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3 Ways to Secure Your Brand's Online Reputation

PR + Social / 6.7.21 / By Nadine General

Remember what it was like in high school? There were so many cliques—the jocks, the nerds, the cool kids, the alternative kids. Reputation was a big deal. It was everything in a confusing time of your life when you’re either trying to just blend in or trying really hard to stand out. And it took only one day in school or one moment in time for your reputation to be crushed or catapulted. You had to navigate the social scene carefully, hope you didn’t do anything foolish to throw yourself off course, or worse, your siblings or parents didn’t do anything to humiliate you.

We look back now and think, “If I could tell my high school self then how to traverse that path or what really matters and that your reputation sticks with you,” maybe you’d have made different choices or different friends. Maybe you wouldn’t have changed a thing. Regardless of where you fall in this flashback, you can apply the same teachable moments to your brand today. And now you can add the digital element of scrutiny to that laundry list of factors to check. Social media and Google reviews are at the top of the list. Reputation management is a constant investment, and it’s important to check in often and adjust accordingly should you start to veer even just a bit off your desired course.

Just like high school, it’s important to pay attention to what’s being said about you (your brand) and it’s important to remember whose opinion matters. Word of mouth is the #1 most valuable marketing tactic. Consumers trust their friends. A lot. According to a Nielsen study, 92% of consumers believe suggestions from friends and family more than any form of advertising. It’s even more important today as the pandemic puts a spotlight on brands, exposing businesses and organizations and putting them to the ultimate test.

Consumers are hyper-sensitive to brands that are authentic, empathetic, purpose-driven and transparent. It’s not just about delivering a quality product or service anymore—those are table stakes. It’s about doing good in the communities you serve and showcasing the meaning behind your brand. Be mindful of the workforce who serves your brand and the consumers who keep you in business. Investing in the right elements of your brand and people—internally and externally—will ensure the health of your reputation and brand safety.

Is your brand hitting the mark? Do you know how to check the pulse on your reputation to know what’s being said about it? There are a variety of ways to do that. Here are a few quick checks to see how you’re faring or if you need to do your homework.

Look Within Your Organization First

Solicit feedback from your internal audiences. What do the people who serve and represent your company or organization think about your brand? Really ask to learn about the good, bad and indifferent. A pulse survey is a great tool to understand what your internal audiences are saying. Are they happy with the brand they’re a part of? They’re your #1 brand ambassadors. You better believe they’re a big part of your marketing engine and contributing to your reputation.

What are your customers saying?

Solicit feedback from your external audiences. Measuring your customer experience is a great way to understand your customers’ perceptions of your business and give you the benchmark to maintain what you’re doing well or go for some extra credit to improve your scores.

Observe Your Surroundings and Be Responsive

Do you know what’s being said about you online? You can liken this to the high school experience of what’s being said behind your back and to your face. There are the keyboard warriors who are a bit more vocal when they’re “hiding” behind an alias online or taking to social media. And there are consumers who will put it all out there—and hopefully those who have an issue with your brand experience will kindly accept an invitation to have a conversation and give you the opportunity to right a wrong or clarify a misunderstanding.

Regardless, in today’s highly digital society, consumers are turning to online platforms more than ever to connect with brands, ask questions, raise concerns and seek answers. When they do, consumers want answers fast. According to HubSpot, more than 80% expect companies to respond to their social media posts within 24 hours. To stay competitive, brands need to create a community that engages with their customers to create authentic relationships.

Through digital community management, it’s important to leverage your digital platforms as a method for consumer-brand interactions. The goal is to develop and maintain your digital community by humanizing your brand and providing an always-on feeling for customers. In addition, you’ll be able to uncover strategic insights that help you better understand your audience’s expectations and desires—and deliver for them.

Social media marketing and digital community management are two very related but distinct services. The purpose of social media marketing is to use social media to promote your business. With digital community management, you can cultivate, nurture and engage with your audience to become the voice and human element behind your brand. Consumers want to engage with brands that are setting new standards in meeting their expectations. According to a study by global digital agency Wunderman, 74% of US consumers believe brands can do so by providing a higher level of customer service.

Paying close attention to your social media and prioritizing digital community management allows you to do a deep dive on what your consumers are thinking, feeling and saying about your brand. This is gold for companies and organizations who pay close attention because it provides real-time, accurate insights and understanding of your target audience. Acting on this and mining the data also allows you to obtain feedback and ideas from your customers through real conversations, provide timely support, build authentic personal relationships, boost customer interactions and brand reputation, increase value to your customers beyond your product or service, differentiate your brand from your competition and ultimately gain customer insights to make smarter business decisions.

Some of the platforms include:

How does your brand fare on these platforms?

The bottom line in business: Learn by reflecting on your high school days to control your online and offline reputation today. Honesty is the best policy and transparency is key. Make good choices, be kind, be socially aware, and take the time and steps to right any wrongs.

Author
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Nadine General

Nadine’s award-winning public relations background in crisis communications, strategy, branding, nonprofits and reputation management helps her lead our PR team. She joined DS+CO from the American Red Cross, where she deployed to national disasters to support crisis communications. She’s certified in HubSpot inbound marketing and holds degrees from St. John Fisher College and Monroe Community College. She lends her talent as president of the Public Relations Society of America Rochester chapter, and is a Forty Under 40 recipient and a Rochester Business Journal Woman of Excellence.