Reputation management isn’t something only big brands like Apple or Spotify need. Every time when your team communicates with your customers prepares website content or reaches out to potential partners, there’s a place for online reputation management

I’ve once read that people buy products, not brands. With this claim,  the author wanted to highlight the importance of offering a quality product or service.

This is somewhat true. 

But you can’t help but notice that with such a wide variety of brands available in the marketplace – most of them providing more or less similar offers – brand reputation is exactly what becomes the deciding factor.

Therefore, how you present your company and what other people say about it are two of the most important factors you should care for. 

As 2020 has been rich in cases of brands failing reputation management, I decided to highlight the nine most common mistakes you’ll want to avoid to keep your brand reputation healthy.

Mistake #1: Not having a plan for reputation management

The first rule of reputation management is to talk about reputation management. If you don’t have your strategy documented, you can’t expect to address arising conflicts quickly. 

Whether you want it or not, your brand has a certain reputation. It’s always better to be able to control it rather than leaving it to chance.

What’s a reputation management plan?

An online reputation management (ORM) plan is a set of predefined actions you take to control and improve the perception of your brand by your audience.

Any ORM plan includes at least 4 steps:

  1. Have brand messaging in place. What are your core values and tone of voice? These statements will affect all your marketing campaigns and the way you communicate with people on the web. 
  2. Monitor your brand mentions, reviews and personal feedback included.
  3. Have a strategy for responding to negative feedback. We’ll cover this point in one of the further sections.
  4. Make the most out of positive feedback. This includes responding to positive reviews to boost your online visibility, featuring testimonials on your website, and sharing happy customers’ social posts on your own accounts.

Mistake #2: Not caring for what your team can say

People working with you are your first brand advocates. What they say about your company is crucial for your brand reputation.

Here, I want to mention two aspects worth considering. 

Firstly, what is it like for your employees to work with you? 

Once you sign up a contract with a new employee, treat them as your next client. They’ll be sharing news about your brand and their own experience of working at the company with their family, friends, and social networks. And if you want to build a solid reputation among your customers, start with creating a positive company culture.

Secondly, what do they think of your business offering? Marketing and sales teams should see the value of the product or service they’re selling. And even if there’s still plenty of space for development (which will always be there), they need to see that their team lead, VP, CEO, or Founder believes in it. 

I don’t know whether you’ve been in such a situation, but I clearly remember when I was looking through a restaurant menu, and a waitress was discouraging me from ordering specific dishes. 

She didn’t try to convince me to order something more expensive, things were way simpler – she wasn’t a huge fan of the place she was working at. This case can be applied to any other business. 

Mistake #3: Not encouraging your team to advocate for your brand on social media

This section is closely related to the previous one.

I worked at a well-established company with a solid marketing department. And I could never understand why my team hardly ever shares company updates on their personal social media accounts. They just didn’t consider how impactful their activity could be.

One amazing example I always recall thinking of teams that advocate for their brands is how G2’s marketing team is sharing stories or regular company updates on LinkedIn. Many of them have large and active networks, and most importantly, they all understand the power of a good social post. Instead of clicking on the ‘share’ button without adding a single comment, these folks will always add something that will catch your attention.

Mistake #4: Newsjacking

The world never stands still. In 2020, we faced global pandemic, worldwide protest movements, ecological disasters, and who knows what awaits us ahead. All these events affect us, our businesses, and our clients. And it seems perfectly logical for us to respond to what’s happening in different ways.

However, when unforeseen events happen, many brands fail to communicate with their audience in the right way and get criticized. Why does this happen? People are extremely cautious when brands claim their support. They see thousands of ads daily and know most of the ‘tricks’ marketers apply. They can hardly believe business owners might do something with no intention of driving profits. And in many cases, they’re right. 

If you want to take advantage of high-volume headlines without offering any value to your audience, don’t. 

Mistake #5: Not admitting your mistakes

The quote ‘A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new’ must be carved at every marketer’s or PR person’s desk. You and your team will keep making mistakes when sending email newsletters, launching new campaigns, phrasing brand messages, or (especially) responding to recent news. Whatever you’re criticised for, never ever respond aggressively to this. 

You can’t say the BMW marketing team isn’t experienced enough. I bet this post had been approved by a chain of managers before it went live. BMW reputation management

But it didn’t get a warm welcome. Instead, the post was largely criticised on social media, and the BMW i team deleted the tweet soon.

