As you know, there are many places online that consumers can go to find information about a product or service. Almost 70% of consumers rely on online reviews before making a purchase, and that number increases by 11% for individuals that belong to the millennial generation. In a sense, brands must be ready to make a good first impression online at any time. This is where offline and online reputation management comes in.
Before the rise of the local review site, most reputation management happened in the worlds of PR and word of mouth marketing. Spokespeople issued written statements or held press conferences to deal with major events; press releases and a solid network of media contacts were essential tools of the trade. This is all still true, but there’s one important distinction to make between the discipline of public relations and reputation management: user-generated content.
The Need for Proactive Reputation Management Continues to Rise
There is a lot of user-generated content on the Internet, and it grows every day. There are entire independent sites, forums, Facebook pages, and subreddits devoted to discussing just one brand or product. There are millions of Yelp and Google Plus users, and now that a large portion of them are mobile, they could be accessing anything that’s been said about your brand at any time. According to a survey BrightLocal took last year, 75% of respondents trust local businesses more when they see positive reviews.
Ten years ago, the average consumer did not have access to this massive amount of content, so PR campaigns were more focused; now, brands must monitor a growing number of competing platforms (in real time) in addition to traditional PR tasks like media relations.
What exactly does that monitoring entail? In a nutshell, reputation management activities fall into two buckets: catching and responding to negative reviews, and promoting positive content about a brand. While reviews belong in the digital world, there are a lot of things brands can do both on- and offline to achieve goals that fall into the second bucket. Customer service, traditional advertising campaigns, charitable work, community outreach, and other company activities (and policies!) can all be incorporated into an integrated reputation management campaign. The goal of promoting positive digital content is to achieve high rankings for this content in search engine results, so that when consumers search for you (or your products, or things related to you) they are more likely to see strong, positive branded content.
Is Reputation Management Really a Good Investment?
Yes. Consumers care a lot about what other users or customers think of a business. It only takes one bad review (or poorly handled review response) to affect your company’s brand image online. A brand’s reputation can impact its website’s rankings in Google searches in addition to influencing consumers’ buying decisions. If your brand has an online presence, then offline and online reputation management belongs in your budget.
Reputation management is effective for social media crises, on-air blunders, and simple day-to-day monitoring of social sentiment. There are plenty of examples of companies doing it wrong, so if you don’t have someone on your team who you trust with your brand’s reputation 100%, leave it to a qualified reputation management professional.
Tune in next week for the second post in our series, where we’ll go into more detail about word of mouth marketing and its relationship with online reputation management.