Before the turn of the century, reputation management was primarily accomplished through print, radio or television messaging. Today, reputations are predominantly influenced by online sentiment, especially consumer reviews on social media.
While word of mouth, offline reviews and news media are still important, they’re not as sticky, fast or prolific as the digital grapevine, which depending on the sentiment, can weigh heavily on sales, press coverage and even talent acquisition.
The Anatomy of Brand Reputation
Depending on a company’s maturity and current circumstances, reputation management typically has three goals:
- Build. Embryonic or “rebooted” brands must generate buzz that resonates with customers.
- Maintain and enhance. Brands with an established positive reputation need to continually solidify, amplify or reinforce their standing among prospects, customers, journalists, commentators and other influencers.
- Recover and learn. Brands with a dwindling or otherwise negative reputation need to re-burnish their reputations. Recovery often includes a mea culpa, cooperative investigation and content marketing to counter-balance and improve reputation quotients.
The Network Effect
Most industries are littered with brands that have encountered negative social media challenges, fumbled their response and paid the reputational price.
For example, Amy’s Baking Company made headlines in 2013 on Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares, a then-popular reality television program, when the restaurant owners flippantly ignored Ramsay’s advice and swore at him and his viewers on TV and social media. Two years later, the business paid the ultimate price and shuttered.
Whatever the example, online sentiment matters. Research reveals that 80% of Web users seek others’ opinions before buying a product or service, and approximately 92% of consumers trust their friends and family more than ads. To counter negative sentiment, a brand may refrain from social conversations; however, this leaves its reputation completely in the hands of external parties and usually works against them. In fact, nearly two-thirds of companies that ignore negative sentiment remain in a state of disrepute, according to research from BDO and others.
Proactive Reputation Management
In our view, being vigilant about your company’s online reputation is the best way to preempt or counter negative consumer sentiment. In order to quickly recognize trending criticism, we recommend a predictive online reputation system that monitors a brand’s online presence across channels, identifies negative sentiment and automates a swift response.
This type of online reputation system — which makes it possible to filter online sentiment and gain insights that would otherwise remain undetected — helps flatten the crisis bell curve (see Figure 1). It can do this through several measures, such as investigating triggers for a particular type of consumer sentiment or online behavior during certain times of the year, or checking on whether specific consumer groups are more vocal about particular issues.
This type of reputation management system can be applied to every online discipline — from social media and search engine optimization, to content marketing and PR. In our view, an online reputation management command center can orchestrate the entire process of managing a brand’s online reputation, including:
Providing input for risk management.
Improving corporate communication.
Setting standards for digital security.
Facilitating collaboration with an ecosystem of players (including PR, social media, marketing and advertising agencies) that participate in the brand’s online reputation management strategy.
Executing online reputation management plans and providing content publishing support to take the brand story to the market.
Working with the brand teams to align reputation management efforts.
Online reputation systems can be used for purposes beyond crisis prevention; these systems can ultimately help brands improve the awareness, reach and timing of their promotional campaigns by informing them where they stand in the marketplace. As renowned marketing coach Brian Koslow puts it: “There is no advertisement as powerful as a positive reputation traveling fast.”
To learn more, read Authoring a Brand’s Reputation or visit our Digital Marketing Practice.