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Reputation management — where seldom is heard a disparaging word

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Whether you are a business or individual, managing your brand’s reputation is key to your long-term success and should be a priority. But as wise Ben Franklin aptly noted, “It takes many good deeds to build a good reputation and only one bad one to lose it.”

This quote is even more informed in the era of the internet and social media.

Public relations strategists have long believed that managing a reputation includes positioning you or your organization as client-focused thought leaders and influencers. Traditional media outlets plus activities such as blogs, speaking engagements and publications can assist you in  building good brand perception.

Websites are no longer just electronic brochures. The relatively established process of search engine optimization uses key words and content to drive more traffic to your organization’s website.  Generating quality content for white papers, your website and other forums can place you in the top 20 of a category for extremely valuable search engine rankings. Diverse social media tools are also significant aids to increasing favorable awareness.

So, if you are already doing all of the right things to grow your business, another challenge these days is to keep track of the positive and negative comments that can appear in multiple web sources, 24/7. Negative reviews about you or your services/products can do serious damage to your efforts to find and keep customers.

For example, I was working with a client who didn’t pay much attention to its website and I noticed a very negative comment from one of its customers placed with the Google directions to the offices. The firm hadn’t seen it.

The quick response was to request that a few happier clients write and post their own reviews, quickly lowering the negative one from sight. The other major step was to contact the disgruntled client to resolve the issue or at least to personally apologize.

Tracking and legal support

If you sell products on third-party sites, it is exponentially more complicated to track reviews and comments. Larger businesses now hire reputation management firms for a monthly fee. These firms, and there are hundreds now, do online monitoring, social media monitoring, brand preservation, and even digital crisis management.

Companies such as Webimax.com and Gadook.com help you bury negative content and promote the positive. Sadly, review management is a growing need. Customers expect responses to their concerns, and research firm BrightLocal finds that 85% of online consumers trust those online reviews.

Smaller businesses or individuals can hire an intern or should assign an assistant to check online content frequently. Sources such as Google Alerts can be set for daily reviews that are helpful to see how your brand is faring.

You may need to seek legal support for some of the issues uncovered. Social media posts can be abusive, hatemongering or in violation of a copyright or trademark. As technology and intellectual property lawyer Ned T. Himmelrich of Gordon Feinblatt notes in the recent “IP Tech Knowledgy” blog he posted on gfrlaw.com, “What provides the most angst for a business that feels aggrieved by an online statement or review is that opinions are not actionable and are protected by the 1st Amendment.”

He further adds that even anonymous comments are protected, “as long as they are not defamatory.” False statements and false facts, however, may have some legal counter strategies.

Your favorable online reputation will be increasingly important in 2020 and beyond. Marketing support is often the best means to address online negative or disparaging comments that affect your vital reputation.

Glenda LeGendre is principal of Marketing & Strategic Communications and can be reached at glegendre@comcast.net.