Brand Reputation Management – The New Economy

If you’re a business owner, and it doesn’t matter if you only own a mom and pop down the corner or are the head of a multinational conglomerate, the ability to manage your reputation has become more and more important to the success and profitability of your business. We’re long past the days of word of mouth advertising, where a couple of rotten apples wouldn’t be able to spoil the entire basket – but now anyone with an axe to grind has the ability to wreak havoc on your business from the comfort of their own homes. For many businesses that have found themselves victims of this malicious kind of anonymous attack, they would probably do anything to turn back time and focus more on brand reputation management and making sure that they stayed on top of any developments.

Maintaining and improving your online brand reputation management has become a burgeoning business in and of itself. There are entire companies – as well as a booming industry – of online watchdogs that look out for your business and make sure that you stay clean from any unwanted and unwarranted attacks. However it’s not that difficult to handle your own brand reputation management and it’s really broken down into three distinct phases.

Phase 1
Phase One of brand reputation management is simple – you’ve got to create the kind of reputation you want to have in the first place.  While even as few as 5 years ago businesses were slow to transition to the web, nowadays just about everyone has their own website or web property where they are showcasing their business. If you’re a gigantic multinational corporation, you’ve probably had a fancy and incredibly expensive website designed for your business. If you’re a mom and pop, you may just be getting by with a Facebook fan page. In the end, the medium doesn’t matter – it’s all about the content.

Obviously your first goal is to establish the type of personality that your business is going to feature, and to also understand that when you push that kind of personality, there are going to be certain people that flock to you and others that are repelled. It is incredibly difficult to do business as a wishy washy company that has an amorphous persona – people love to do business with companies like them, and are wary of doing business with undistinguished or faceless entities. This is probably Marketing 101 to you, but it still needs being said.

Once you’ve laid out your plans and personality for your business, you need to go about showcasing it to the world. One of the prime examples of a business’s personality shining through is the Zappos story. Zappos is an online shoe retailer (now so much more, but that’s another story) that has turned itself into one of the most exciting companies to do business with (and also to work for). And the best part is it has a sparkling reputation because they put their personality out there and let it do most of the heavy lifting. You’ll still get the occasional bad seed, but as we’ll talk about in the next section, there are tactics to handle that stuff.

Anyway, Zappos has built a reputation as a super heavyweight in the customer service arena, and they literally have an army of consumers who won’t shop anywhere else because they are in love with the company’s persona. How much would it mean to your bottom line if you had an army of loyal customers based on your reputation?

Phase 2
Brand reputation management Phase Two is that once you’ve established you’re reputation, now you’ve got to maintain that position. From here on out that needs to be your number one goal, as it is going to take a significant amount of time to establish your foothold in the online consciousness. This is your most precious asset for business, and even a single misstep (no matter how big or small) could send you into a tailspin you may never recover from. Each and every person in your company needs to remain mindful of the importance of your brand’s reputation.

 

Two examples of big and small missteps would be the BP oil spill and the Apple “Antennagate”. The BP oil spill was an obvious misstep, and not only a business failure but also a breakdown in their companies core values. Didn’t it seem like everyone was running around with their heads cut off for a bit there? Think about what that did to the companies reputation – I know I’ll never forget some of the skits SNL did, or the many hilarious Youtube videos. This is something that’s going to take years to bounce back from.

 

Apple’s “Antennagate” is was a small misstep, but it still caused massive reverberations throughout the online world and damaged their brand reputation. Apple fumbled with the reasons for the antenna on the new iPhone acting poorly, and though they hadn’t made a major misstep in years this caused great uproar from a company once touted as for the little guy. For a while public perception shifted from good to bad about Apple, and while they’ve been able to bounce back it’s only because they took the right measures to do so.

Phase 3

Online brand reputation management Phase Three is damage control. This is what happens when you’ve either made a misstep or are the victim of a powerful vigilante who feels slighted or a powerful (and unethical) competitor. This happens every day in business, and while you’ll never be able to satisfy everyone, it’s important that you take steps to block unwarranted attacks.

The major ones that you’ll have to deal with are social stories and search rankings. Each has it’s own different nuances that I won’t get into here, but they both are very mission critical to the success of your brand reputation online.

Social story attacks are any attacks that come from social media like blogs, Facebook, or Twitter, and these tend to be the attacks that go viral the most. Due to their social nature they are vary difficult to nip in the bud, and your best plan of attack is an equally social push to outline the true facts of the matter or to apologize and fix the situation.

Search ranking attacks are not as viral but more permanent in nature, and should be taken care of as quickly as possible. The last thing you want to pop up in a search for your name or you business name is bad news. You can and should hire 1UP Reputation to do your online brand management when it comes to search engine stuff, and in time you’ll be able to flood the front pages with good news rather than bad.

I hope this primer on brand reputation management has helped, and I wish you the best of luck. It can be a very lucrative world out there when you do business on the internet, but you must stay vigilant and protect your brand reputation at all costs

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