Matt co-founded TrendKite in 2012 and oversees all aspects of the organization’s product strategy and development.
I have a bit of a split personality when it comes to online reviews. As a PR professional, I know that people are far more likely to write reviews or post negative comments online when they are unhappy and that the balance of reviews can have little relationship to the number of happy vs. unhappy customers of a brand. Studies have born this out and I’ve seen for myself companies with thousands of quietly happy customers and a few loud detractors.
I’m guilty too. I try to Tweet something positive about another company for every time I complain about Comcast on Twitter, but it doesn’t always happen. So, knowing this, why then, do I use reviews to help me make decisions about which products and services to buy myself? Probably because, I’m normal. According to Nielson, 70% of global consumers trust consumer opinions posted online.
How to Polish a Tarnished Reputation
It isn’t realistic to expect that there will never be negative mentions of any brand. The question is what do you do about it and how can you recover. Brand protection takes many forms, but here are some of the critical steps.
- Engage in Brand Reputation Monitoring - Because negative mentions can come from almost anywhere, anytime, active brand reputation monitoring is an essential brand protection tool.
- Engage Detractors Offline – If you find negative mentions, think twice about publically posting a reply or rebuttal. Content with recent activity tends to rank higher in the search engines and your reply may make the negative mention rank higher. It is also very difficult to make public replies in a way that doesn’t sound defensive or belittle the customer. If possible, it is a much better idea to reach the client privately and attempt to turn the situation around. If you are successful, it makes sense to ask the client to remove, or revise the review.
- Control the Message – It is essential that someone in the marketing or PR function be responsible for all public responses to reviews or complaints. Many companies put this responsibility in the hands of customer support because they are responsible for resolving customer issues, but this can be a mistake as the response needs to be written as much for the complaining customer as it is for prospects and others who will see it. PR and support should work hand in hand in resolving the situation and making a considered decision regarding a public response.
- Encourage Positive Reviews – Your brand probably has many customers who are very satisfied. Find a way to make them advocates for your brand. The best way to move a negative review off the first page of Google results is to replace it with a positive one. Depending on the industry, you might consider creating your own website with positive reviews and optimizing it for the term “your brand + reviews.” If your industry is one that is popularly searched on sites like “Yelp!” and “Angie’s List,” encourage your advocate to post reviews there. Even if these efforts don’t work to “suppress” the negative reviews, overwhelming them with positive comments is the right approach.
- Provide Great Outstanding Goods and Services – Of course, the first step to having a great reputation is making customers happy. Yes, there are some who will complain no matter what you do, but they tend to serve as canaries in the coal mine. If your brand reputation monitoring shows that things are getting worse, examine what may be happening in the business that is disappointing customers and work with the rest of the organization to fix it.
As a PR professional, you are the proctor of your brand's name so it is important that you engage the right brand reputation monitoring tactics and develop a comprehensive approach to responding to detractors and amplifying the voice of your advocates.