The Art of Business Reputation Management: Strategies for Success

Reputation is one of the greatest assets for your business. In our digital world, how your business appears online - and what populates for it - can completely define the overall perception of your business.

If you don’t have a reputation management strategy, the overall sentiment around your business will be shaped by what others say about you. By establishing a business reputation management strategy, you can ensure that you have a say in the overall perception of your business.

In this article, I will highlight the importance of reputation, define reputation management and the different forms it can take, and establish the best practices for businesses that want to take their reputations into their own hands.

The Importance of Reputation

Reputation should be a primary focus for all businesses. In a survey conducted by Deloitte, 87% of over 300 executive respondents cited reputation as the most significant risk area for companies, with 88% of respondents stating that their companies are explicitly focusing on managing reputation risk.

Consumers agree. A TrustPilot consumer survey found that a positive internet reputation was the #1 most important factor when considering a business. The same TrustPilot survey found that consumers listed having the best quality product or service offering as the fourth most important factor when choosing a business, emphasizing the growing significance of reputation in our digital world.

Reputation can be measured on a sliding scale. While the pitfalls of a negative reputation can be severe, the benefits of a positive reputation can set you apart from the competition and establish your business as a leader in your industry.

The Benefits of a Positive Reputation

Nearly 90% of consumers report that they will remain loyal to brands that share their values.

A positive reputation can increase your customer loyalty, give your business an advantage over competitors, improve employee loyalty and retention, decrease marketing costs, enhance relationships with investors and partners, and increase your business’s overall resilience.

Even further, a positive reputation can safeguard your company against reputation crises. Often, it is not about if your business will experience a blow to its reputation, but when. With so many channels of communication - reviews, social media, news publications, etc. - it is inevitable that someone will have negative feedback about your business at some point. If you actively develop a reputation management strategy before that happens, you are more likely to weather the storm with reduced impacts to your reputation.

The Risks of a Negative Reputation

Where a positive reputation can elevate your business, a negative reputation can sink it. A poor reputation can lead to loss of customers, decreased sales, hiring difficulties and lower employee retention, and, in the most extreme cases, severe financial losses and even the demise of your business.

A bad reputation is something that, while difficult to define, is easy to spot - particularly online.

90% of consumers report not frequenting a business with a bad reputation. Businesses with just one negative article populating in search results risk losing up to 22% of prospective customers. Businesses with four or more negative articles can experience a loss of up to 70% of prospective customers, likely due, at least in part, to the fact that negative news has been reported to be three times more impactful than positive news.

A negative reputation is also difficult to recover from. In our click-bait culture, many people will not want to consider your side of the story once the negative news is out there - even something as simple as a controversial headline populating in your Google search results can deter prospective customers and employees.

What is business reputation management?

Business reputation management is the practice of monitoring, influencing, and maintaining how your business is perceived. Reputation management can help businesses build trust with employees and customers, expand audience reach, set businesses apart from their competitors, increase investor confidence, and generally contribute to the long-term success of your business.

While business reputation management does not strictly refer to online reputation, in many ways online reputation is synonymous with reputation in 2023. People get most of their information online; according to a Pew Research Center study, approximately 80% of Americans receive their news from digital devices. What’s more, over 95% of people go online to learn more about a business and 98% of consumers report reading online reviews of businesses.

Proactive and Reactive Business Reputation Management

Formulating and implementing a reputation management strategy can not only establish your business as an industry leader, but can safeguard your business against reputational risks and damage.

There are two primary forms of reputation management: proactive and reactive.

Proactive Reputation Management

Proactive reputation management refers to taking preemptive measures to establish and maintain a positive online image. Proactive reputation management requires that businesses establish a strong online presence, identify areas of vulnerability, and anticipate potential risks.

An effective proactive reputation management strategy includes:

  • Auditing how your business is perceived by consumers and within your industry;
  • Maintaining a strong, on-brand online presence;
  • Staying up-to-date on industry trends, conversations, and controversies;
  • Social media and online conversation monitoring;
  • Contributing to thought leadership to establish the business as a an industry leader;
  • Creating a response plan for any interactions, be they reviews, news coverage, or a larger reputation issue;
  • And engaging in corporate social responsibility.

