback on your products or services. This customer feedback can be used to make changes to your offering if needed.

Your online reputation management checklist

Do a top-level audit of your brand reputation

First thing first: let’s start with a top-level audit of your brand’s reputation to understand where you are now. To do this, you should start by mapping out your channels and assets using the PESO model categories. This helps you identify where to focus later on.

Next, you can open an Incognito window or tab in your browser and type your brand’s name into Google. We start with Google usually because it is the market leader. As of December 2022, Bing had almost nine percent of the global search market, Google leads with 84 percent and Yahoo owns about 2.55 percent. You should make note of:

  • Which sites sit in the top 10 spots on the search engine results page. You can also click on the ‘Google News’ tab to dive deeper into editorial mentions of your brand
  • What Google Business elements appear, such as ratings, reviews, photos and shared content.

This should help you glean a top-level oversight of your brand’s online reputation. However, a deeper dive is required.

Set your strategy

A positive brand image stems from a solid online reputation management strategy. The best approach for you will depend on a few things:

Key considerations

The size of your business

If you are a small, local business with a focus on a specific region, you would take a local approach to reviews, content and PR. You would likely have a more manageable number of reviews and mentions to manage.

For larger companies, which typically receive a higher volume of mentions and reviews, your strategy would need to be more complex, considering more channels and assets.

Your industry and target audience

Your strategy should also consider the specific industry you operate in and your target audience. These two things determine which channels you need to monitor and where you would like to be mentioned online.

Key leadership figures

If your brand has a high-profile senior leadership team, their reputation is intrinsic to the brand image. For example, company founders have been known to affect the share price with a simple Tweet. These key stakeholders should be considered in your strategy.

Building your strategy

Once you have mapped out the above, you can build your strategy with the following steps:

Define your online reputation management goals

Your online reputation management goals will depend on the goals of the business and the environment in which it operates. We recommend following the SMART framework:

Specific – Your online brand reputation management goal should be precise.

‘I will improve my brand’s online reputation by doing X.’

Measurable – Your goal should be measurable to understand how well you are doing.

‘Our efforts to gain press coverage should result in an X% increase in traffic to our site’.

Achievable – To ensure goals are achievable, you should check what resources are available to make it happen.

‘I will set aside £X for this project. It will be spent on a brand monitoring tool.”

Relevant – The goal you set should be relevant to your brand and target audience to ensure it drives the results you need.

‘The campaign will improve our online presence in X country.’

Time-bound – To make sure the goal happens in a timely manner, it should have a deadline.

‘By X, this campaign will deliver X new positive reviews for our product.’

Prioritise your tactics to meet your online reputation management goals

Once your goals have been defined, it’s time to prioritize the actions required to meet them. You should be realistic about the size and scale of the job. Prioritising these tasks will make the workload more achievable and allocate resources effectively After all, focusing on the easiest tasks first isn’t always the best idea for your business.

We recommend putting together a list of all tasks and the frequency with which they need to be done. Then, assign a priority order to them. You could even put together a weekly or monthly timeline to stay on track.

Define tone of voice and policies

The tone of voice and communications policies are often overlooked parts of reputation management. However, consistency is key to making your strategy sustainable and ensuring that all communications are on-brand. You should aim to provide your workforce with clear documentation covering these areas:

  • Policy, procedure and process documentation

Your ORM policy documents should specify the rules, guidelines and regulations that your organization requires employees to follow. They should also outline who is responsible for what. This will help ensure that tasks aren’t forgotten and processes are carried out the right way.

For example, you might want to include how your social media manager should respond to negative comments on Facebook, and the time within which they should aim to do so.

  • Triaging tasks

You should also outline urgent and non-urgent responses to reviews, social media engagement or press. This will help your team triage each task and handle those which have the biggest risk to your brand’s reputation first. For example, a piece of negative press which requires a formal response would likely be prioritised over an average Trustpilot review.

You could provide these guidelines along with useful examples in your process documentation, and share this with your team.

  • Template responses

Providing your team with a document of template responses is a great way to speed up their work and offer customers more timely responses. It also offers greater consistency in the responses consumers receive, and ensures that they get the correct information.

  • Tone of voice guidelines

It is important for your tone of voice to remain consistent across all channels, including your website, social media and review responses. For reputation management, it would be useful to show your tone of voice in action – your template responses would be useful here.

  • Develop a watertight crisis management strategy

Unfortunately, when it comes to reputation management, crises do happen and no brand is safe. To mitigate this, you should have a clearly outlined crisis communications strategy for how to deal with them.

Here are some useful tips:

  • Understand your audience

You should know where your target audience spends their time online and what channels to communicate with them in a crisis. For example, if you have a community on LinkedIn, this would be your primary communications channel.

  • Have your finger on the pulse of industry trends

Regularly read industry and trade publications and attend relevant events to have an awareness of trends and legislative changes which might affect the way your business operates. A lack of awareness can lead to nasty surprises putting strain on your operations.

