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The Ultimate Guide to Reputation Management

By: Viral Nation | 14 mins read |

Reputation can make or break a brand, which is why every brand must have a reputation management strategy to maintain a positive image in the public eye.

A good reputation is one of the most important indicators of success in business, whether it’s the reputation of your products and services, company, or even personal brand. After all, 70 to 80% of a company’s market value relies on intangibles like its reputation that go beyond what’s on your balance sheet.

Understanding reputation management

Reputation management refers to any strategic action a brand takes to shape stakeholder perceptions and public conversations. It applies to both businesses and individuals with personal or professional brands. Reputation management involves many of the same functions as any business, such as:

  • Communications
  • Marketing
  • Customer service
  • Sales

Building a reputation requires brands to be proactive and reactive, whether it’s asking for customer reviews, planning feedback-based service or product improvements, developing a brand style guide, or establishing official brand accounts on social media.

Why brands must protect their reputations online and offline

Online platforms allow messages, positive or negative, to spread quickly. About 98% of consumers use the internet to find information about brands and negative messages will deter potential customers.

Offline, reputation management is no less important. While offline publicity may not have the instant reach of online channels, it still has its place as many brands use traditional strategies like inbound/outbound calls and networking events to build their reputation outside the digital sphere.

Crisis management and reputation

Another critical facet of reputation management is crisis management. Everyone wants to avoid a PR crisis whenever possible and it’s important to be prepared for a worst-case scenario.

Crisis management will help your brand confront unexpected developments and persevere. It will also minimize damage and prevent problems from spiraling further, saving everyone time, money, and headaches.

Merging brand safety and reputation management

Brand safety is a concept in which a brand avoids anything that can threaten its reputation, from bad ad placements and negative social media posts to working with controversial influencers. That’s why reputable brands safeguard themselves from harmful content such as violence and hate speech, which is a growing issue as approximately 40% of marketers think brand safety concerns will increase over time.

A major risk of digital marketing is linked to programmatic advertising where online ads are processed and placed automatically, which means brands have no choice over where their ads end up. Sometimes, the ads are placed near harmful, offensive, or otherwise inappropriate content.

This is bad news because people may think the brand supports whatever content their ads appear beside. This can lead to people spreading negative word-of-mouth or otherwise associating the brand with that harmful content, making it vital for brands to choose trustworthy ad tech providers that will abide by their brand safety requirements.

10 reputation management strategies for the creator economy

Reputation is paramount in the creator economy and many brand managers have implemented the following strategies to maintain a positive reputation and manage potential risks.

1. Conduct a reputation audit

A reputation audit is an analysis of brand mentions over a specific timeframe that offers insights into how the public perceives a brand.

Start the process by collecting all of the brand’s social media accounts while considering all the keywords and phrases that people may use when talking about it.

Find posts containing these brand-related phrases on search engines and social media platforms and then analyze the audience sentiment to see whether those posts have a positive, negative, or neutral tone.

2. Establish a strong brand identity

It takes as little as 50 milliseconds to create a first impression. Establishing a unique and memorable brand identity is crucial for gaining potential customers’ trust.

A consistent brand identity across all platforms and channels signals to customers that a brand is professional, reliable, and trustworthy, while also building brand recognition as well.

It’s particularly important to use the same brand materials across all social media profiles given the rise in fake social media accounts.

3. Craft an irresistible profile page

Social media profiles are usually one of the first things people see when looking up a brand, which means having a presence on major social media platforms is critical.

To create a memorable profile page, start with a relevant profile picture that reflects your brand, such as your logo. Make sure to include a catchy bio about who you are and what you do, and don’t forget to add your contact information!

Some brands even create specific hashtags and include them on their profiles to broaden their social media outreach.

4. Create high-quality content

High-quality content is one of the most effective ways for brands to build credibility as 72% of marketers say they use content marketing for audience education.

While publishing quality content is easier said than done, keep in mind that the most important part of creating quality content is providing value and speaking to your audience. Everything else, from engagement to likes and shares, flows from that simple principle.

Content is also a prime opportunity for brands to offer insights beyond their products and services. This often requires putting yourself in your customer’s shoes and imagining their pain points that your business solves, and then writing content that addresses that.

5. Deliver excellent customer service

Providing exceptional customer support is essential to establishing a solid brand reputation as the customer service team is on the business’s frontline.

Brands should make it as easy as possible for customers to contact them because it will help customers feel heard and valued. Plus, it also makes brands seem more reliable and trustworthy, which is essential to customer loyalty and retention.