I won’t go into detail explaining why the audience didn’t take the post too kindly, but I want to illustrate how such conflicts can be solved. There’s no sense in trying to justify your motives when there’s a crowd ready to hang you. The only thing you can do to stop criticism is to admit and apologise: 

Even though people forget about conflicts happening on the web in a day (just because there’s another scandal taking place), keeping silent is the worst thing a brand can do. We all have witnessed the conflict around Facebook, with advertisers boycotting the platform and switching to Facebook ads alternatives. The company did nothing to solve the conflict, which has resulted in even more negative comments:

Facebook reputation

By demonstrating you’ve taken it seriously and are ready to solve a problem, you’ll boost your brand credibility in the eyes of existing and prospective customers.

Mistake #6: Failing to monitor what others say about you

Monitoring brand mentions and customer feedback is the second point in your reputation management plan. If you miss it, you’ll fail the whole plan.

Unanswered questions and testimonials (especially the negative ones) may damage your reputation without you even realising this. To avoid it, make sure you take the following steps regularly:

    • Track your Google My Business dashboard. 
    • Monitor mentions on social media with tools like Hootsuite or Social Mention.
    • Set up notifications that are sent every time you get a new review on G2, Clutch, or any other review platform.
  • Optional: Set up Google alerts or invest in a more comprehensive monitoring solution, such as Social Pilot or Mention, which will keep track of all brand mentions across the web. 

When you identify new mentions, respond to any feedback promptly.

Bad reviews might be even more useful for you than the positive ones. They uncover weaknesses you might have failed to notice before. Moreover, by acknowledging faults and showing the willingness to improve, you show everyone who will see this conversation later that they can feel confident about working with you.

What if people complain without any real reason? It’s not unusual at all. But these messages should also get addressed. In this case, just offer to contact you directly – this will allow you to keep the conversation out of public eyes and demonstrate that you’re always eager to find the appropriate solution.

One more interesting insight is that by responding to positive feedback, you encourage other customers to share their experiences. Isn’t it the lowest-effort way to boost your brand reputation?

Google Reviews

This is my favorite part. As a person working at an advertising agency, I know firsthand how important a well-crafted campaign for your brand is. And how tempting it can be to save your budget and implement a low-cost approach.

 Let’s take native advertising, for example. When looking for inspiration for our clients’ campaigns, I come across hundreds of native advertising examples weekly. If you only knew how difficult it is to find quality ads on today’s web. No wonder I hardly ever come across campaigns run by the same company in a month – their low-efforts approaches simply don’t work. 

 Along with being completely ineffective, poorly-crafted marketing campaigns hurt your authority. 

 Blurry images, provoking headlines, ads that aren’t related to the content featured on landing pages – these are the most common mistakes made by advertisers. 

 What’s worse, brands might also want to combine advertising and newsjacking. The use of elements specific to the trending event (e.g. thumbnails with people in face masks, fake news, etc.) when it has nothing to do with your industry might call into question the quality of your campaign and brand as a whole. 

Mistake #8: Criticising your competition

Distributing fake information about your competitors may turn against you. People start treating you as an unreliable company that can’t win business with their own competitive advantages. 

Nobody loves their rivals. But talking bad about them will only hurt your business. When bashing your competitors, you’ll definitely put yourself in the position of a childish person who isn’t confident in what they do.

You won’t make your customers buy from you by criticising other market players. It’s not how people make purchase decisions. And if it doesn’t help you drive sales, why risk?

Mistake #9: Not caring for your competition

On the other hand, not caring for what your competition does is another wrong way to go.

First of all, it’s always a good idea to learn from their mistakes. You work in the same industry, so it’s very likely that you have similar ideas for content or advertising campaigns. Keep track of their new projects, monitor people’s reactions, and document your learnings somewhere to consider when launching your future campaigns. 

Next, what are your clients saying about your competitor(s)? It can be that they’ve already had some experience of working with them. Learn what made them switch to a different solution and leverage your insights to retain these customers.

Wrapping up

It seems that there are a lot of things to keep track of. In fact, you just need to stay honest with your audience. 

To wrap up, here are key aspects you need to build a great online reputation:

  • Develop a plan for reputation management. Having a strategy for addressing negative cases is a must.
  • Your attitude towards your team and your product or service will affect how they present your company to the world.
  • Your team should be your brand advocates on social media.
  • Trying to take advantage of events that aren’t related to your business won’t do any good.
  • Admit your mistakes. 
  • Monitor customer feedback and always respond to it.
  • Opt for quality when launching advertising campaigns. 
  • You won’t win anything by criticising your competition.
  • Still, keep track of what they’re doing and how your audience responds to their actions.

For help fixing your online reputation management, click here.