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Reputation management in the 21st Century.

14 Feb 2013 | Posted Under Internet
by Carl Weiss

Have you ever wondered what people are saying about you? Wish you could be a fly on the wall so that you would know exactly where you stand? If you’re a business owner, how do you know if customers or competitors are spreading malicious rumors about your company, brand or product? How do you know what consumers are saying about you, your employees and your company in general?

In today's post I will cover many of the digital reputation issues that executives and businesses have to contend with today. I will provide a list of the types of problems that are prevalent, how to monitor your reputation and provide more than a dozen ways you can help improve your online reputation.

How to Get Started

First, we need to identify the kinds of problems with which owners or executives have to contend. Businesses need to protect their good name, their brand, and their reputation, as well as making sure that the reputation of its owners, agents and employees aren’t soiled.  The most common type of issues for businesses are negative reviews. This can be for the company itself, for poor product performance, poor service, no service or poor employee behavior. 

Fix the Problem

In order to avoid these kinds of problems, company needs to create a corporate culture of excellence where all employees are focused on fixing the problems, not the blame. Make sure that you never over promise and under deliver. Last but not least, if someone or something fails to perform, move heaven and earth to make it right! Even if it costs you money. 

You may also need to consider lightening the load and terminating an employee or executive that fails you in an egregious manner.  As they say, "One bad apple spoils the barrel."  As you will quickly find out, one bad review online can ruin your reputation and hurt the bottom line.

Is it Really You?

Along with bad reviews, you also have to deal with issues like confused or mistaken identity, poor online presence, poor interaction, or poor functionality. On top of this, your best material, such as your blog content, social profiles and other items may wind up buried in an online sea of data.

Good search engine optimization can fix many of these issues and proactive online marketing can ensure that your positive content is visible to the masses.

Fan’s, Fakes and Hatesites

It’s common for people who are fans of movies, books and even products to create social media sites and even websites that promote their favorite brand or products. However, you must maintain control of your reputation as outsiders may not do your company justice and they could accidentally soil your reputation.

It’s also common to have “fake” or spoof accounts created in your name, your products name, brand name or even company name. Many times  I have seen Twitter accounts that read “TheReal_____”. You can fill in the blank with just about any famous person’s name, for example TheRealNimoy. Beware of these and monitor them for liability. In many cases, you can get them shut down if their authors step out of line.

Hate websites are a whole other issue. If you have angered someone so badly that they have gone through all the trouble to build, publish and host a website debasing you, you have a big problem. I would be willing to bet that you have a systemic business problem that needs to be fixed. Either way, even if you’re innocent, your only recourse is either to take legal action, (which may not get the hate site pulled) or reconcile with the person you have angered.

Worst Case Scenario!

The last and worse of all possible reputation issues is Identity Theft. Here you have to be very proactive in protecting yourself. Make sure you shred all documents that have sensitive information like social security numbers, bank/financial accounts, credit card accounts or anything that is tied directly to your name. I suggest you maintain a personal protection account like Life Lock for yourself, your executives and high profile employees. These services cannot absolutely guarantee that your identity is safe but they can provide a host of financial resources to help make you whole again.

Along these same lines, make sure your computers, tablets, and smart phones are adequately protected with top-notch antivirus/anti-malware software like Trend Micro, Advanced System Care or other name brand products. Make sure you have a company privacy and ID policy in place and make sure your employees adhere to it.

The Top 12 things you can do to protect your reputation.

So, what can you do to protect yourself, and your company’s name, brand products and employees from acquiring a tarnished reputation. Here is a baker’s dozen of tactics designed to keep your reputation shiny and clean.
1.   Create a corporate culture that is customer focused. Promote honesty and integrity. Fix problems instead of placing blame. Never, ever over promise or under deliver.
2.   Proactively be your own advocate. Monitor your reputation by regularly engaging in reputation searches. 
3.   Purchase Life Lock or other ID protection service for yourself, your executives and your high profile employees.
4.   Make sure the contact information listed on all your social nets is correct, consistent and readily available. Too many companies today try to hide behind an “email wall”! Make sure you have a real address, phone number and even a Google map on you site.
5.   Help others with their good reputation. This will make it more likely that they will help you with yours.
6.   Create a profile for every product or service you have and make sure that you provide a consistent brand look and feel.
7.   Proactively make sure you have a full spread of social net profiles in place  tells your story accurately. The top social nets to  include are Facebook, Twitter, Google+, YouTube and LinkedIn 
8.   Actively recruit and reward those who provide you with testimonials, positive reviews and positive digital word of mouth via social media.
9.   If you, your company or your product ever fails to perform as promised make sure you make the issue go away by making it right as quickly as possible.
10.   Make sure that all web properties have proper search engine optimization for keywords, company name and brand.
11. Make sure you have created adequate back links between your websites, social nets, blogs and any other web profiles that exist.
12. Create and promote positive digital and conventional PR for your business, your brand and even your executives.
13. Listen to what people are saying about your company. Don’t be afraid to ask people, vendors and consumer to be candid with you. Send out anonymous surveys at least once a year.

One last thought. If you can't fix the bad reputation problem because there is just too much bad press, create a new company name, new website, social profile and brand. Basically, you will have to start from scratch to create a new reputation. This time however, follow my suggestions.

In this article I have outlined the most common reputation management problems businesses face today. They cover the gamut from poor reviews to ID theft. I have included many steps you can take to discover and isolate these issues. More importantly, I have provided more than a dozen ways that will help you manage your digital reputations for both your top people and your company’s primary assets.

If you have found this article useful, please pass it on. If you want to share your thoughts on this subject or have something to add please enter it in our comment section so that we can share it with others. It is my hope that we all pay close attention to these issues because in the 21st century, WWW still stands for the wild, wild, west. That’s my opinion, I want to hear yours.

Carl Weiss is president of http://wsquaredmediagroup.com a digital marketing agency based in Jacksonville, Florida.  Hear him live every Tuesday at 4pm at http://blogtalkradio.com/workingthewebtowin




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