Most of my clients come to me when they need their online reputation improved. And this is usually because of some negative articles or blog posts that show up on a search for the company.
I’m happy to help solve their problem, but it would be better if it never got to this point in the first place. Online reputation management shouldn’t always be about fixing things. Instead, it should be part of your whole PR strategy.
Case in point. I met with a client that was concerned about a negative article, which kept ranking at number 3 on a search even after four years. Needless to say, that was putting a dent in their online reputation. I told them the way to handle this was to get a lot more positive content out there and get that to rank higher, pushing the negative article off of page one of the search engine results.
Basic reputation management strategy, right? Well, unfortunately they didn’t have other content or positive reviews, because gathering this kind of content wasn’t part of their ongoing PR process. Here’s why it should be part of your PR strategy, and how it will significantly help in managing your online reputation.
Consider that the best thing you can have is a loyal base of satisfied customers who would willingly write and post positive reviews about your company. But you don’t get this without first building a relationship with them.
A simple way to start building a relationship — and gather content — is with a survey. After a customer has bought from you, ask them to answer a few questions about their experience with you, giving them an opportunity to offer feedback. As part of the survey, have them write a brief review of their experience and include a checkbox where they agree to let you use what they say in your marketing efforts.
Not everyone will fill in the survey, not everyone will write a review, and not everyone will let you use their written review for marketing purposes. It’s a numbers game — ask enough people and you’ll get some responses.
Now what? When you get a positive review from a customer, you can say “We love the review you gave us. If you’d be so kind as to post a similar review on such-and-such website, we’d really appreciate it — and you’ll be helping other people who are looking for what we offer.” Then direct them to one of the review websites that cover your industry and tend to rank high.
Again, not everyone will do this, but if even just a few people a month post positive reviews on other websites, that can make a big difference in your online reputation. But remember, customers will only go out of their way for you if you have good relationships with them.
Creating good customer relationships is an ongoing process, and something every company should think about from day one. Do what you can to build and maintain these relationships, because your customers can be your best allies in helping you improve your online reputation.