Reputection: Protecting Your Online Reputation

As appeared in the Presence Pointers column of the October 2007 issue of “Business Watch” magazine.

Last month we started a discussion on reputation management, specifically, one aspect called reputation monitoring. Reputation monitoring is really the task of keeping our eyes and ears open and setting up automated information delivery networks to help with monitoring what is being said about us online. Already it is probably coming to you, the question of what to do now that you’ve “monitored?”

Reputation protection, or “reputection” if you will, is the ever important other half of reputation management. How we handle the negative information we come across during our monitoring can however, have an even more damaging and negative impact than the original information.

When we come across negative mentions, whether they be on a blog or in a forum post, or even directly on another website, there are some definite dos and don’ts. The first and foremost rule is to stop and take some time before doing anything. What we don’t want to do is to immediately launch into a response, especially as our immediate response is probably not going to be well thought out and is more likely to be very reactive, defensive, and quite possibly attacking.

Let’s assume for a second that everything that is posted is completely untrue… launching in with a biting retort only makes us look like a big bully and may even cause more readers to question whether the comments on the blog are true than may have otherwise. Always remember, while we as individuals may be posting the response, it will be seen as the company responding, which carries an immediate view of the big guy versus the little guy.

Now you may be thinking, “I’ll just post a response as one of our customers instead.” Technically this is probably true as we may well be a customer of our company as well as employees, but posting as such will not be seen that way by others. This approach can get ugly fast when others comment, asking or even insinuating that we probably work for the company to begin with, at which point we may decide to tell a little white lie, and deny it—after all, it is just our word against theirs. This might work up until the point where the blogger shows that our comment posts have originated from an IP address that links back directly to the company that we claimed we didn’t work for.

As you can see, the slope on which our online reputations lie can get awfully steep and awfully slippery pretty darn quick. So what are we to do when it comes to protecting or reputations online? There is only one road, and it is the high road. We must employ a gentle approach that shows respect, even if the recipient—especially then—does not truly deserve it. In the end, while the online world and reputation management may have thrown us into new waters, this idea of reputation protection should be a familiar one. Many of the reputation protection issues come down to good old-fashioned customer service.

7 “reputection” reminders

Remember:

  • To take time before choosing an action or responding.
  • To decide whether the negative mention even deserves attention.
  • To consider whether any action should be public or private. However, the other party may decide to publicly post anything we say to them privately, so all interactions should still be handled as if they were public.
  • That responses need to remain open and positive, never attacking, possibly even avoiding a defensive position.
  • To never use deceptive practices. Anything we do or say can be linked back to us and our company, and probably will be done publicly.
  • That the situation may not be one that can be resolved; some people may have ulterior motives and may not be satisfied with anything we do or say.
  • That negative comments online may be an opportunity to acknowledge a customer’s bad experience, that we are willing to acknowledge our own mistake, and show how we go out of our way to take care of our customers.

** Special Online Bonus: Check out the handy Online Reputation Monitoring Beginners Guide put together by Andy Beal of Marketing Pilgrim. **

Got a Rep to Protect? – Reputation Monitoring

As appeared in the Presence Pointers column of the September 2007 issue of “Business Watch” magazine.

Would you be surprised to learn that you have a web presence already, even if you don’t have a website? Of course, you should have a website already anyway… perhaps this will give you another reason for doing so.

Reputation monitoring is an area of growing importance thanks to the ease of publishing on the web. Reputation monitoring isn’t just for businesses, but is equally important for non-profit organizations, clubs, groups, as well as individuals. Monitoring your reputation is all about knowing what’s being said, where it’s being said, and by whom.

The web has raised the bar all around—making it even easier for those who want to express their thoughts or opinions about you, both good and bad. The benefits and power of the web isn’t just for those expressing those opinions and over the next few paragraphs, you’ll at least get started down the path of reputation monitoring.

The scope of monitoring is nearly infinite and you’ll have to decide what meets your needs. As you can imagine, this has grown into an industry and you may decide that you need to outsource this task to a service provider like NameProtect, located right here in Madison (no affiliation or endorsement implied).

It might be good though to start monitoring on your own to at least get a better understanding before deciding to outsource. The first realization you need to make is that the little store on the corner needs to be aware of its online reputation just like the big corporate giants. The good news, though, is that the web can help you do this—even if you are just a little store on the corner.

Monitoring can range from automated searches or basic manual checks, to complex, detailed monitoring across hundreds or thousands of sites. Most businesses or individuals can cover a lot of monitoring-ground quite easily just by using the search engines. Create a list of key brand terms to monitor, such as company names (including variations), brands, product names, key personnel and names of those with extensive public contact, and your domain name (e.g., domain.com).

As you can see, we’ve really just scratched the surface. It is impossible to get into detail here as every business and industry is unique. But you should now have a better understanding and some ideas on how to get started. Of course, reputation management is a whole other topic.

Protect Your Rep Quick Tips

  • Perform periodic searches for key brand terms in GYM (Google, Yahoo, MSN), reviewing results at least 3 pages deep.
  • Setup daily alerts for key brand terms at google.com/alerts/ and alerts.yahoo.com.
  • Check opinion and review sites like epinions.com, complaints.com, and ripoffreport.com.
  • Monitor and participate in forums and message boards that relate to your industry or your location.
  • Monitor and participate in blogs that relate to your industry, but also keep an eye on the blogosphere as any blogger may decide to blog about you. Check the blogosphere for key brand terms at sites like technorati.com, icerocket.com, and bloglines.com.