Brand Reputation: Your seven-point game plan

Brand reputation management is not new. The most credible companies have taken their reputation very seriously for a long time. It was called PR or word-of-mouth marketing in the past.

The world has changed radically since then. Social media and review sites are now a common place for businesses to receive instant feedback from users.

BRM today is all about managing references, conversations, and feedback. These are usually online, but it is important to be aware of what occurs offline. A complaint made in-store that isn’t handled properly will always make its way to the internet.

What should you do? It is important to have a solid defense strategy as well as an attack strategy. Here are seven areas that you need to address:

  1. Search engine dominance
  2. Brand monitoring
  3. Social media PR
  4. Reviews and recommendations
  5. Customer service and culture
  6. Negative PR management
  7. Branding

1. Search Engine Dominance

Your company’s website should appear as the first result when users enter your business name in a search engine. The rest of the listings may vary depending on the device, location, etc. They will include news articles, Google Places entries, social profiles, and Google Places. Check that the facts on Wikipedia and review websites are accurate.

It would be best if you aimed to dominate the top page of results by controlling listings. If you haven’t done so already, create your key social profiles. Also, you should have a Google+ profile. Google+ updates will appear on the right side of desktop search results. Being active on Google+ is a good way to spread positive news.

It would be best if you aimed to be prominently displayed in the search results of key terms related to your industry. This will help you exude authority. Your brand will be viewed as more important by customers the more often they see it in search results.

2. Brand Monitoring

According to the size of your company, you may have a lot of people talking about your brand on social media or very few. You must know what’s being said, regardless of the number. You might need to deal with inaccurate stories, an angry customer, or a reply to a question that has not been answered. Even a few mentions, positive or negative, can have a big impact.

There are many tools available that can help you monitor these conversations. These include:

  • Google Alerts
  • Social Mention
  • Technorati
  • Hootsuite

You should monitor all mentions of your brand online, whether they are in forums, social media sites, blogs, etc. You can then respond if necessary. Smaller businesses need to use as many monitoring tools for free as possible. Businesses with larger budgets may want to consider outsourcing or a paid solution.

3. Social Media PR

BRM includes a focus on presenting a positive image of your business. You can cultivate your public persona on social media. Maintain activity on networks that are relevant to your company and work to establish a reputation of authority. This will lend credibility to the things you say.

Social activity for larger businesses should extend to your key staff’s online profiles. The┬áLinkedIn profile (including the company page) of your key staff members must be up-to-date and accurate. Their social sites, however, should be clearly identified.

4. Reviews and Recommendations

Digital media is the perfect platform to express such opinions. This can be positive for most businesses, as it gives them the chance to show off their best work.

You can use services like Bazaarvoice or Trustpilot to collect reviews from your customers. Both are expensive, but they can be a vital part of your BRM. Your customers will speak for you when you encourage and share reviews. It has been shown that customer endorsements are more valuable than company recommendations. Investing in this area will benefit all aspects of your business.

Not all businesses are indeed in the position to have a list of positive feedback from customers. You should, therefore, address any issues first. Negative reviews can highlight areas that need improvement.

5. Customer Service and Culture

Staff must understand the importance of brand reputation management. Each interaction with a client or supplier could be evaluated. This fact should be communicated to all staff. Consider setting targets for your customer service staff and actively promote the importance of brand reputation within your company.

6. Negative PR management

Negative PR comes in all shapes and sizes, from a disgruntled client who posts their feedback online to exposing unethical business practices. Negative feedback from customers is the norm for most businesses. What matters is how you respond to it.

It is important to respond quickly and appropriately to negative comments posted online. It may be worthwhile to offer a discount if the complaint is particularly strong. Or, if you have a popular brand, consider a promotional item with an apology note.

If the same negative feedback continues to occur, it’s time to deal with the problem directly rather than continue to apologize.

7. Brand Advocacy

Who better than your most loyal customers to promote your brand? Sending your best customers free products, inviting them to VIP events, or asking them to participate in feedback are all ways to reward them. Your customers will likely be happy to share their positive experiences on social media, promoting a positive view of your brand.

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