In the age of the Internet, a business can no longer hide from its customers’ opinions. Therefore, any brand that finds itself in the midst of a scandal will need a robust Online Reputation Management (ORM) strategy to help mitigate the potential online fallout.
However, many brands still fall into the trap of reacting to negative results and trying to hide poor reviews. Instead, Digital Allies have put together a free guide that explains the main concepts of ORM, along with tips, tools and case studies. Most importantly, how you can use this information to proactively develop your online reputation.
What is Online Reputation Management?
An effective brand ORM strategy involves creating as strong a reputation as possible by effectively managing the experience and the opinion that users form when they search for your brand. However, it is easier said than done:
Last week, a report by Sky News worryingly revealed that fur, consistent with four types of animal was being marketed as faux fur on British high streets unknowingly to shoppers.
“ORM is about effectively managing the experience and the opinion that users form when they search for your brand. Not hiding negative reviews.”
Even more shockingly, they exposed in their investigation that Missguided and House of Fraser, two trusted UK retailers, were using cat and racoon dog fur in several of their products despite both having a strict ‘no fur’ policy.
It has left buyers in uproar, especially since more elements regarding the investigation are being disclosed daily. As expected, the media have gone into a frenzy, and the news has spread across social media like wildfire. Meaning customers have taken to the internet to voice their fury and disappointment.
Phineas Barnum once said, ‘There is no such thing as bad publicity’, but in today’s ever-connected world where news is quickly seized upon and spread through the blogosphere, there undoubtedly is. Scandals like the above (not to mention #deleteUber and Tesco’s recent profit overstatement) can have a seriously detrimental effect on sales and most importantly, a brand’s reputation and trust.
Improving Your Online Reputation
If there are negative reviews and news surrounding your business, don’t think about how you can ‘sweep these results under the carpet’. Instead, you should be looking at how you can affect strategic change within your business that directly addresses these issues.
In the case of Missguided, they shouldn’t be looking to push negative news surrounding the fake fur scandal off the first page of search results. Instead, they should proactively look at their supply chain, and how they can work with their suppliers to remove animal fur from the products they sell. Regardless of whether they were aware of the issue or not, brands need to be more responsible for what they are selling.
In relation to the points raised by Sky today, Missguided has a strict no fur policy therefore we take these allegations very seriously. 1/2
— Missguided (@Missguided) April 10, 2017
We have launched an internal investigation with the relevant suppliers to ensure these matters are addressed urgently. 2/2
— Missguided (@Missguided) April 10, 2017
Transparency, one of the many buzz words of the business world. Putting yourself out there for criticism and feedback is increasingly becoming beneficial for companies, meaning more and more organisations are implementing it within their marketing strategies as a new communication method with their audience.
“If there are negative reviews and news surrounding your business, don’t think about how you can ‘sweep these results under the carpet’. Instead, you should be looking at how you can affect strategic change within your business that directly addresses these issues.”
Being transparent means:
- Allowing your team to talk about a product or service you offer publicly.
- Asking for feedback and constructive criticism from your target market.
- Creating a 1-to-1 communication channel.
- Not hiding criticism and addressing it publicly.
Being transparent may seem risky, but you will gain trust from your audience this way and if you didn’t, would make them think, why aren’t they?
Finding Out About What People Are Saying About Your Brand
ORM is not just about reacting well to what people say about you, your brand, or your products and services. It is also about whether to react at all and, if so when it is best to react. Being proactive with your approach means that you are regularly monitoring your public reputation. One way of doing this is through social media monitoring. Put simply, this allows companies to gather online content from blog posts, online reviews and Facebook updates, plus many more.
Online Reputation Management Tools
There are a number of tools that automate a lot of the work for you such as Google Alerts and Brand Mentions, which can track new results for keywords or topics that you specify. With the information these tools gather, it is up to you to process it and use sentiment analysis to decide whether something is negative or positive, and ultimately, whether it could ultimately affect your reputation.
“Of the 500,000+ businesses that have reviews on Glassdoor, only 4,000 of them have signed up for a premium account that would allow them to respond to the feedback directly.”
A classic example of this is the emergence of the business platform, Glassdoor. The website allows people to rate businesses anonymously out of five, which is a great resource for potential employees (and clients) to find out about the corporate culture and employee satisfaction.
Ironically, of the 500,000+ businesses that have reviews on the platform, only 4,000 of them have signed up for a premium account that would allow them to respond to the feedback directly. Surely, this will change dramatically in the next few years.
Online Reputation Grenades
There are two types of negative content that you should be aware of. One is presented on social networks. However, once addressed properly, it doesn’t necessarily pose a real long-term threat to your business. The other is what we like to call ‘the grenade’, which really does shake your reputation and sales long term. Unlike social network content, they are prominent in search engine results, which is more often than not, a potential customer’s first touch point with your brand. The types of negative content on SERPs include:
1. Negative Reviews
Review websites like Trustpilot, allow users to express their opinion on brands. Users answer questions on the service or product, including whether they’d recommend. Negative content can affect your sales and addressing the criticism on the sites may not be enough.
2. Hate Websites
Some people’s dislike goes beyond a tweet or review, hate websites can be developed to really share their opinions in clear detail, some even containing illegal content.
3. Negative Media Coverage
The hardest of the bunch to manage. TV, print and especially online media coverage impacts negatively on companies and brands since the content comes from a trusted source. But, as we’ve already mentioned, if you are being caught up in negative media coverage, you should really be looking at how you are operating as a business.
Recovering From An ORM Crisis
Everyone is entitled to their opinion, and pretty much everyone has access to digital tools that allow them to easily express their opinion. However, there are boundaries that should be respected, and as the recent ‘Fake News’ phenomenon has proved, not all of it does. If a piece of content uses defamatory language, is a false report or aimed at damaging a company’s reputation then it should be removed. Depending on the scope of the problem, you can take several actions to restore your online reputation:
1. Assertive SEO
Search engines will show snippets of several authoritative web sources talking about you. If these sources are presenting negative information, you need to think about how you can improve your overall business and marketing strategy to become a better business.
2. Review Removal
Like we discussed earlier, if a false claim has been made about your business or a review that has clearly been put together to destroy your reputation rather than providing feedback, then it is possible to remove the negative review providing you can prove that it has been falsely submitted.
3. Submit a ‘right to be forgotten’ request
If you are an individual and you feel that there is information in SERPs that is outdated or irrelevant, then you may be able to submit a ‘right to be forgotten’ request. This is as a result of an EU ruling, which requests the removal of certain search results from the search engine. Since its introduction, Google has said it has received 386,038 ‘right to be forgotten’ requests, 42% of which, have been approved.
Does ORM Work?
In summary, there is no ‘quick-win’ when it comes to ORM. Online Reputation Management is not about how you can move positive results up the SERPs and push negative results down. Instead, ORM should be about how you can manage the experience and the opinion that users form when they search for you and your products and services. This type of change can only be affected as part of an overarching business strategy, and not employed as a quick-win tactic whenever your business gets caught doing something it shouldn’t.
Hopefully, should your brand ever be caught out by an ORM issue, this guide should help to guide your way of thinking.