Gini Dietrich

Build—and Maintain—Your Online Reputation with These 14 Principles

By: Gini Dietrich | September 2, 2014 | 
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Online ReputationBy Gini Dietrich

I’ve been thinking a lot about an online reputation.

As you well know, human beings love three stories: The overnight success, the great downfall, and the great rebuild.

Because of that, how to build your online reputation, how you maintain it, what you do when critics look for any reason to hurt your reputation, and what to do in a crisis are top-of-mind for us internally right now.

Not only because August was crisis communications month, but also because a big part of what we do for clients is help them maintain (or build) the level of satisfaction customers have with them.

Build an Online Reputation

A couple of years ago, I gave a presentation called the Principles of Building an Online Reputation.

I revisited those slides (which you can see at the end of this blog post) and also combined what I wrote in Spin Sucks to give you a complete guide to build your online reputation.

  1. Create a strong online monitoring program. It’s not difficult to set up Talkwalker Alerts for your name, the company name, and your executive or client names. Do that. And monitor what people have to say about you, the company, or the people you work with.
  2. Conduct an online audit. If you already have an online monitoring program, you already know what’s there, but it doesn’t hurt to do a Google search, see what is being said, and where it lands in search results (second listing, first page). Do this both logged into your Google account and logged out (or you can open an incognito tab in your browser without having to actually log out by going to file > new incognito window). Search the review sites. Search the Better Business Bureau and Ripoff Report. Search employee sites such as Glassdoor. Use terms such as “I hate COMPANY NAME” or “COMPANY NAME sucks.”
  3. Create a strategy. Based on what you learn from the audit and what internal and external implementation resources are in place, put together the company’s online strategy … and make sure it’s tied to your goals.
  4. Create a clean-up list. With the audit complete and your online strategy in place, now comes the clean-up. In some cases, there will be multiple accounts for your organization. There might be profiles you don’t need on social networks that are either defunct or they don’t help your strategy. There might be negative reviews or blog posts on the first page of search results you’d like to address and not have come up before your own sites and the positive reviews. Maybe there are “I hate Company X” groups on Facebook or untrue reviews on Yelp or TripAdvisor. Perhaps former employees have said really terrible things about you on Glassdoor or they’ve set up social networks for the company and you don’t have the login information. Whatever it happens to be, the list begins with these types of things. Write down everything you need cleaned up so the person or team responsible understands what it is you want done.
  5. Assign someone (or a team) to do the work. They will need usernames and passwords, branding guidelines, sign-off on copy/images, and the power to make changes without a laborious approval process. It’s not critical this person be in marketing or PR, as long as it’s someone who understands what you’re trying to accomplish and can get you the information and answers you need in a timely manner. 
  6. Begin the clean-up. Some of this is a big pain in the rear because you’ll need to work with the customer service departments at the social networks to either reset login data, delete a profile, or take down an untrue review. This could take weeks.
  7. Build your online presence through social media. There was a time when I wouldn’t have recommended social media to every organization. Now, though, it’s the best way to connect with your customers and prospects in a very efficient way. Not to say that’s it free or cheap, but that you have the ability to build relationships with many people at once versus one-on-one of the old days. Even for business-to-business or niche organizations, there is now a social network that is applicable to you.

  8. Create engaging and valuable content. We’ve been talking a lot internally about content exhaustion—how much is out there, how difficult it is to sort through it all, and how to continue to create content that isn’t sales-y or boring or highly technical. It has to be informational, educational, and engaging.
  9. Comment on other content. We’ve talked about this here before, in terms of creating your own media relations program…or a response campaign, as we call it.
  10. Build community. Mitch Joel famously (at least to me) once said you don’t have a community until people begin talking to one another without the help of the blog’s author. This principle goes into detail about how to make that happen so you can watch it all unfold.
  11. Stroke egos. And not in a fake way that makes you seem like you’re doing it just to get something, but in a real and genuine way. Think about it this way: Have you ever made a witty or funny comment on someone’s Facebook status update only to have that person go right past it and engage with everyone but you? It doesn’t feel good. People just want to be heard.
  12. Have a crisis plan ready. It doesn’t have to be formal, but you should follow the five P’s of crisis planning: Predict, position, prevent, plan, and persevere.
  13. Write a book ahead of its time. Mitch Joel and I have gone round and round about some of these principles, particularly about blog commenting and stroking other’s egos. In fact, he wrote about the other side of comments, completely disagreeing with me. So I joke with him that not everyone is smart enough to write a book ahead of its time (cough, Six Pixels of Separation, cough) so most of us have to do the really hard work of building a reputation without it.
  14. Implement the strategy. Once you’ve cleaned up the organization’s online presence and figured out how you’re going to use content to build a strong reputation, it’s time to put your strategy into action. This is the scary part. You’re about to become transparent, which is really scary for most business leaders. This can be pretty painful when you have an organization you care deeply about, but it’s necessary in not only having a great online reputation, but in meeting your goals.