Find out your audience’s preferred communication method and make sure to provide it for them. Ensure that your customer service representatives are well-informed and trained so they can promptly respond to any inquiries from your customers if and when they contact you.

6. Network with other brands

Partnering with other brands, whether influencers or businesses, offers more than just monetary benefits. It also provides new opportunities to reach a wider audience and build a positive reputation.

If your brand is still in the early stages of the branding process, you may need to pitch yourself to potential partners. Make a good impression by showing professionalism in the pitch by crafting a formal introduction and, if possible, attaching a media kit. Also, make sure to conduct due diligence on your potential partners to ensure the collaboration will not harm your reputation, either.

7. Monitor reviews

Online reviews are incredibly important to a brand’s reputation, and with social media, reviews can appear anywhere.

For example, a customer might comment on how much they loved your product on a specific Instagram post, leave a review on your Google Business profile, or even talk about their experience on Yelp, Reddit, or your Better Business Bureau page.

It’s up to brands to monitor and be aware of all the different channels their customers use and track the sentiment of those reviews over time.

Here’s a non-exhaustive list of sites and platforms that can be considered when monitoring reviews:

  • Facebook
  • Instagram
  • TikTok
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
  • Reddit
  • Amazon
  • Google Business
  • Yelp
  • Better Business Bureau
  • Industry forums

8. Establish a communication channel

Brands should establish a communication channel that allows their followers, fans, and customers to interact with them. Not only will it develop a bond with the audience, but it will also provide opportunities for valuable feedback on ways to improve.

Creating an email address where your audience can contact you is a good place to start. You can also use social media features like live streams and polls to interact with followers.

9. Actively engaging with the audience

When your audience makes an effort to post reviews and discuss your brand on social media, it significantly boosts the brand’s visibility. Engaging with your audience can involve liking their posts, re-sharing testimonials, and recognizing customer efforts in promoting your business.

While clear and concise communication is vital to managing your online reputation, active listening and responding professionally to feedback are equally essential. Statistics reveal that 45% of customers share positive experiences when a business responds adeptly to online complaints.

10. Utilize reputation management solutions

Monitoring your online reputation is an intensive process. There are numerous social media platforms and review sites out there, but brands, even the larger ones, have limited resources to go through them all promptly.

That is why brands use solutions like Viral Nation_Secure™ to perform round-the-clock social media monitoring to ensure nothing gets missed.

Why reputation management is important for your business

Here are four reasons why you should focus on building a positive reputation.

Boosting brand image and credibility

Reputation management helps brands provide a consistent image, message, and customer experience to the public. It not only requires transparency and delivering on promises but also requires a willingness to learn and listen to feedback.

The importance of transparency, consistency, and delivering on promises is supremely important, and one way it manifests is when it comes to customer reviews as 99% of customers read online reviews before buying a product.

Corporate social responsibility

Corporate social responsibility is another way for brands to build a positive image by doing good.

For example, LEGO’s “Rebuild The World” campaign from 2020 was a huge hit because its slogan, “If you can dream it, build it” resonated with kids and inspired them to create a better world.

Proceeds from the campaign supported renewable energy projects while also helping children from low-income families and LEGO reported increased revenue in the year following the campaign, making it a win-win.

Increasing customer loyalty and retention

Globally, brands spend billions of dollars annually to maintain customer loyalty through things like reward programs, memberships, and special events.

If your brand has built a reputation for treating your customers well, not only are you more likely to attract new customers, but you’re more likely to retain existing customers as well.

Driving revenue and profitability

A brand cannot achieve financial success if consumers don’t buy from them.

Apple is a great example of how reputation can boost profitability. The brand has been named one of the world’s most admired companies and it achieved that by creating the best customer experience possible. It also takes a clear stance regarding certain social issues, such as privacy concerns.

Apple’s investment in reputation management is reflected in its earnings as it managed to grow revenue by 15,000% in under two decades.

4 common reputation management issues

Reputation management is not always easy as businesses encounter various challenges, such as:

1. Negative reviews and feedback

When you’ve been in business long enough, receiving negative reviews is inevitable and it can impact your business.

The most important thing when dealing with customer feedback is having a system for managing online reviews that involves actively monitoring, analyzing, and responding to reviews, regardless of the sentiment.

Remember, most customers use reviews as a guide when making purchases and if brands don’t respond to reviews promptly, it can give the impression that they don’t care about the customer experience.