  • Always-on brand monitoring

Luckily, brand monitoring can be automated using digital tools. These tools are always-on and will alert you if there are mentions of your brand online. We have outlined some of the best tools below.

  • Chain of command and escalation

In a crisis, there may be certain stakeholders that need to be alerted to get involved. Define key roles and responsibilities and who your junior team should escalate these to respond promptly and effectively.

SEO and SERP management

SEO is the process of maximizing the number of visitors to a particular website by ensuring that the site appears high on the list of results – called a search engine results page (SERP) – returned by a search engine like Google, Bing or Yahoo. Each brand will have a list of branded keywords; words or phrases people search for that include your website’s brand name or variations of it.

Your main goal is to show up on the SERPs for your branded keywords. The best way to get there is to have a website that ranks highly. The second way to get there is by other sites discussing your brand online.

It’s unlikely that you will be able to fill the SERP with content that you control. Here are some ways you can influence the competing content in the SERP, or earned media:

  1. Define your brand keywords

Using an SEO tool like SEMRush or Ahrefs, you can search for your website and determine what your brand keywords are. These tools will do this by filtering them out from all of the keywords your site currently ranks for.

  1. Manage negative content

If there is some negative content ranking for your branded keyword, you could try to contact whoever owns the site, or whoever wrote the article and ask them to change it. For this to work, you must be polite and inoffensive and offer detailed reasoning on why they should do this.

For example, if the content is a blog article giving your product or service a negative review, you could outline what changes you have made to improve it since then.

  1. Rank for branded keywords with your own content

It is possible to essentially push the competitor’s content down the SERP – and ensure that less people will see it – if you can outrank them for a brand keyword. This is called SERP management.

To do this, you will need to identify the relevant brand keyword, analyse the competitor’s content, ensure that yours is of higher quality, and perhaps do some link building to the page.

Manage your reviews effectively

Depending on the size of your business and the number of customers and reviews you receive, managing your reviews may be quite a complex job. To simplify things, here are our top tips:

  • Track your reviews across all channels using an online review management platform
  • Encourage positive reviews at every opportunity
  • Respond to negative reviews promptly and with empathy
  • Own up to your mistakes and present a solution to the consumer.

Make a feature of your positive reviews to showcase your products and services. Place them on services pages, product pages, transactional pages or landing pages for best results.

Leverage PR

PR services can be a useful tool to improve online sentiment about your brand and to push negative content down in SERPs. There are two main components to this:

  • Securing press coverage in the right publications at the right time with high-quality campaigns and media outreach.
  • Responding to negative press with statements to give your side of the story.

If you do not have an in-house press team, we recommend working with a PR agency to use the right strategy and tactics to meet your goals.

Best online reputation management tools

Effective online reputation management is a complex job. Fortunately, there are online tools such as review management software and brand perception monitoring tools which can speed things up and make sure no stone is left unturned. Here are some great recommendations:

Google Alerts

Google Alerts is a free tool to track any mentions of your name, brand, products, keywords, and competitors. You can also spot trends and identify new interesting content. You can set up email alerts to receive notifications so you don’t miss a beat.

Buzzsumo

Buzzsumo is an online research tool which lets you search the web for any content around specific terms or brand names and specifically for your brand mentions. It offers insight on how popular a piece of content is, as well as who has shared it and where. This is a great tool for identifying any negative sentiment around your brand and analysing the quality of content.

BrandMentions

BrandMentions is a tool that enables you to monitor your social channels and a feed of blogs and review sites. It uses this information to score your brand’s online reputation and flag issues to you. You can also conduct an analysis of the competition and this gives insight into the reputation management strategies they are using.

Mention

Mention enables you to monitor the web, listen to your audience and manage social media including publishing content on your social media accounts and social listening.

Mention provides you with comprehensive insights into who is talking about your brand and what they are saying. You can then respond directly to specific conversations, as well as create social media content based on audience trends you identify.

Brandwatch

Brandwatch is an all-in-one social media and web analytics tool that tracks vast quantities of conversations happening online. This includes social media, blogs, news and forums which you can find using a Boolean search functionality or through a review and dashboard environment.

It allows you to understand consumer insights, trends, influencers, and brand perception and also helps you respond in a timely way.

Meltwater

Meltwater provides an all-in-one social media and web analytics tool which functions similarly to Brandwatch. It allows you to monitor a large number of sources, including social media, online news, print media, podcasts, review sites, and more.

There is also a social media management tool for engaging with your audience and publishing content. Additionally, it includes a social influencer management platform to find the most relevant influencers for your brand and engage with them for campaigns.

Your next steps

Need help managing your brand’s online reputation and meeting your online reputation management goals? Perhaps you’re in crisis mode and unsure where to start? Our online reputation management services support clients across a wide range of industries. Get in contact with us today: [email protected].