Reactive Reputation Management

Reactive reputation management refers to responding to a reputation hit or reputation crisis to minimize the impact on your business. This often entails responding to journalists and publications, customer reviews or complains, commenting on negative developments regarding the company, or emphasizing how the business has taken accountability or changed to reinstate trust and rehabilitate the business’s reputation.

An effective reactive reputation management strategy includes:

  • Crisis response, either in the form of public statements, review or social media responses, internal communications, etc.;
  • Highlighting subsequent change if the specific crisis has led to changes in the operation of the business,
  • Social media and online conversation monitoring;
  • And recalibration of the overall business reputation management strategy.

Reactive reputation management is always most effective when a reputation management strategy has been established prior to the reputation crisis, though this is not always possible. If a reputation management strategy has not been established prior to the crisis, you will have to implement a reactive - and, thus, generally more urgent - strategy.

Business Reputation Management Best Practices

1. Know Your Own Reputation

In order to establish an effective business reputation management strategy, you need to know what you’re working with. To audit your reputation, you will need to look at everything. Customer feedback, employee and customer reviews, news coverage, industry sentiment, social media and forum conversations, and Google results all contribute to your business’s overall reputation.

If you don’t know where you’re starting, it will be difficult to formulate an effective reputation management strategy. To get a sense of your business’s online reputation, Google your business in an incognito browser and take stock of what you see - and do this often. Reputations are dynamic and iterative, so a relevant reputation strategy will take this into account.

2. Identify Weaknesses and Opportunities

Difficult as it may be, another vital aspect of establishing a reputation management plan is to identify your strengths and weaknesses.

When looking into your strengths, consider:

  • Where does your business stand out from the competition?
  • What makes your products or services unique, or better than the competition?
  • What does your business do differently?
  • What values does your business exemplify?
  • How does your business give back to the community?

When looking into your weaknesses, consider:

  • Where can your business improve? Are these improvements possible?
  • What criticisms has your business received from customers or employees?
  • Are there industry criticisms that are relevant to your business?
  • Are there risks associated with certain executives or employees?
  • Is there scrutiny of your industry?

Depending on your industry, you may anticipate different strengths and weaknesses, but being honest about these areas of opportunity or adversity can help you better prepare your business for potential reputation hits.

3. Establish a Response Plan

While you cannot control what is said about your business, you can control how you respond. One of the biggest mistakes you can make when it comes to reputation management is not having a specific response plan in place - for negative news coverage, reviews, customer feedback, etc.

Consider the different kinds of responses you may need to prepare. A negative review, for example, requires timeliness: 88% of consumers are likely to use a business if they respond to all reviews, but over 20% expect a response within a day of posting a review (and this number is growing); however, a response to a hard-hitting journalistic piece may take more time and though, and should not be rushed.

With a response plan, you will not have to build responses from scratch in times of stress or crisis, ensuring your response is in line with your branding and values and is not overly reactive or hasty.

4. Consider the Long-Term

Any reputation professional will tell you that an effective reputation management strategy takes time. This is due, in part, to the nature of SEO - there are no quick fixes.

But, beyond that, reputation management is an iterative, responsive process with no one-size-fits-all. You will have to consider your own business, industry, and long- and short-term goals to develop a truly effective strategy, and implement it consistently.

With more voices contributing to reputation than ever before, and corporate responsibility becoming a significant factor to customer interest and loyalty, maintaining and improving your business’s reputation is not only about representing yourself well, but being amenable and adjustable to the current cultural landscape.

5. Acknowledge When You Need Help

If it isn’t clear, your reputation is very important. But not every company is an expert in reputation and, obviously, you also need to focus on the day-to-day of ensuring that you are carrying out the goals of your business itself.

If your business does not have the bandwidth to carry out a reputation management strategy, either due to experience, specific reputational concerns, or because you are experiencing a reputation crisis, it may be time to work with an online reputation management firm.

Reputation management firms bring expertise and understanding to your business’s specific concerns and can take the heavy lifting off of your business while maintaining a collaborative relationship, allowing you to focus on your business operations.

If you are curious to learn more about reputation management, or think a reputation management firm may be right for you, reach out to schedule a free consultation with Status Labs.

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