Reputation management falls under the public relations and branding umbrella. Public relations is defined as building and identifying robust relationships between the organisation and the people it communicates with. These strong relationships can be formed and maintained through reputation management and community management. Communications are made internally and externally through media and digital channels related to the organisation.
So, why is reputation management important? Reputation management is critical for how your brand will be perceived among consumers and other stakeholders your business communicates with. A consumer’s likelihood of making a purchase correlates directly to how positively your business is perceived. Digital channels are ever so prominent; positive or negative information can be shared quickly and easily. Having a well thought out strategy could assist you in how your reputation is perceived online through reviews, social media, google and other online media.
Regularly monitoring your reputation online through audits and software can help you to keep ahead and act as a preventive exercise before significant hurdles.
Reputation management of how your company is perceived online is maintained through reviews (digital word of mouth) via platforms such as Yelp, Trip Advisor, Google My Business, and Facebook, which will help reinforce brand strength – and is highly beneficial in growing your business. A positive brand reputation is a catalyst for brand loyalty and those all-important leads.
Why are positive brand awareness and reputation important?
For starters, you need to get your name in front of people – but there is much more to it. You want to make sure that you are not forgotten. Unfortunately, how you are perceived is harder to control and influence than your brand identity. Brand identity is your company’s core values and personality that you wish to put out there, and brand perception is how the consumer actually perceives your brand. It isn’t easy to please everyone, but it is still essential to have a brand reputation strategy in place.
Comments and reviews are the online versions of word of mouth. Replying to negative comments and reviews will show others reading the review how you deal with unhappy customers, even the incredibly unreasonable ones. It will show that you have an after-service and care about your customers. It will be worth setting up brand guidelines so colleagues can stay consistent with your brand’s tone of voice, even when replying. Differentiating yourself from your competitors will benefit you. Brand Onion and the Golden Circle are two great brand tools to help influence how you’re perceived.
Why is Responding to Negative Reviews and Comments Critical?
Negative reviews and comments on social media certainly don’t put a smile on our face, especially because you put your heart and soul into your business. But turn that frown upside down! It’s important to always try to forge a positive outcome from a negative situation; responding to negative reviews could actually help your business. Did you know that Trustpilot claims that 89% of consumers read the reviews before making a purchase decision? This further validates the importance of having a Brand Reputation strategy in place. Replying to comments shows you are still active and helps contribute to your online presence.
Furthermore, replying allows you to control the narrative as well as showing how much you care for your customers. Readers will be able to see how you responded with empathy, integrity, and sympathy to the disgruntled customer. Ignoring the comments can come across as admitting defeat or even having something to hide. That said, if you are quite a large company, it can be tough to reply to every single one. Try using software tools to help you keep track of all channels in one place, notify you when something needs your attention, and ignore the time wasters. Try not to reply to reviews that seem fake and report them.
We go into great detail about how to reply to negative comments here.
Top Tips on Replying
Here are a few quick tips on how you could reply to the disgruntled consumer. That said, they are not a fixed rule: always be mindful of your brand and stay true to your guidelines.
Say sorry; it can be difficult to say even if you have not done anything wrong, but apologising for the customer’s disappointment can calm the situation and retain your professional integrity.
Always be polite, even with the most unreasonable customers that may be rude to you directly. It is essential to stay calm and polite at all times, as it could harm your reputation otherwise, showing others who are reading that you do not know how to professionally resolve a situation.
Do not leave them waiting; try to notice and spot their comments early on. Unhappy customers can be more agitated if they are left waiting, so if you are dealing with their query, tell them, so they know they have not been ignored.
Respond privately. If customers lose their temper, it is better to be done behind closed doors where there are no digital onlookers. This is the case more so for comments on social media, as opposed to places like Trustpilot. Tell them you’ll contact them privately in your response to the comment, and then message them directly afterwards.
Try to explain why it happened; the unreasonable customer can over exaggerate or lie about the situation, so in the politest way possible, explain the situation and try your best to offer a solution to their problem.
Be transparent. Create one-to-one communications, encourage feedback, do not hide criticism and address it publically when relevant to the tips above. Trying to bury it can negatively impact your brand so much more than simply braving it and responding.
Local Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)
SEO is all about making your business visible. The first step for most consumers is to Google you when searching for a product or service. And whether you like it or not, what initially comes up will be conversations around your business, such as reviews, local content, social profiles, links, and citations. Google My Business now allows for reviews to be present. If you are a smaller business, local SEO could aid you in meeting your local customer needs and influence first impressions. If you haven’t already, register on Google My Business – for one thing, it’s free! Unless you’re an industry giant, it is unlikely you’ll be able to compete across the whole country, and if you are a brick and mortar business, people will be reluctant to travel long distances if there is someone similar who operates closer to them. Good Local SEO will help you get discovered. Top tip – ensure you are discoverable on Google Maps!
Make sure you are consistent across all organic channels. Inconsistent information can hinder your SEO, so ensure all your sites and channels are consistent and up to date. This will further enhance your brand strength. Share your blog and news updates, and remember to respond to positive reviews as well as negative ones, as they are among the most important factors that rank you in Google Map listings.
Consider Using Software Tools to Help You
There is a lot out there, but what is best for you will highly depend on the type of organisation you are. Some are better for smaller organisations, and some for big corporations. Here are a few examples of software that you could find helpful.
Google Alerts – Google has a lot of free tools at your disposal, so make use of them. One such tool is Google Alerts. You will get email notifications on mentions based on your preferences.
Semrush – Semrush helps you monitor online mentions, sentiment scores and authority. It offers a free version (with limited access) to start you off, if your budget is small.
Yext Reviews – These are great for businesses of all sizes; it helps business data to be consistent across every site and manage social media accounts, allowing you to respond to honest reviews all in one place.
Review Trackers – These analyse online review sites and social media and notify you when someone leaves a review. Such trackers also help you keep up to date with trends and topics to help you further meet consumer needs.
For a detailed list of other types of software, read this Hubspot article on reputation management.
So, what’s next for you and your business’s reputation management? Start by conducting an audit and creating a plan for your strategy. Decide who in your organisation will be responsible for social listening to all the important conversations surrounding your business. The software mentioned above can help you, but they’re not the be all and end all if your budget doesn’t allow it. A great starting place is to solidify the tone of voice of your replies, and to prioritise the most important comments to respond to – particularly if you are a larger company with mass engagement on your socials!
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