Online Reputation is Only as Good as it’s Search Results

Remember what Warren Buffett so famously said:

If you lose money for the firm, I will be understanding. If you lose reputation, I will be ruthless.

An organization’s reputation, today, is only as good as its search results. If your operations are solid, you have a responsive customer service team, and you run things ethically, the rest will sort itself out.

I hope everyone had a relaxing and fulfilling holiday weekend (for those of you in North America)!

About Gini Dietrich


Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She is the author of Spin Sucks, co-author of Marketing in the Round, and co-host of Inside PR. She also is the lead blogger at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro.

  • I love #12 for the alliteration alone! (And the fact that it’s good strategy is pertinent too.) // Initiated a Talkwalker alert after reading this for my name and BigGreenPen and found a blog post that linked to me five days ago (it was a positive thing…) so thanks for a useful nudge!!!

  • I love this one, and I think it’s overlooked too often: “Stroke egos. And not in a fake way …” Totally the Dale Carnegie approach to success.

  • “As you well know, human beings love three stories: The overnight success, the great downfall, and the great rebuild.”

    The plot line of every episode of VH1’s Behind the Music.

    Good stuff and timely. This is becoming more and more important. Potential employers, clients, spouses are all searching online. I remember my wife telling me when we first met about 5 1/2 years ago, she searched me out online to make sure I was who I said I was.

  • ClayMorgan “Google Background Checks” are an increasingly common practice in ALL relationships: Professional, personal, dating, etc.

    Which obviously is both good and bad.

  • Eleanor Pierce How to win friends and influence others…

  • biggreenpen And alliteration rocks!

  • ClayMorgan Does VH1 still exist!?!

  • ginidietrich ClayMorgan It does in deed. The girls and I recently watched the Weird Al Behind the Music on there.

  • LauraPetrolino As you clearly have discovered on first dates.

  • I think often the biggest mistake both people and organizations tend to make is thinking that if you do everything “right” and with integrity, you don’t need to worry about your reputation. This causes people to feel like they don’t need to work on this all important part of a communications program. 

    And while painful to accept, this is just not case. Your reputation can easily be soiled out of no negative or poorly intended action on your part. Words get twisted around, imaginations run wild, the digital world can be brutal. Monitoring is essential.

  • ginidietrich LauraPetrolino hahaha….EXACTLY!

  • LauraPetrolino And perception can be built out of nothing that is true at all.

  • amazed no Legos needed!

  • This is only thing my corporate practice does, reputation management. We typically have one or two big firms with difficult problems in the regulated part of the financial space (it’s harder for them to solve problems with content marketing because a lot of what they create has to go through a review process, sometimes by an outside organization). 
    I include that to say that the one thing most online reputation plans are missing on the SEO side is an attention to how the presence and content in steps 7 and 8 is supported by other entities online. Old inaccurate information often sticks to the front page because people believe they can just create content and let it sit out there with no supporting signals to it. Then all that works gets wasted. 

    This is a great list, but that one point needs to be emphasized, for people who have no choice but to do this themselves- promote your content and your profiles on an ongoing basis.
    I really think it also needs to be emphasized that cleaning it up in search isn’t enough. I refuse to do this work without a PR firm involved. The underlying crises that come up MUST be addressed. You can bury searches with money but you can never bury public opinion of you. Searchers are smart and they will find it. You Still have to address any valid concerns that are causing links you don’t like to rise.

  • ginidietrich I found a copy of that book in my parents garage when I was like 13 and I remember being fascinated by the ideas. Because of course the social skills of kids that age are terrible (at least in my case they were), so the idea of, like, paying attention to what OTHER people want and feel was just mind-blowing.

  • Tinu I totally love “You can buy searches with money but you can never bury public opinion of you.”!

  • ginidietrich LauraPetrolino Oh yeah. Perception, and wild imaginations. They can kill you quicker than a bad misstep ever will.

  • Use the Google. Why more people don’t blows me away.

  • As an additive to number 2, I think it always helps to search “Company Name + Scam” as well. It works every time! 
    Plus, a listing by the Better Business Bureau (BBB) means absolutely NOTHING. As so, I’ve learned. That’s my tid-bit rant for the day.

  • EricTTung

    SpinSucks added you to my page. Thank you! http://rbl.ms/1nUvNf5

  • JRHalloran That made me want to look up “arment dietrich” + scam. Nothing is there. YAY!

  • Howie Goldfarb What’s The Google?

  • Tinu ” I refuse to do this work without a PR firm involved.” I love you.

  • dmbrienzo

    MarkSBabbitt ginidietrich You, sir, are top of the line.

  • DionneLew

    fredericffery SpinSucks Timothy_Hughes Thanks Frederic for sharing this great piece

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