Reputation Management: Before Negative Publicity Hits Your Brand Online

One of the first questions I ask every time I give training about reputation management is ‘have you tried searching for your name online?’ It doesn’t sound urgent but likely provoke curiosity.

Search results may show your social media profile, short blurb on a popular website or something you’d prefer ranked somewhere down below.

Managing your profile online has become more challenging not only because you don’t control how it can be displayed but also because anyone else can show praise or derision about you and your brand publicly.

Online reputation management is a subset of search engine optimization as this also pertains to the objective of prominently ranking of desired pages (plus pushing down undesirable ones).

While big companies have brand bias towards them, they are also target of more sinister attacks that stem from frustration about services, employee dissent, complaint about products, bad advertising messaging and many others.

Big companies have their fair share of PR blunders from Nestle to Netflix and locally about racist advertisement by Hong Leong Bank. But these are mostly risks that they paid dearly. But for organizations associated with something negative — like the upscale J Residence in Wan Chai on which a British banker was accused of murdering two women — can adversely affect their value.

Negative publicity can dent the value of a brand — often from unfounded reasons and anonymous authors — something that’s hard to remedy offline. And when negative publicity gains traction on the web — negative reviews of a restaurant, product recall or endorsement or association with anything less desirable — it’s difficult to control them.

You can’t simply ask search engines to get rid of such pages or get replies (let alone get favorable one like removing the page in question) from webmaster a certain website. The worst thing that can happen is when such negative publicity is baseless and your company is target of bad publicity campaign online by a disgruntled customer, an alienated business partner or a competing brand.

Before your name or your brand experience such negative publicity online, being prepared and properly handling your brand profile is the key to managing it well. As they say, prevention is better than cure.

Unlike the reactive reverse SEO process which tries to combat negative press that’s already online, reputation management for companies occurs beforehand. If done properly, this approach can help insulate a company from the negative impact of published consumer complaints rants and ex-employee rants.

1. Setup the most important social media profiles
With great leverage and popularity, big-name social media platforms can help brands in a big way. Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube are among the most important ones.

a. First, ensure that the profile name is consistent with the brand name. Do not use pseudonyms or alternate spelling versions, if possible. That is why even when you’re not using your profile, it’s very important to snap them before someone else does.

B. Second, on top of securing that profile name, be active in posting updates on that profile; it provides little or no value to rank a profile without or outdated content. It may require a lot of work and plenty of time, but treat this as an investment for your online reputation.

2. Create a universal bio that identifies you or your brand
A universal bio describes your brand, provides a clearer understanding of what it does — service, product or whatever significant. Profiles on sites like Facebook, Twitter or your blog author blurb allows placement of this text.

In addition to text description, it also helps to link your website or other social profile within that bio. For example, on my Twitter account, I include link to one website I manage and on my blog bio, it mirrors the description I wrote on my Twitter description.

Creating such linkage may help search engines make the connection and link together these profiles as associated properties.

3. Start an alternate blog
Elmer the SEO person doesn’t only have to stick with his profession. He can also be a prolific violinist, cook or NBA fanatic. So pick one and start this alternate blog and make a commitment to make this active — posting topics closely related to the adopted theme.

Companies may create offshoot sites that cater to certain niches. For example, a company may create a separate entity to focus on its social responsibility arm and another one for its human resource department.

Once decided, create the respective domains (elmercagapeviolinist.com, www.elmecagapehoops.net or ecofriendlycompanyname.com or joincompanyname.com) bearing in mind the significance of the brand whose reputation you’d like to build protect.

Hopefully by the time you are reading this you are not looking for solution on a bad press but stumbled upon out of curiosity on how reputation management can be done online. I’ll post a separate blog related to things to do when you find unfavorable search results for your important Google queries.