In the past businesses had to rely on traditional media campaigns, along with word of mouth for their reputation. Today, brand reputation is more prevalent than ever. With multiple online review platforms that are easily accessible for customers to share their experiences, prospective customers can read everything that’s being said (good and bad!) about a business. Knowing how to protect your brand reputation is an essential skill for businesses today.

What is Brand Reputation?

Brand Reputation is how others perceive and hear about a business from external sources, including customers and the market. It’s the general sentiment made up of feelings and experiences that the majority of people share about that business.

Why is Brand Reputation Important?

When prospective buyers look for something online, they often read reviews first, even before consulting a business’ website to see if the product or service is worth checking out. Or if they’ve taken a look at the website, the next place they’ll head is the reviews to see if customers agree with what the website promises. Either way, one of the first few things they’re looking to find is what other people have said about that business.

How to Protect Your Brand Reputation

When it comes to protecting your brand reputation, it’s easier to take a proactive approach instead of a reactive approach. If your brand reputation is already solid when you receive a negative review, it’s much easier to deal with a small blip rather than having to hop on the defence and try to build your reputation up from the ground.

Depending on your current online reputation situation, there are a couple of different routes you may have to take.

Protect Your Brand Reputation Proactively

  1. Promote your positive reputation

Make sure potential customers are seeing the real you and the best you. Businesses who work hard to provide great experiences for customers get rewarded with great reviews… and now’s the time to shout it from the rooftop. Any feedback that aligns with your brand identity is absolutely worth sharing! There are widgets that allow businesses to embed their Google reviews directly onto their website to share positive experiences with online visitors. For social media platforms without review functionalities like Instagram and Twitter, feel free to screenshot positive feedback from Facebook and Google reviews to spread the love even more. Charity and community involvement are also awesome to share and further enhance a positive brand reputation.

  1. Encourage customers to leave feedback

Deal with clients online? Attach a link to leave a review on Google or Facebook in your email signature. Meeting clients in person? A small sign at checkout or a message at the bottom of a receipt is a great prompt to leave a review. Many businesses sweeten the incentive for customers to leave a positive review online with weekly or monthly draws for prizes or a gift card.

  1. Respond to reviews

Many businesses think they only need to respond to negative reviews, but it’s important to amplify positive feedback as well. Thank the customer for their review and reiterate some of the positive elements that they mentioned in their review.

  1. Monitor reviews

It can be tricky to stay on top of reviews with everything else going on in a business, but services like Reputation Management can help you stay on track. Instead of logging in to multiple accounts, tools like Reputation Management let you respond to all reviews from one software platform.

  1. Answer questions online

Google’s new Q&A feature allows businesses to engage with potential customers and provide customer service. Tools like Reputation Management also allow you to track questions asked of your business so you can ensure accurate information is going out to your customers and not being answered by unqualified people.

  1. Have a point person (or two)

Someone should be checking for feedback and Google questions daily. The longer these go unanswered, the more likely something could go awry.

Protect Your Brand Reputation Reactively

Sometimes businesses are faced with a crisis after a bad online review. While there is certainly a sense of urgency to get any reputation management emergency sorted immediately, it is also important to sit down and develop a game plan.

  1. Take a moment to reflect

    While negative feedback can be hurtful, it is important to examine reviews thoroughly and look for areas that can be improved. Listen to all feedback with open ears and reflect on what could’ve done better.

  2. Make sure the bark really does match the bite

    If a website promises great customer service, but the reviews don’t line up, it’s likely time for a refresher on what great customer service really means. When hiring, it’s important to look for employees who will uphold a company’s values and deliver what the company is promising. In the same vein, if your website boasts that your business is a great place to work, and you have scorned former employees leaving bad reviews online, it’s not a great look. Plus, happy employees lead to happy customers. Reevaluate and realign your goals and execution if things are not lining up.

  3. Take it offline

The initial response to a bad review should invite the customer to contact you via phone or email to further discuss. Ideally, you don’t want a paper trail dragging out all the dirty details of how your business failed online. However, you shouldn’t skirt the blame either. Acknowledge the  bad experience, apologize, and take the conversation to another platform.

  1. Don’t get defensive

    Yes, you are trying to protect your business from being attacked online, but you are also trying to preserve a damaged relationship with a customer. Don’t forget you are responding as a business and not as a person. Defensiveness often doesn’t work out well for businesses in a “customer is always right” world. Regardless of whether you or your employees are in the wrong or not, acknowledge the customer’s complaints and do your best to make it right.

  2. Don’t get in over your head

    In extreme cases, it’s best to let the legal professionals handle it. If a review goes beyond a run-of-the-mill bad experience, and into libel or slander territory, get legal counsel involved before taking any next steps.

  3. Build the online reputation you want

    The more positive reviews you collect, the more the negative reviews fade into the background. The quicker you get more positive content about your brand out there, the better, and any negative reviews will be a thing of the past.