Reputation Management Companies: 12 Essential Things to Look for When Comparing

What is reputation management?

Reputation management, sometimes referred to as online reputation management or ORM, is the process of monitoring and influencing a person or business’s reputation.

Generally, reputation management strategies include SEO, PR, social media and review management, digital marketing, and other methods to build, improve, and maintain a positive online presence and overall reputation.

When do you need a reputation management company?

If you have concerns regarding your online reputation, it may be time to hire a reputation management firm. 97% of people go online when they want to learn more about a business and 95% of consumers report trusting a business with a positive online reputation.

Regardless of the quality of your business, if you do not have a strong online presence, you will likely be overtaken by competitors. In a study conducted by TrustPilot, consumers listed having the best quality product or service offering as the fourth most important factor, while a positive online reputation topped the list as the most important factor to consumers when they were considering whether or not to frequent a business.

If you are building an online presence from the ground up, improving a sparse online presence, or simply don’t have the bandwidth or experience within your organization to develop a reputation management strategy, an online reputation management company can help you. These issues commonly require proactive ORM. Proactive ORM is implemented to develop and improve your online reputation, as well as safeguard it from potential reputational threats.

How do you know if you need proactive ORM?

Put simply: everyone needs proactive ORM. Establishing a strong online presence before you contend with any reputational risks - such as bad reviews, a negative news cycle, etc. - can help protect you and your business when those risks do arise. What’s more, a strong online presence can increase your visibility, audience reach, and customer retention, as well as make you more appealing to prospective employees.

In some cases, you may be experiencing a reputation crisis. In these cases, you will require reactive ORM. Reactive ORM, or crisis management, is implemented when an individual or business is experiencing a PR crisis. In these instances, the focus is on minimizing the hit to your reputation to lessen long-term reputational damage.

In times of crisis, every move you make is critical, and having experts supporting you and your business is vital. Whether it’s a recall, a scandal, or a lawsuit, the experts at reputation management companies can help you mitigate the initial impact and protect you from any missteps that could make the situation worse.

How to Pick the Best Reputation Management Company

Once you have decided that you want to hire a reputation management company, the shopping begins. Different reputation management companies have different approaches, areas of expertise, and costs that can determine whether or not they are a good fit for you or your business.

There are several factors to consider when picking the right ORM firm based on your own needs and goals. I’ve outlined ten considerations to keep in mind when choosing a reputation management company.

1. Know Your Own Goals

Before you begin any conversations with reputation management companies, you need to define what your goals are. Do you need to establish a social media presence? Does your company not show up in search results? Are you consistently outranked by competitors? Do you need more reviews, or a plan to respond to negative reviews? Do you want to implement a social listening plan to keep up-to-date on the conversations around your business? Do you want to rebrand your company? Are you experiencing or anticipating a reputation crisis? Do you just want to look better online?

Your goals can be simple. Part of working with a reputation management company is that they will guide you through the “how” of improving your reputation, so if your goals are broad, that’s okay; an ORM firm can help you refine your goals and create the steps you need to take to get there.

2. Pay Attention to the Sales Process

You will be able to learn a lot about how a reputation management campaign with a particular company will go from the preliminary conversations. The goals of the reputation management company during a consultation should be to understand what the problem is, why it is important the problem is fixed, and how severely the negative results are affecting you or your company. Once these questions have been answered, a good reputation management company can begin thinking of solutions and help you understand whether or not the problem is impacting you enough to enlist their services in the first place. The goal of a consultation should be exactly that: to see if the services provided can and will help you, and not simply an attempt to make a sale

When speaking with a reputation management company, consider:

  • Do they listen to your specific concerns?
  • What are their capabilities or areas of expertise?
  • How do they speak about their offerings to you?
  • Do they have case studies or other examples of projects similar to yours?
  • Is the price within your budget?
  • If they provide you with a proposal, how detailed is it? What do the deliverables look like?

With something as important and personal as reputation, you do not want to be rushed in your decision-making. If a company does not work with you, or tries to rush you into signing a contract, that could be a red flag.

What is a fair ORM budget?

An online reputation management campaign can vary substantially depending on factors such as search volume, keyword difficulty, resources needed to achieve your goals, and whether or not you have received negative news coverage or are experiencing a reputation crisis.

As with anything, you should only pay what you are able to afford, but be wary of reputation management companies who claim they can get you results for extremely low budgets. Reputation management does take resources and, particularly in cases requiring reactive ORM, the potential financial loss due to a bad reputation can far outweigh the cost of hiring a reputation management firm.

Status Labs provides any prospective customer with a free consultation to determine if we are the right fit for you or your business, and we will work with you to find the right price and campaign structure for your specific concerns before moving forward.

3. Establish a Realistic Timeline

If we could, we would snap our fingers to make all of your reputation woes disappear. However, reputation management companies that claim they can give you a lightning-fast turnaround may not be reliable, instead trying to make a sale knowing that you want your results improved as quickly as possible.

An effective reputation management strategy takes time to provide you with lasting results. Generally speaking, a campaign runs between 6 and 12 months, but this can change depending on your budget and reputation concerns. While it may be a hard pill to swallow, companies that are transparent about the time it will take are the ones truly looking out for your best interests.