Responding to negative reviews

While it may not be possible to remove all negative comments from search results and online review platforms, there are ways for you to address them.

When responding to negative feedback, stay professional and avoid getting into arguments or debates. Acknowledge the customer’s concerns and try to show that you are willing to make an effort to address their concerns or provide a resolution, even if a complete solution is not possible.

Avoid generic stock answers. Instead, craft a personalized message because a humanized response will make your brand seem more relatable and authentic.

Another thing to remember: brands can respond to feedback both publicly and privately. By responding to feedback publicly, brands let everyone know that they’re taking action to improve the situation. Conversely, through private interaction, brands can go further into detail to solve their customer’s issues. However, avoid reaching out to the customer through a different channel before getting permission first. If a customer leaves a comment on Facebook, respond to that comment on Facebook before asking if you can reach out to them privately.

In some cases, brands respond with a more generic, “Thanks for the feedback! Our team will reach out to you shortly to resolve this issue.”

2. Unfavorable media coverage

Negative media coverage can cause immediate and long-term harm to your brand and social media amplifies the challenge because it’s so easy to share.

Responding to unfavorable media coverage should be a part of any brand’s crisis management because it’s important for brands to address the negative coverage as quickly as possible.

3. False or misleading information

Sometimes brands are pressed to produce a high volume of quality content to boost their reputations. However, brands can’t forget to review and fact check before posting – otherwise, you risk posting misleading information.

73% of consumers have a negative view of businesses that spread false information, but you can prevent this by doing thorough quality checks and ensuring only legitimate sources are used.

4. Competitor attacks

Some of the biggest brands in the world will sometimes engage in a lighthearted rivalry (think of McDonald’s vs. Burger King, Mac vs. PC, or Coke vs. Pepsi) to convince customers to switch.

This type of call-out, however, can feel a lot more personal for smaller brands. In cases like these, so much depends on how you respond (or don’t), but remember that your brand’s response can affect public perception, especially that of your loyal customers.

Occasionally, these attacks can go beyond competition and into defamatory territory. If things ever progress that far, that is the point where legal experts should be consulted to determine their options and the best path forward.

Social media monitoring and screening

Monitoring social media platforms involves tracking hashtags, keywords, mentions, and other conversations related to your brand. This process is also known as “social listening” and it allows brands to detect reputational risks early.

However, consumers and competitors are not the only concern because even employees can create a PR crisis with a bad social media post such as sharing confidential information. This is one of the main reasons brands need a social media policy for employees and other internal stakeholders, especially if the brand is a publicly traded company.

Building relationships with influencers and partners

In digital marketing, influencers can play a critical role in bolstering a brand’s reputation, driving audience engagement, expanding its reach, and, ultimately, increasing online sales. Remarkably, more than 83% of marketers recognize the effectiveness of influencer marketing.

Thus, it is paramount to approach influencer collaborations strategically to ensure a partnership that fosters a positive brand reputation.

Choose the right influencers

Choosing the right influencer for your brand and product is essential for a successful collaboration. Consider the influencer’s audience demographics, interests, values, level of engagement, and authenticity when making your selection.

Build an authentic partnership

To form a strong partnership with an influencer, focus on building an authentic relationship first rather than asking for a review or sponsored post right away. This entails following the influencer on social media, engaging with their content, and making personalized contact with them.

This lays the groundwork for your relationship and ensures that any promotion of your brand feels more natural and genuine once it does happen. It can be even more valuable if you give the influencer some time to experience your product or service because then they can give a first-hand account of what they like about your brand.

Hearing an influencer say something like, “I’ve loved this brand even before they became a sponsor,” is much more powerful, especially when it’s true.

Provide precise guidelines

When working with an influencer for a product review, give precise guidelines and expectations for the content, preferably in a brief that includes highlighting specific features, messaging, or hashtags, as well as the dos and don’ts of the campaign.

Grant creative freedom

While guidelines are necessary, it is also important to grant influencers the creative freedom to produce content that matches their unique style and voice – that’s why they were hired, after all.

At the same time, there are limits to what you want your brand to be associated with, and it’s better to communicate that with the influencer ahead of time.

For example, tell the influencer beforehand if you don’t want your brand associated with profanity or overly political subject matter. If the influencer has made their name from profane political rants, they probably aren’t the right fit for your brand.

Offer incentives for collaboration

Consider offering incentives such as complimentary products or exclusive discount codes to the influencer, which they can share with their audience. These types of promo codes can even foster an air of exclusivity and influencer-specific discount codes may encourage some fans to buy the product to show their support for their favorite influencers.

