How to Protect Your Brand’s Online Reputation
In a world that’s constantly online, brands are under constant scrutiny of the public eye — granted that some PR slips are evident and short-lived. But others can escalate very quickly and have a lasting impact on your business.
One negative tweet, one viral TikTok, or one bad review — and all the hard work you put into building your brand image can go down the drain.
Good products and excellent customer service aren’t enough to maintain your reputation. The solution? Vigorous and strategic online reputation management.
It keeps your brand in a positive light and gives you enough time to control the narrative around your business and keep PR disasters at bay. A powerful online reputation management plan is also necessary if you aspire to become a global name someday.
In today’s article, we dive into why online brand reputation is important and guide you through techniques to protect it effectively.
Why online brand reputation matters
How well you manage your brand reputation online can make or break your success. Here’s why:
- The internet is where people discover new products and brands. A positive online reputation creates a decent first impression and may even get new leads into your pipeline.
- A good online brand reputation also builds potential customers' trust and adds credibility to your brand.
- It makes your existing customers feel good about being patrons of your business, boosting loyalty and retention.
- As you grow, PR crises are inevitable. But if you have a likeable online reputation, you have a better chance of weathering away such disasters and overcoming setbacks.
How to protect your brand’s online reputation
Here are simple online reputation management techniques to help you solidify a favourable position in the netizen’s eyes:
1. Monitor online mentions and reviews regularly
95% of customers read online reviews before shopping. These can provide valuable insights to drive reputation improvements. That’s why, before anything else, your online reputation management strategy should include a thorough and regular review and online mentions monitoring system.
Keep an eye on Google reviews and other third-party review platforms like Yelp, G2, Capterra, Tripadvisor, etc. If your products are listed on Amazon, follow reviews there closely.
Google Alerts is an easy-to-use and effective tool for monitoring online reviews and mentions. You can set up real-time alerts for your brand-related keywords and topics, and the system will send you reports via email or RSS feed.
Monitor all major social media platforms to track conversations around your brand. Don’t rely on in-app notifications because not everyone will tag you while talking about your business.
For example, Glamour mentioned Fenty Beauty in the above Facebook post but didn’t tag the brand’s profile.
So, how do you monitor such mentions? Invest in social listening tools. These will notify you every time someone mentions your brand on social media platforms, tag or no tag. A reliable social listening tool can also help analyze customer sentiments behind conversations and get an accurate picture of your online brand reputation.
2. Developing a consistent brand voice and narrative
Very few things are worse for your online reputation than inconsistency in brand image. Your brand voice and narrative must be consistent in every step you take to build an authentic, reliable, and sustainable online reputation. Utilize AI writer tools to craft consistent and engaging content.
Start by clearly defining your brand’s mission, vision, and values. You must answer some questions to create a cohesive reputation management system:
- What does your brand stand for?
- What problems does your business aim to solve?
- What is the driving inspiration behind your brand?
Once you are clear on these elements, you can create an online image that evokes positive emotions in your audience.
Then, build strategies to stay true to your brand voice across all online media platforms, from your social media and website to your podcast channel. Make sure it’s unique but still resonates with your target audience. This will set the tone for your online reputation, make your audience trust you, and, if diligent, help you avoid PR setbacks in the long run.
Beauty brand Glossier’s mission is "to give voice through beauty." Similarly, they aim to make "products designed with your real beauty routine in mind." Staying true to these values, Glossier has created a customer-centric reputation on Instagram.
Everything looks authentic — from their bio to the posts, which revolve around real people instead of air-brushed beauty standards. Glossier regularly posts user-generated content and shares tips on Instagram, giving their audience a good reason to rely on them for beauty routines.
3. Implement a crisis management plan for swift response
No matter how diligent you are, running into some online PR disaster is very likely. That’s why your reputation management strategy should also include a crisis management plan. It prepares you for unforeseen reputation risks and minimizes their impact on your brand.
This framework should lay down the key roles of your team, flexible but on-brand communication protocols, and steps to take in instances of PR disaster escalations. When a crisis arises, first map out its scope and severity and run root cause analyses. It ensures you understand the issue correctly and can respond accordingly.
Major PR crises are bound to impact your credibility. To counter that, sincerely acknowledge the issue and apologize publicly. Such transparency will go a long way in re-establishing the public’s trust in your brand. So, respond empathetically and update your audience on the resolutions you take.
