Public relations has always been tasked with the role of building and protecting a company’s image and reputation. This job has taken on a whole new dimension since the internet has connected the globe and allowed people from all over the world to discuss and share stories about their experiences as consumers with various businesses. In fact, a few negative reviews online or a couple bad articles or blogs can be enough to permanently damage a company’s reputation these days.
For this reason, reputation management companies have been created as a defense technique for businesses that have fallen victim to a cycle of bad online press. These companies have the knowledge and expertise to locate the source of a bad reputation, and the digital skills to manage that reputation and get your company back on track.
What’s at Stake?
Word of mouth is a powerful tool when it comes to making or breaking a business, and it’s estimated that 80 percent of customers trust an online review the same way they would a friend’s opinion. This can impact your business in very positive ways by bringing new customers to you and solidifying your relationship with existing clients. On the other hand, a handful of bad reviews and negative search results can seriously damage your reputation as a company, especially given the fact that up to 70 percent of prospective clients may research your company before making a purchasing decision.
Moreover, your website isn’t just visited by possible customers, but also by journalists, business partners and stakeholders, prospective employers, employees, and suppliers, as well as personal relations.
The problem, however, is that search engines and review sites don’t differentiate between legitimate and false claims, so your reputation can even be damaged by exaggerated or, worse yet, spurious accounts. And because what happens on the internet stays on the internet, it’s possible that negative or deceitful remarks about your business could haunt your company’s reputation for years to come. Moreover, a damaged reputation could lead to lost credibility, clients, employees, leads, and opportunities.
The Source of Damaged Reputations
Your company’s online reputation can be quite delicate because Google’s search function is so trusted that most people automatically assume the top few hits on a search are accurate, truthful, and trustworthy. So if a negative result about your business shows up on page one of a search, your reputation could be in trouble. Some of the most common sources of reputation damage include:
- Bad reviews
- Negative attention in the media or the news
- Undesirable blogs or articles
- Disparaging tweets or social media posts, especially ones that appear in top search results
- Negative comments on your blog or website
- Fabricated stories, reviews, or comments about your company from jealous competitors or dissatisfied customers
- Hate sites that are created specifically to make your company the target of a malicious attack
Controlling a Negative Reputation
When a company has a couple negative reviews or results, whether legitimate or otherwise, there are online reputation management companies out there who specialize in controlling and moving damaging information in search engine results. While it’s not usually possible to remove what’s already on the internet, these companies can help bury the information to make it harder to find, and this is usually enough to neutralize your reputation. Reputation management companies specialize in mitigating bad reputations, and they do this by:
Burying: This involves using search engine optimization techniques to push negative content from the first page of a search result to the third or fourth page. Since most people rarely make it past page one of a search result, this can hide information.
Removing: Sometimes content that gets put on the internet is defamatory and illegal, and in this case many website owners and media companies are willing to work with reputation management companies to take the content down. Other times negative reviews can be deleted from review sites, especially if they are malicious.
Deindexing: When content can’t be deleted, another way of removing it from view is to de-index it, which involves inserting tags and code so that search engines won’t return that content in a search result.
Rebuilding Your Company’s Reputation
Once your bad reputation has been neutralized, you can start building it back up to a positive status online. While a worthwhile feat, this can be time-consuming and requires patience, and can take anywhere from six weeks to six months to accomplish. There are many tactics that reputation management companies use to rebuild reputations, and these include:
Creating social media profiles and using them to distribute new content that pushes down older content in a search result
Writing and posting legitimate positive reviews about the company, its products, and its services
Creating high-quality and relevant content to publish on blogs, web pages, and social media sites
Paying attention to company mentions in the media, online, and in reviews. This also involves responding immediately to positive attention and addressing negative comments
What not to do: Back in July of 2015, a young couple took their daughter to eat at a restaurant called Marcy’s Diner in Portland, Maine. Apparently the owner of the restaurant ended up screaming at the couple’s crying toddler and told the family to leave if they couldn’t keep her quiet. After the ordeal, the mother took to Facebook with her grievances, and in return the owner of Marcy’s retaliated with a long-winded and curse-laden rant criticizing the couple’s parenting skills and their audacity for ordering their toddler a large order of pancakes. In the end, the owner of the restaurant ended up looking defensive and aggressive, and to this day, the main search results about Marcy’s Diner are about this incident.
Your online reputation is arguably just as important as the products and services you provide, because if your reputation gets damaged, you may never have the opportunity to redeem yourself and show customers just how great your company is. Bad press and negative reviews happen, but there are reputation management companies out there that can help you take back control of your online image, and who have the skills and know-how to help you build back your valued reputation.