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Maintaining your reputation used to be a relatively simple task, even in the early days of the world wide web, because even when some of your customers had issues, there weren’t many popular places online or offline for them to voice their complaints. Today, social media gives customers the voice they’ve always deserved, and websites like TrustPilot and GlassDoor have sprouted up for the sole purpose of identifying poorly-performing companies. As a result, reputation damage is now the number one concern for business executives around the world, with 88 percent saying they are explicitly focusing on reputation risk as a key business challenge, according to Deloitte.

Perhaps even more worrying, from the same Deloitte study, 41 percent of the participants who had already experienced a reputation risk event claimed that loss of revenue was the biggest impact.

What Is Reputation Management?

Before we dive into maintaining (or perhaps even saving) a brand’s reputation online, let’s get clear on what reputation management is, and what it isn’t. Reputation management, also known as online reputation management or ORM, is the practice of shaping public perception of an organization by publishing information online in all the right places.

For a coffee house, those "places" may include Google Map reviews and Yelp.com. For enterprise companies, Glassdoor, the employee feedback and review site, is usually the primary frontier.

Where to Get Started

To get some insights into how brands should help mold their online reputation — without wandering beyond the boundaries of good conduct — CMSWire spoke to Sean Killian, Director of Marketing at Austin, Texas-based Enola Labs, as well as Justin Lavelle, Chief Communications Officer for BeenVerified.

1. Monitor Key Channels

You can’t ever hope to respond to a customer complaining about your product in a coffee shop. But you can monitor all public channels where they might voice their concerns. Popular channels where customers go to vent include:

  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Google Reviews
  • Tripadvisor
  • Yelp
  • Quora

Employees and clients on the other hand, may gravitate towards:

  • Glassdoor
  • RateMyEmployer
  • TheJobCrowd
  • Trustpilot

According to Killian, Enola Labs has a dedicated person monitoring their online reputation. “Setting up this basic monitoring infrastructure is step one in your process. The easiest way to start is by setting up several Google Alerts related to your company and any key individuals within the company - think C-level staff or PR related team members,” he says.

Using notifications will ensure you're getting regular insight into how your brand is being shared and and discussed. Users can set up notifications on sites like Google Reviews, Yelp, Glassdoor and Trustpilot.  "These notifications will send you emails anytime someone leaves you a review,” Killian said.

2. Engage With Customers

If your customers or clients are talking into an echo chamber whenever they reach out for guidance online regarding your product or service, then negative comments are inevitable. Whether it’s on Google Reviews, Quora or Twitter, your brand needs to be active in responding to questions and comments about your company, even when they aren’t directed towards the company itself. Monitoring all major feedback channels will help, but your brand also needs to serve up helpful advice and explanations when necessary in order to ward off a bad reputation.

Justin Lavelle offers his two cents on the topic of customer engagement as a form of online reputation management. “Engagement on social media is what it is all about, and i’s much more than keeping up appearances,” he says, “Brands have to play by the rules of [each platform] and understand that [social media] is not a [place for] control and manipulation. It’s a way for brands to dialogue with [customers] so that they can learn about their true feelings and ideals. It’s much more about relationship building than it is advertising,” Lavelle says. Brands shouldn’t aim to manipulate opinions by engaging with them. Instead, they should have meaningful conversations to alleviate problems and change opinions organically, he advises.

3. Actively Gather Testimonials

You can’t legally stop anybody from negatively reviewing your company on Google Reviews or Glassdoor. Your only hope is if you can prove that their review or testimonial was incorrect or malicious. You can also actively encourage, gather, publish and distribute all the good feedback from your happy customers, clients and employees. “[It’s a good practice] to include testimonials on search-engine-optimized interior pages within your website. Because with the proper formatting, this will allow your site to show colored ranking stars within Google’s search pages, which in turn improves [public opinion right off the bat], as well as click-through rates and search engine rankings,” says Lavelle.

What online reputation management strategies will you be using in 2018?