For example, Samsung encountered a PR crisis when some of their Galaxy Note 7 phones burst into flames unexpectedly. It prompted many airlines to ban the devices onboard. Samsung’s sales also went downhill, halting the phone’s production.
To solve this problem, the company hired 700 researchers and devised the above multi-step quality and safety checks that all its manufacturers must follow. Samsung also acknowledged the problem quickly and encouraged the customers to exchange their Galaxy Note 7 phones for a new and improved batch.
Their transparency and prompt response to this PR nightmare nudged the brand’s customers to give them a second chance.
4. Develop a rapid response plan for negative feedback
Another critical part of brand reputation management is to be receptive to negative feedback. No matter how scathing the review is, you must respond to it quickly and constructively.
Whenever you get a negative review, apologize and try to understand the cause of the customer’s dissatisfaction. Offer suitable resolutions through your response.
You can also contact the customer personally or provide them with your communication channel to open a discussion and get to the bottom of the issue. Solve the problem and update the unhappy customer.
For example, when the above customer tweeted about the poor quality of the McDonald’s burger he got, the world’s largest fast-food chain was swift with their response. McDonald’s asked the dissatisfied customer to share their personal and order details to understand and resolve the issue.
5. Use social media strategically to engage and address concerns
Positive engagement with the audience online can be invaluable for your brand reputation. It shows that the brand values the relationships they create. And what could be a better channel than social media to interact with your audience?
Regular audience interaction on social media humanizes your brand. It also gives you opportunities to address concerns and portray a customer-centric image.
You can post Facebook and Instagram polls, host Q&A sessions, and go live to interact with your audience in real-time. Encourage audience interaction by introducing industry-related topics. You can even involve them in product development by asking questions about their preference.
Monitor customer queries and resolve them as part of your social media strategy. Top brands often have dedicated support channels on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to answer customer queries. Such an approach proves you are willing to go out of your way to ensure the best brand experience for your customers.
For example, Apple Support on Twitter addresses user concerns by offering insights, step-by-step instructions, and valuable resources. They also add a link to their support channel on Apple’s website if the customer requires further support.
6. Foster positive relationships with influencers and brand advocates
Reports suggest that 61% of millennials trust influencer recommendations while choosing products. A good relationship with the right influencer will let you use their already-established clout to elevate your online brand reputation.
Make it a point to foster close connections with influencers and brand advocates as a part of your reputation management. If the relevant influencers are happy with your brand, their endorsements can enhance your reputation.
Find influencers who are already interested in your products. Give them free samples and goodies to try. This gesture may even nudge them to give you free shoutouts. If you have the budget, you can also partner with them.
For example, GoPro built a close relationship with adventure enthusiasts and influencer couple Zoe Peterson & Kelby Jecker and regularly partners with them. You must also master emotional marketing to connect with your audience and build more brand advocates.
7. Regularly assess and adapt your online reputation strategy
Once you sort out the above steps, set up a framework to evaluate your online presence. This will point out areas of improvement and ensure ongoing adaptability of your reputation management strategy.
- Run a holistic online search to understand your reputation across different channels by collecting social data and audience intelligence.
- Besides social media, include news portals, online magazines, forums, etc. Run a competitor analysis to see where you stand in your niche.
- Assess the ups and downs over specific periods and analyze how your strategy has improved your online brand reputation.
These let you gauge your audience’s changing perception of your brand. You can also stay on top of possible PR issues and prioritize them before they escalate.
Identify areas of improvement and make changes accordingly. Make this a recurring process in your reputation management system to ensure continuous effectiveness.
8. Training team for consistent reputation management
Remember, your employees are as influential for your image as your digital PR campaigns. So, create a culture of proactive reputation management in your company.
Train them on social media best practices and how to interact with customers constructively. Show them actionable steps that they can implement to show your company in a positive light.
Additionally, integrating skills-based learning into your training programs can significantly enhance this process, providing employees with the practical skills and knowledge needed to manage your brand's online reputation effectively.
Equip them with crisis management and branding guidelines. Educate them on how to respond to negative feedback gracefully. Above all, instill your values and mission as a company into your employees.
Warren Buffett once said, "It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently." Follow these wise words and make reputation management one of your topmost priorities.
As we said before, PR crises are inevitable. What makes a difference here is how resilient and proactive you are in protecting your reputation online.
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