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Managing Your Brand’s Reputation Online

October 13, 2010

I was perusing the Internet today and came across the story of a disgruntled blogger. A PR agency, acting on behalf of a client, promised her certain rewards in exchange for posts on her blog . When the agency failed to follow through with its promises, she shared her frustration with her readers. As a result, more bloggers are spreading the news of the unreliable agency. The issue quickly reminded me that companies and individuals cannot afford to ignore online content that could possibly damage their brands and reputation.

Social media  gives the little guy a voice, and if the little guys is mad, it gives him the power to drag your name though the mud. Luckily, anyone can put an online reputation management program in action.

Own Your Name
To avoid impersonators, register your username. Many companies purchase all relevant domain names and those that could serve as potential gripe sites. Try visiting http://www.walmartsucks.com and you’ll find the site is managed by Melbourne IT, a digital services company hired to protect Walmart’s online image. Claim usernames on essential social networks like Facebook, Twitter, etc.  before squatters and angry customers do.

Start Listening
Regularly track comments on the Internet in relation to your brand. Here are just a few free tools to get started.

  • Google and Yahoo Alerts notify you of news and information about your company. Set alerts for your brand, products, events, industry and employees.
  • Tweet Beep allows you to receive alerts by e-mail whenever a specific word or phrase is tweeted on Twitter.
  • Technorati is a real-time search for user-generated media (including weblogs) by tag or keyword.
  • With Back Type you can claim comments on blogs, find comments that mention a particular keyword and view all conversations from a particular post or article.

Learn and Evaluate
What’s being said about your organization? Who is saying it? How many people are saying it? Think about the impact negative comments will have on your brand. Asking these questions can help you decide how to respond. Negative comments also give insight to areas that require improvement and can help make your business better.

Act
Discover or create effective and efficient ways to comment on the information being published about you. Be actively involved and lead conversations about your brands.

Krystal Ball provides a great example of how to deal with a mess. Ball, a young woman running for Congress in Virginia, found herself in a pickle when scandalous photos from her past surfaced on the Internet. She immediately addressed the issue with a public appearance and blog post. Ultimately, she’s used the publicity garnered from the crisis as a platform to further her campaign.

There are more strategies to manage your online reputation including control of what appears in search rankings and creation of a forum so customers don’t feel the need to start their own. Agencies that use Cision can opt to utilize its reputation management software. If your company’s workload is too heavy, consider hiring a professional reputation management service. Remember, online reputation is not just a threat for companies; it’s an opportunity. So start taking advantage.

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