How to fix a bad online reputation?

No business wants to have a bad reputation, online or off, but whether through miscommunication, misadventure or misunderstanding, it can, unfortunately, happen to any business, at any time. What matters the most for any brand experiencing negativity amongst consumers, press or other interested parties, is how it’s dealt with and what’s learnt from it – and this can be navigated best when the controversy and sentiment is properly understood. The practice of Online Reputation Management (ORM) manages this. Feefo can help brands through this journey, in a number of different ways.

What constitutes a bad online reputation?

As with anything reputation based, the importance placed on negative online feedback depends on the views of the business. What constitutes one business’ PR disaster may be not considered a priority by another, but that’s not to say that every company’s reputation shouldn’t be managed and curated to some extent.

A poor online reputation can be from one of or a combination of factors. It may include frequent bad customer reviews, social mentions with a negative spin, false reviews or deliberate reputational attacks. Whilst businesses are unable to assert control (to some extent) over what consumers say, think or act upon, they should be prepared to monitor and react accordingly.

What exactly is ORM (Online Reputation Management)?

Online Reputation Management is the practice of monitoring and neutralising negative sentiment to ensure that a brand is thought of positively. Originally known as just Reputation Management, as a PR practice, it has historically garnered some controversy for the concealment of negative business activity. However, it's now considered more of a customer service tool; allowing brands to intervene and aid consumers rather than cover up their criticisms.

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How do businesses work to fix a bad online reputation?

There's no magic bullet to erase all the mentions that are less than desirable in their description of a business, its products, services or experiences. But, bad ‘buzz’ can be worked on in order to recover from these situations, and rescue efforts can be made to enhance a positive reputation.

The critical piece of the arsenal in the battle against a bad online reputation is gathering tangible data and using this to extract customer insight and intelligence. This can be used to improve and develop the business in a way that enhances its offerings - and therefore its perceived value - to customers. To fix a bad online reputation, there are several focus areas on which a business can work:

Bad social mentions

If mentions of a brand across social media networks are negative, action needs to be taken quickly – because consumers expect rapid communication on such channels. There are automated tools online that facilitate the monitoring of posts mentioning a certain word or phrase. This allows businesses to monitor the situation and, where required, for them to can step in to remedy a poor situation. Such platforms include Sprout Social, Falcon.io, Hootsuite, Buffer, TweetReach, BuzzSumo and Keyhole. For a basic and free 'brand mention' tool, try Google Alerts.

It's also important to remember that social media ‘buzz’ can be complemented by a business’ active social media presence. A weak social media presence with few updates or old updates can make brands seem untrustworthy. However, you can use your customer reviews to create social content if you're stuck for ideas.

Bad customer reviews

Although it may feel like it, bad reviews are not the end of the world for brands. When utilised as a challenger for progress, reviews with negative content can highlight areas for improvement and change to become more effective and more efficient.

Feefo offers all of the functionality to support this across both text and video reviews. The data collected from such content is mapped out in a variety of graphs and reports to present deep customer insights and overall sentiment analysis. The proprietary AI Feefo includes automatically moderates reviews for offensive or coarse language, so these can be filtered out and dealt with separately.

However, while this feedback is important for business development, such reviews need to be identified, raised and rectified in a timely manner with a professional and constructive response.

Fake reviews

Customer reviews are a trusted medium from which to build brand loyalty, but false reviews can result in serious mistrust. Such falsified content undermines the authenticity of a brand - whether they are positive or negative - and can be of huge detriment to the public’s perception of a business. It can be difficult for businesses to identify what is genuine and what isn’t, but fake reviews and misinformation distribution should be challenged. Feefo’s authenticity checks give a visible stamp of verification on customers who can prove they have made a purchase for added peace of mind. Tools like this can result in hefty savings of both time and effort later on, as applications for information removal may need to be made to service providers and search engines when falsified.

Bad publicity (online and offline)

Bad publicity can happen to any business, although increasingly it stems from bad review content that has gone viral online. In order to overcome negative messaging superseding curated brand marketing communications, it’s important that businesses are active on all major social media channels used by their customers. For this reason, Feefo always recommends maintaining an active social presence in order to not just push out desired messaging, but also to interact and engage with consumers. This should include, at minimum, the establishment of brand pages with sufficient contact detail and company information. But signalling across social media networks but also may include groups, interactive sessions and BTS (behind-the-scenes) content.

Whilst it can seem as though fixing bad online reputation from negative publicity should just be a job for the PR department, it actually affects the wider business. However, active PR campaigns that fit a wider marketing and communications strategy do present a fantastic opportunity to showcase the brand and to pre-empt any negative perceptions (from the press or public).

What Feefo recommends to fix a bad online reputation

Feefo has been working with businesses for over a decade and recommends several strategies for businesses to adopt in order to not just fix a bad online reputation but also to avoid it happening or escalating.

Start collecting customer reviews

Whether or not there’s an ‘official’ space to do so online, customers will be giving reviews of a brand’s products, services and/or experiences. So, to curate reviews and feedback in a moderated manner should always be a business’ preference. Feefo operates as a closed review platform to only allow genuine customers to leave public reviews for complete authenticity and trustworthiness.

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Use customer insights to make improvements

Once the reviews are in, the value within the content needs to be extracted. Feefo offers a myriad of customer insight and data analysis tools from which brands can learn about real customer behaviour, sentiment, appetites and expectations both qualitatively and quantitively. This data can be used to guide, shape and focus business development practices as well as to identify customer trends, resolve any issues before they escalate and implement any ‘quick fixes’ as required.

Keep active on social media

Even when businesses aren’t on social media, their customers are. An active social media presence on the appropriate channels for a company’s target audience permits the publication of corporate and marketing messaging, PR campaigns, tailored adverts and customer interaction and engagement. It can be used to both attract new customers and retain existing ones, as well as to lend credibility to a brand and establish it as an industry leader in its field.

Track online mentions

If something’s being said about a business online, the business needs to be aware of it. Tracking mentions of a brand name, product name or service name should be considered an imperative piece of any business’ ORM toolkit and can be done with as hands-on an approach as desired. Many of the previously mentioned online tools offer a free service scalable to bigger firms with additional insight, reply and sentiment functionality built in. Tracking mentions of a business online may seem a little too much to those not well-versed in PR or marketing management, but it's now a mainstream practice and acts as a brilliant method of identifying and resolving issues before they escalate.

Develop killer PR campaigns

Whilst most of the tips and tools used to manage online reputation focus on content, it's important to be proactive rather than reactive in your approach to publicity.

Creating PR campaigns and marketing messaging are two keys to building a positive perceived value and reputation around a brand and should remain a critical focus for businesses. Online messaging is no longer about just your website - social media presence, customer experience and online reviews help others to create informed decisions about a brand. Killer PR campaigns help to curate a positive image, and therefore a positive public perception.

At some point, all businesses experience negativity online. But, the key is the management of which is supported by a robust ORM strategy. With Feefo, businesses are placed in the best possible position to do so should such a situation arise.

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