Believe the hype: 5 tips for protecting your company’s online reputation
American business magnate Warren Buffet once said, “It takes 20 years to build a reputation, and about five minutes to ruin it.” And now that a corporation’s identity has expanded to include the online stream of gossip from social media as well as outspoken social commerce sites, it’s no wonder that protecting a company’s reputation online is big business.
“The relationship between reputation and a corporation’s stock value is clear,” explains Bonnie Akerson, a marketing, public relations and business communications instructor for the University of Phoenix School of Business, “so monitoring reputation will increasingly be top priority for any organization that seeks to remain profitable.”
There are firms businesses can hire to protect their reputation, but there is also plenty individuals can do.
1. Be proactive.
According to Akerson, it's much easier to create a positive reputation from scratch than to repair a negative one. She encourages creating a company blog, using social media such as Facebook® and Twitter® and linking to local listings on Yahoo!® to build a positive online reputation.
“Understand that some negative feedback on social media sites is fairly common, but you can balance it by encouraging satisfied customers to write reviews,” says Akerson, who runs public relations and marketing campaigns at PenPusher Consulting in Marblehead, Mass.
2. Stay on top of information.
“Find out whenever something new is posted about your company by signing up for Google® Alerts,” advises Akerson. Sign up for Google Alerts, and you’ll receive email updates of the latest Google results regarding key words you select so that you can monitor activity on the Internet pertaining to your company. “The greatest reputation damage comes from negative media coverage (84 percent), which is followed by customer complaints (71 percent) and negative word-of-mouth (53 percent), and to a lesser degree negative search engine results (35 percent) and disapproval on blogs and discussion forums (23 percent),” she explains.
3. Work to get old information taken down.
Out of sight is never out of mind online, says Akerson. “People should work to get old data removed by contacting the webmaster of the site in question, and working with them to get the content updated,” she says. “Or contact the appropriate legal authority, if all else fails, to get the content deleted.”
4. Let the cream rise to the top.
Finally, Akerson advises companies to use SEO (search engine optimization) tools to make sure the positive information about their organization will display most prominently. “The first page of search results is where most people cease searching,” says Akerson, “so the more positive information you can list there, the less likely any negative information will be found.”
5. Understand the risks of not being vigilant
Whether you do it in house or elsewhere, says Akerson, “for most companies the cost of repairing reputation is clearly worth the time and effort. Just be mindful that the goal should be to protect and enhance the reputation for the long term.”
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