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In an ironic twist, the practice of reputation management has gotten a bad reputation lately. If you do a quick search for reputation management you’re bound to find a lot of “black hat” services that claim to be able to squelch bad reviews just like those firms you see on late-night TV commercials claiming to clean up a bad credit report. This view of reputation management, as some form of crisis control for bad reviews, is unfortunate. The truth is that your brand’s reputation should be one of your biggest assets. Once you understand your reputation you can manage and even market it.
Why Reputation Matters
In today’s connected world, the way people buy products, engage with brands and share their experiences has been profoundly changed. No modern PR professional can safely ignore the issue of reputation. Here’s why:
Number of Consumers Influenced by Online Reviews: 83%
This staggering bit of news from eMarketer should really give you pause. The vast majority of buyers are reading and reacting to product reviews, yet how many PR pros spend the vast majority of their time figuring out how to amplify the positive ones and respond to the negative?
Google Loves Reviews
Google is giving extra weight to review sites and pages optimized for brand reviews. Reviews make Google happy because they are authentic and are usually meaningful to the searcher.
Number of People Who Don’t Go Past the 1st Page of Search Results: 75%
In light of what we just said about Google, you can see why reputation management and brand monitoring should be a priority. All the earned media in the world won’t do you much good if it is pushed to page 2 by organic search results related to reviews.
How to Find Out Where You Stand
We just spent some time talking about the importance of brand reputation, but we suspect that you probably already bought into that idea. Most PR folks do. But an interesting thing we find is that even brands that are obsessive about gathering objective data on every other part of the business rarely make an effort to quantitatively measure the reputation of the brand. Why? It’s usually because PR professionals struggle to know what to measure and how to measure when it comes to the subject of reputation.
We have some suggestions on where to start.
Sentiment analysis, sometimes called “opinion mining” involves assigning an attitude or feeling to each brand mention. This gets one out of the “all press is good press” trap and lets the true public opinion about the brand emerge. Generally, the designations of positive, negative and neutral are used to describe the emotion behind each mention.
In the past PR professionals did this analysis manually, creating a great deal of work and a big opportunity for error. Today, PR analytics software uses sophisticated natural language processing, text analysis, and computational linguistics to accurately make an assessment of sentiment. The best media monitoring solutions can perform sentiment analysis across every channel, so that online reviews, social mentions and earned media are all considered. Now you have a specific number that can be tracked and managed.
Share of Voice
Share of Voice (SoV) is a relatively controversial PR measurement and we agree that it isn’t the best way to measure the effectiveness of PR, but it does have an important role to play in terms of understanding and monitoring your brand’s reputation. In the same way that your sales and finance teams probably measure market share to understand where they sit among the competitors, SoV gives you insight about how well you are doing when it comes to controlling the conversation. After all, the first thing you need to do to turn your reputation into an asset is to have a reputation. If your brand is being drowned out by your competitors, you know where to start.
We agree with expert marketer and PR pro, Jay Baer, when he said, “The best way to grow share of voice is to delight your customers. Delighted customers create satisfaction-driven content, which reaches other customers and prospective customers of your brand, essentially doing your marketing for you.” Baer added, “If you want to increase your share of voice, recognize people for taking the time to create content about your company, whether that content is satisfaction-driven or dissatisfaction-driven.”
Social media gives your audience the chance to move from passive satisfied customers to active participants in building your reputation. Keep in mind that social amplification can be a two-way sword. According an American Express survey, consumers are twice as likely to share their bad customer experiences as they are to talk about good ones. The survey also found that, of people who use social media for customer service, 45% use it to “vent frustration with a bad service experience.” Close monitoring of what’s happening on social media is a necessary part of understanding the reputation of your brand.
Of course, that’s no easy task. There are so many social channels available and things move very quickly on social media. Advanced social media monitoring software is essential for sorting through all the noise and recognizing reputation impacting engagement.
Marketing expert, Steve Olenski, recently spoke about the shift from reputation management, which many brands approach like crisis management, to reputation marketing. “Reputation, consisting of mentions, comments, recommendations and reviews across a buzzing, shape-shifting universe of online publishers and apps isn’t a problem center but a value center for brands and businesses,” he said. “Our online reputations are our key differentiator in the marketplace, whether we’re selling doodads in Dallas or applying for a job in Jersey.”
Brands that practice reputation marketing see their reputation as a competitive advantage, a strategic asset, and a potential driver of growth. They actively seek positive reviews and feedback from clients, they promote this type of social proof aggressively, and monitor the results on business metrics like website traffic, search engine ranking, lead generation, and revenue.
Tony Wright, CEO, WrightIMC, an integrated marketing communications firm, has a very interesting perspective on reputation-based marketing. "If I tell my friends about your brand,” he said. “It is not because I like your brand. It is because I like my friends."
Making the most out of the valuable asset that is your brand’s reputation starts with getting a baseline and implementing tools for ongoing monitoring and management. Once you have a data-based prospective, you can develop a strategy to put your reputation to work.