Track and evaluate the results

Lastly, brands need to track the influencer partnership’s performance through metrics like website traffic, engagement rates, and sales to evaluate its results and make adjustments for future campaigns.

Strategies for reputation repair

Brands can take various steps to repair their online reputation, including content removal, negative review deletion, claiming business profiles, and responding to customer reviews.

However, it’s important to note that repairing your online reputation takes significant time and effort, and expecting quick fixes can lead to disappointment.

Identify the root cause

Reputation issues can stem from various scenarios, such as offensive marketing campaigns, insensitive public comments the owner or CEO made, shoddy customer service, or data breaches that compromised sensitive customer information.

A single negative review about an employee or a faulty product is not usually the cause of a poor reputation because the root cause is something that affects a larger group of people. However, if you see many online reviews complaining about the same issue, it’s time to take action.

Craft an action plan

When addressing a problem that has affected your brand’s online reputation, it is essential to take decisive action to prevent similar issues from occurring again.

These actions may involve enhancing the quality of the products or services, enforcing new policies and procedures, or improving customer service.

For example, if customers are dissatisfied with the quality of the product, brands may need to upgrade their equipment or enhance their quality control processes to address this issue. Similarly, investing in customer service training for representatives and implementing effective complaint management policies can significantly improve the customer experience.

But the most important part from a public relations perspective is to communicate the changes that have been made (or are currently making) in order to demonstrate a commitment to resolving the issue.

Monitoring mentions and spreading positivity

Tools such as Google Alerts, Mention, and Brand24 are available to help you keep track of what people are saying about your brand across different online platforms.

By proactively monitoring your online presence, you can identify any potential reputation issues before they escalate and take action to address them promptly.

In addition to mitigating negative feedback, it is equally important to highlight and promote positive reviews, testimonials, and information about your company to build a positive image online.

Public relations strategies

Public relations strategies help brands improve their reputation, gain publicity, and grow their customer base. These strategies help businesses identify their target audience, organize their public relations efforts, and plan how to achieve their objectives.

Similar to marketing strategies, one of the primary goals of public relations is to increase brand awareness. Businesses often use various outlets, such as media sources, blogs, social media, or podcasts, to deliver their messages to a broader audience.

Crisis communication

Effective crisis communication is an important aspect of public relations, as practically every organization will face a major reputational challenge at some point. Crisis communication is responding to a threat to an organization’s reputation, which is activated when a major event occurs.

With the advent of the internet and social media, information spreads rapidly, making an emergency communications plan essential for any organization.

Those unprepared may suffer financial, operational, and reputational setbacks. Only 49% of U.S. companies have implemented a crisis plan, leaving more than half of them vulnerable to a range of potential reputational threats.

Preparing for a crisis before it happens can help you handle it more effectively while also mitigating any potential damage. The key practices for crisis communication are:

  • Prepare: Anticipate unexpected events
  • Respond: Develop a crisis communication plan to guide your response
  • Recover: Build resilience and restores normal operations

With the prevalence of social media, roughly 1 in 3 crises spread within an hour and have gone international within a day. That is why many brands have an appointed crisis communications team with mobile alerts so they can quickly respond and contain PR disasters before they get worse.

Lastly, review your crisis communications plan and implement best practices. The best time to do this is after the crisis has passed because then you can evaluate what worked and what didn’t and modify your plan accordingly.

Final thoughts

Reputation management is more crucial than ever for brands seeking to establish a strong market presence and by maintaining a positive image and building trust with their audiences, brands can create a distinct competitive advantage.

Effective reputation management requires proactive measures to monitor social media and the online behavior of employees, internal stakeholders, and influencer partners. It also involves responding to customer feedback and maintaining a consistent brand identity across all channels.

Building a positive reputation is an ongoing process, so brands should be prepared to adapt and evolve their strategies over time.

Customers expect transparency, authenticity, and responsiveness when communicating with brands and a single misstep can undermine years of hard work – so be careful out there!

But the most successful brands will reap the rewards of reputation management for years to come as they establish themselves as industry leaders, attract loyal customers, and drive sustainable growth.

_About the author
Viral Nation

Viral Nation is a new media innovation group that powers the social ecosystem through integrated solutions that align strategy, talent, media, and technology. As pioneers in the influencer space, Viral Nation is comprised of a full-service creative agency, a creator and athlete-influencer representation agency, and a technology division creating modern marketing solutions for the social media age.