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All too often, companies wait until they have a crisis on their hands before they start thinking about online reputation management. Once a crisis hits, damage has already been done to their corporate image and they’re more like the little Dutch boy—plugging the hole in the dam with his finger—than they are construction workers who reinforce the dam with concrete and rebar.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. Building a positive online reputation before a crisis hits can help you shore up the dam against future leaks and make it impervious to virtually any attack. And one of the best ways to do that is to focus on your core audience. If you focus on building an online reputation for your core audience, not only will you be building a positive online reputation, but you’re building a reputation that’s more likely to convert your best prospects into your best customers.
Aristotle and Reputation Management
Over 2000 years ago, Aristotle came up with a system that he used to teach his students how to be better orators in the public square. He said each speech is made up of three parts: the speaker, the audience, and the content of the speech itself. He taught that if you can understand your audience, you can better tailor the speech to their needs and they’ll be more likely to listen to what you have to say. Today the process is not much different, except our audience is online and our websites are our speeches. And our search engine results are our audience’s first impression of who we are. Thus, is we know who we are trying to target, we can better tailor our online reputation to their needs and desires.
Who is Your Audience?
Understanding your audience can be difficult, especially if your company is just starting out, but through some preliminary research your can find out the demographics of your audience: their average age, gender, interests, and more. As well, you can take a look at your own product and your value statements and come to an understanding of who your audience should be. For example, if you run a hotel rate comparison website and your audience is mainly over 50 years old. You’ll know that they aren’t impressed by articles about your company in Mashable, but they might be interested in you more if you’ve been mentioned on the AARP website.
Once you know some basic demographics and personality information about your audience, this is called a persona. In the example above, your person could be as simple as the list below:
- 55 years old
- Likes to travel
- On a budget and looking for the best deal
Tailoring Your SERP
If you know who Harold is, you’ll have a better understanding of the kind of things that will impress him in the SERPs. As mentioned above, he might be impressed by a mention of you on the AARP websites. He also may like to see positive online reviews about your site in the SERPs that contain words like “best deal” and “great value” in the titles. Additionally, he may be very interested in an downloadable PDF your company put out about how to find the best hotel deals on the internet. If all of these links and more are showing up in the SERPs, Harold is more likely to have a favorable attitude about your company.
You Can’t Please Everyone…
Keep in mind that every audience and customer base is different, and you can’t try and please them all. Because if you do, your reputation management campaign becomes scattered and fractured—not helpful to anyone. But if you can focus on your core customer, you can build a more effective online reputation every time.