What would you like your reputation to be? Without a goal in mind, there is no point engaging in online reputation management, unless you know what you are managing. You can’t be vague about this either, saying you want “a good reputation”. You have to define it! You also need to know why you don’t have what you want yet, and come up with a strategy to fight that. Also come up with a plan with immediate and long term goals and actions, so you know exactly where you are going.
Why You Need a Reputation Audit
Your starting point should be to conduct a reputation audit. This will tell you where you are now, and also means that you can measure whether any of your actions have had any benefit at all. There are a few things that you need to measure as part of your initial audit, and again whenever you check how far you’ve come. Those things include:
- How your brand rates on review sites.
- How many positive things show up on Google when you research your own brand.
- How many Facebook likes you have.
- How many complaints you get every month on average.
- What your Klout score is.
All of these things can be measured, and you can see where you have to focus your energy on, as well as being able to measure whether you are making a difference.
Now that you know where the problems are, and what your goals are, you have to do damage control. A key thing in that is understanding whether or not you can remove a negative review. Unfortunately, the answer to that is “it depends”. If the review in question is on a site you control, like your website, blog, or social media, then yes, you can remove it. The question then becomes whether you should or not. Generally speaking, it is not recommended to do this, because it will further inflame whoever left the negative review. Instead, you should try to address it in a polite and professional manner. If the negative complaint is genuine, you can help resolve the problem, which others will appreciate. If the comment is clearly defamatory, remaining polite and professional, but to the point, shows that you take things seriously, but that you will not stand for unwarranted abuse either.
Unfortunately, it is not always possible to have that control over reviews either. A lot of people will take to different channels to talk about you. This includes specific review sites like Yelp or TripAdvisor, but also to forums designed specifically to discuss issues in your niche, for instance. An essential element to reputation management is to be aware of these postings, which you can do by setting up a Google Alert to your own name. In terms of damage control, the same goes as above: remain professional and respond as much as you can, so that you give others the opportunity to make up their own mind about you.