Mother Nature can be especially unforgiving for the poorly prepared. Everything that your brand has built can literally be blown away, burned down, flooded, and taken away, too often, with little (if any) notice. Human nature can be just as destructive. Like fire words can have an equally damaging (and costly) effect to a channel partner’s personal and businesses reputation and bottom line. Like a fire, it spreads quickly and often with the force of a Category 5 hurricane. The internet creates an atmosphere and environment for your distribution channel where the perfect storm can and does form.
Managing your brand’s online reputation and preparing for a natural disaster are similar for a number of reasons:
- You cannot be completely prepared for everything that might happen when disaster hits, those that are, are more capable of responding to it when it does. Like a real disaster there is often too little time afforded for the underprepared to respond to it.
- You can never have a perfect picture of what to expect. When your brand or channel partner takes a hit it can take many forms and its impact can be manifested in different ways at different degrees.
- Like a natural disaster, an online reputation can take a long time to clean up after it’s been damaged. Things will change, and you can never really hit the reset button. You will be wiser or worse for wear.
- You cannot insulate yourself from either. You cannot undo what has been done but you can plan and prepare for its inevitability.
It is important to understand how to distinguish planning and preparation. Planning is knowing what you need to do, it is a great 1st step. Planning should lead to preparation. Preparation readies you to work and act responsively. You can plan all you want, but if you don’t prepare you still won’t be ready. You should take a proactive approach in assisting your channel partners to help them manage their online reputation. Below are the things you should share with them. Let’s get planning and ready!
Common sense tips to managing and moderating your business's online reputation:
- Know what you’re dealing with by actively monitoring your online reputation. This obviously includes social media, but extends to online review sites, forums, exposé sites, anything that can come up.
- Plan a measured response. Proactively, you response be proportional to the threat, reactively, it should be proportional to the damage. An overreaction may be just as destructive as not responding at all. Your threat response may be equally or more so damaging to your company and brand’s reputation.
- Maintain goodwill. Remember that your reputation is organic and isn’t set in stone. Their current and future relationship with your customers will endure, for better or worse. Respond like your continued relationship with them matters or at least respond in a professional manner- so it doesn’t impact how others perceive your business.
As an individual, your online presence may be just impactful when building or sustaining current and future business and relationships.
Follow these common sense tips to personally avoiding an online reputational crisis:
- Exercise a degree of restraint and mindfulness before you post anything to social media. It is not too great of a leap for someone to associate personal and professional behavior. Be careful to cultivate a reputation without negative associations, when possible. Be careful where you leave your fingerprints.
- Consistently monitor your brand’s reputation. When you put your name in the search engine what do you see? If you don’t make a habit of searching your name in Google, you’re probably seeing what everyone else sees. This is how others see your digital self. Be proactive in designing, and nurturing a healthy and professional online image.
- Remember that it takes a lot of good to undo the bad. Again, avoid negative associations and when they do happen, distance yourself from them, and take corrective action with the offender, even if it means taking legal action. Jealously protect the good reputation your brand and channel has worked towards.
Cleaning up after the storm hits
OK, let’s assume that the storm hasn’t hit, yet. Great! Follow the above steps and you will might continue down that road for a while. If you or your channel have been, like most, hit by a negative review, lied about, threatened, abused, bullied, have been publically and negatively exposed etc, etc., you can choose to bury your head in the sand, lash out, or you can intelligently respond by doing the following. Your online reputation = your online brand identity.
- Make certain that you respond to the criticism they receive in a measured, thoughtful, and professional manner. Don’t let them lower themselves to a negative level. Help them if possible, redirect them if necessary. Respond, and respond quickly. Even if the only result of your response is the positive or at least affirmative acknowledgement of others, it’s worth your time, helping them establish goodwill, and an on-going positive reputation.
- Are people stealing from your brand (images, videos, audio, copy), and also failing to acknowledge this and stop? Are they infringing on your legal rights as the copyright owner? You might have recourse through filing a DCMA Complaint.
- The solution may be as simply requesting that the webmaster of the site remove the offending content or material.
- Think SEO. SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization and it’s the process of affecting the visibility of a website in the organic (non-paid) search results.
Push down negative search results by first following this 4 step process:
- Buy a domain with your name in it, and build a simple website using a platform such as WordPress. Now create and link authoritative social profiles to it.
- Make sure your website and social profiles are optimized for keywords, so they can be easily crawled by the search engines and appear in the search results.
- Keep your website and social profiles up-to-date by staying active on them- Google will notice. Go here for further information.
- You may have a case for filing a request with Google to have the information hidden from search results (not necessarily taken down) if certain conditions exist, such as your bank account information being shared or there has been victimization in areas where protections exist. Read here for further information.
Here’s a good place to look for other strategies: http://blog.brandyourself.com/brand-yourselfcom/33-faqs-about-removing-negative-search-results/
Adjust to the new reality. Word of mouth has also gone digital. Make the responsibility for planning your brand’s response personal, your brand’s reputation rest on it.
Lets hope for the best in 2016, while planning and preparing for the worst.
Learn more about online reputation management and how Sproutloud can help.
About the Author
Ben Heyworth formerly served as Marketing and Sales Coordinator at SproutLoud.More Content by Ben Heyworth