This goes for any unrealistic expectations. Companies that guarantee specific results or promise total removal of negative content should also be met with caution. Unless someone is violating Google’s very specific guidelines, it is unlikely that much can be done in the way of removal.

4. Look for a Balanced Strategy

Your reputation is multifaceted, influenced by customer and employee feedback, social media conversations, news coverage, and more. As such, an effective strategy must be balanced. A good ORM campaign will include elements of content creation, SEO, PR, and digital marketing.

Many reputation management companies may not have all of these offerings in-house, which in turn, will not be optimal for your campaign. These campaigns can evolve over time, and though you may not start off needing PR expertise, it may be helpful later in the campaign. If your firm is not capable of carrying out these keys elements of online reputation management, you may be better off looking elsewhere.

At Status Labs, we provide in-house content creation, SEO, review and social media management, social listening, and more. Additionally, we have corporate advisory and crisis communications and digital marketing under our company umbrella of Millbrook Companies to provide you with full-spectrum solutions.

5. Make Sure Your Strategy is Custom

There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to reputation management. Although the general strategies may come up on various projects, your own campaign should be tailored to your specific needs, company, and industry.

The type of content, amount of content, social media strategy, and publications your ORM firm reaches out to on your behalf should all be specific to you. A Twitter strategy for a restaurant will look very different from a strategy for a tech startup. A crisis response strategy will have a different timeline, urgency, and structure than a proactive strategy for a newly launched business.

If there are ever elements of your campaign that don’t make sense to you, don’t seem relevant to your business, or may not be the norm in your industry, do not be afraid to let your ORM firm know. Reputation management companies are experts in reputation management, not your industry, so any information and feedback you can provide will only set you all up for success.

6. Require Transparency

Another prominent red flag when it comes to reputation management companies is when they are not transparent with you about how they are achieving your results. Particularly if you are not an SEO expert, there may be aspects that go over your head, but the company should be willing to share any relevant information about your campaign with you.

If a company is not transparent, it may mean that they are implementing black hat tactics - tactics that are frowned upon by search engines. Implementing tactics like these can actually lead to penalties and have a lasting negative impact on your online reputation.

At Status Labs, we keep our clients up-to-date on their campaigns with monthly reporting and regular meetings to check in, talk through results, and update you on strategy wins and changes. Additionally, we are available via email or phone for any pressing or quick questions that may come up between scheduled meetings.

7. Discretion

If your reputation management company is too overt, it can negate the overall goals of your reputation management strategy. Flooding your website with backlinks, stuffing keywords unnaturally into content, publishing too much about your company, or publishing positive content in the wake of a reputation crisis can all have adverse effects.

For example, if you are experiencing a reputation crisis around a scandal or lawsuit, a press release about a recent sizeable donation may not land as well as you’d hoped, instead appearing as a hollow attempt to distract from the negative news coverage and further harming your credibility.

Similar to companies that promise quick timelines or guaranteed link removal, companies that do not consider organic results or the larger context around your negative news may do more harm than good to your reputation. A company that understands these things take time will also understand that they take patience and will not try to overwhelm your results to get a quick outcome.

8. Ask About In-House Experience

Another important – and often overlooked – aspect when looking for a reputation management company is who will actually be doing the work. Your reputation matters and the team behind it should know what they’re doing.

Find out who is working for you. At Status Labs, we do not outsource - instead, we have an operations team backed by years of collective experience. Strategies are developed through collaboration and using methods that have been proven successful in previous campaigns, and our strategies are always evolving with updates to SEO best practices.

It is crucial to choose a reputation management company that takes your reputation as seriously as you do. Those that try to cut corners by outsourcing work to non-experts may be cutting corners in other areas, and won’t have the expertise as readily available when you have pressing questions or developments in your campaigns.

9. Your Reputation Campaign Should Be Iterative and Collaborative

Although you hire a reputation management company to do the legwork for your campaign, it is still your reputation. Even past the consultation, our team at Status Labs prioritizes hearing your concerns and hesitation at any point in the process to make sure that parameters specific to your situation are adhered to and the desired goals are achieved.

A reputation management campaign should be tailored to your specific concerns. During the consultation and beyond, we will strive to make you aware of how you can best take advantage of the suite of services offered by Status Labs. If your goals change or evolve, a strong reputation management campaign should be able to make those adjustments.

10. Have an Appropriate Handoff Plan

Most reputation management campaigns do not last forever. While some clients may stick with us for years, many stay for the projected timeline of the campaign. Your online reputation management company will be handling the bulk of the work during the campaign, but you do not want to be so far removed during the campaign that you are left with no plan when it comes to an end.

Be sure to ask for any necessary logins for profiles created during your campaign and any content that may be usable in the future. Feel free to ask for any advice from your team on how to continue your reputation management after you have parted ways with your firm, be it your social media posting schedule, blog style, or review response plan.

If you do not feel ready to part ways with your firm, you don’t have to. Status Labs is here to support our clients to achieve their reputation goals, and a long-term partnership can ensure that you have a team of experts helping you put your best foot forward.

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