(Photo above | Cascade Business News)
Your Best Defense is a Good Offense
Growing up in a small town (Joseph, Oregon, population 1,100) I learned from a young age that reputation is everything. My reputation set the tone for how teachers and coaches treated me in the classroom and on the field. In fact, my older brothers’ reputation almost ruined my reputation…almost!
You didn’t have to grow up in a small town to know the importance of your reputation. In the digital age managing your personal and professional reputation is more important than ever. Anyone can say anything about you online without getting in trouble, whether it’s true or not. Everything we do is recorded online forever, which means we need more tools to make sure it doesn’t harm us. Whether you own a business or work for a company your reputation DOES matter.
Over 92 percent of consumers are checking out Google Reviews, Yelp and other customer review sites to get more information on businesses for better or for worse, according to the most recent Bright Local Consumer Review survey. If reviews are overwhelmingly positive, the survey reports that 68 percent of consumers have greater trust in the organization.
On the other hand, businesses with mostly one- or two-star reviews fail to convert about 90 percent of prospective customers — a major loss, especially for startups, who need the initial momentum to get going.
What is reputation management?
Reputation management is a strategy and process of monitoring, identifying, and influencing your personal and/or business reputation and credibility.
An effective reputation management strategy can provide you with new opportunities and insight on increasing brand awareness.
Benefits of reputation management:
• Proactively build trust and credibility
• Increased and more effective word of mouth
• More control of brand, stories, and voice
• Repair damaged reputation
• Recruitment: win the “war for talent”
Here are 5 steps you can implement to create and protect your reputation:
1. Be pro-active: Reputation management should be one of your top marketing priorities. Bad reputations can kill your business and make you close your doors for good—and after years of investing time, money, and energy, that’s the last thing that you want to happen. One of the most often overlooked aspects of online reputation management is to be proactive and to develop a reputation management process to make it easy for customers to write reviews. If a business just lets reviews happen, then the tendency is that people who have had negative experiences are much more likely to write a review.
2. Conduct audits: Assign someone to check review sites and search keywords and phrases that are related to your company, most specifically your company name on a regular basis to determine what people are saying about your business. Conduct Google searches to see what is being said, and where it lands in search results (second listing, first page). Search the Better Business Bureau and employee sites such as Glassdoor.
3. Develop a strategy: There are two strategies to consider, reactive (defense) and proactive (offense). Reactive is having people in place to quickly respond to conversations (positive or negative) that come up. In this case, a policy should be put in place on what should and should not be said as employees respond to comments and feedback. Additionally, you should identify at what point is an issue serious enough that it should be escalated to a higher level for the correct response. Acting proactively means you create positive messages, social posts, white papers, press releases, etc. that is informational, educational and engaging.
4. Implement strategy: Obvisously, a great reputation strategy doesn’t do much good if it is never implemented. A solid strategy is developed and started with good intentions — then reality intervenes. For best results track implementation of the plan as well as results. Only by tracking the entire process can you make sure you are drawing the right conclusions and making the right adjustments.
5. Monitor: Reputation management is a cycled process. Once you finish with implementing the strategy, you need to start over and listen monitor ensuring your efforts have made the intended impact.
While you can’t prevent people from saying or posting negative things, with a good plan you can help mitigate the damage it does to your business. It might seem daunting at first but think of it as another form of insurance. In the end managing your reputation guarantees you are in control of regaining or building your brand and image.
With more than 18 years of experience in marketing communications, public relations, branding, crisis communications, and event planning, ShanRae Hawkins leads StingRay Communications in creating strategies that translate into client success. Her work crosses national and international boundaries for both consumer marketing and B2B. In addition to being an accomplished marketer, ShanRae conducts company retreats and leadership workshops to teach others how to get the most out of their brands.
Prior to establishing StingRay Communications, ShanRae served as director of marketing for two of Central Oregon’s signature developments: the Old Mill District/Les Schwab Amphitheater and Sunriver Resort. She was also the senior account supervisor for DVA Advertising, where she led clients like Mt. Bachelor, Central Oregon Visitors Association, Oxford Hotels, Hayden Homes and the Ashland Chamber of Commerce. Before moving to Central Oregon, ShanRae traveled the world working for New Holland Credit Company and the Foreign Agriculture Service.