Featured Internet Marketing

11 steps to handle your next reputation management crisis NOW

just in case you ride the elevator

Reputation management is like farting in an elevator: The more time you spend on an elevator, the more likely you are to make your neighbors’ eyes water. And the more time your brand is online, the more likely it is that you’ll find yourself in a reputation management pickle.

Yes, I know enough statistics to know that riding an elevator twice does not double the odds that you’ll break wind. The odds do go up, though. Bear with me.

Lucky for you, you can prepare for your next reputation crisis ahead of time. Here’s how:

Stake out your territory

If a nasty review gets enough coverage, they’ll show up in the rankings for your brand name. Here’s a search for my beloved Kit Kat. Greenpeace rudely interrupts my love affair:

Nestle Ranking

Best way to avoid that? Own page 1 for your brand.

  1. Set up a subdomain. Since search engines consider subdomains separate web sites, you can actually get pages from a subdomain ranking in a branded search results alongside your main site. Take a chunk of content that isn’t central to your site and put it at archive.yoursite.com. Or set up a page that shows all reviews from around the web at review.yoursite.com Between that and your home page, that’s two page 1 spots under control.
  2. Set up a Squidoo page. Build a page on Squidoo.com and optimize it for your brand. Point some directory links at it, too, and do a little basic link building for it. It’ll rank, too. That’s three page 1 spots under control.
  3. Set up a Twitter account and update it more than once a month. Make sure your brand name actually shows up in your bio. Hopefully you’re already pointing links at it from your main site. Point a few from sites like Squidoo, too. That’s four page 1 spots down.
  4. Now do the same thing on Facebook. Create a good fan page and keep it updated. Link to it. Five page 1 spots are now under control.
  5. If you rate a Wikipedia entry (I am just a worm, and do not), make sure it’s accurate, and that it’s optimized for your brand. That should be the natural outcome of a good entry, but it pays to check. Wikipedia is so dominant it will definitely end up on page 1. Six spots under control.
  6. You can also set up satellite sites, if you have the time and energy: Make sure you own domains that are close to your own. Also reserve the .infos and other permutations on your brand. Then write original content and get those pages ranking. I know – writing’s a pain. But it does work. Play your cards right and you can control all of page 1 this way.

Build alliances

If your reputation comes under attack, having a few friends around can really help. They can shout down someone who’s full of crap, or lend credibility when you need it. So build alliances.

  1. Help other folks out. Retweet interesting blog posts – the bloggers appreciate the shot in the arm. Answer questions and give recommendations when someone asks. And yes, stick up for others if they’re getting bullied.
  2. Team up. Work with others on stuff like blogging back-and-forth between your sites, or co-marketing, or something else. By working together with others, you find out who you’d want by your side in a tussle.
  3. Keep in touch. Don’t expect someone to leap to your aid if they can’t remember your name.
mess with one of us, mess with all of us

Listen & take measured action

Of course, if you’re sitting on your hands as a crisis develops, it’ll be way out of hand by the time you respond. Best to listen and act:

  1. Use Google Reader as a basic social media monitoring tool – that way, you’ll know when a crisis hits.
  2. Take measured action. If one chagrined customer says ‘meh’, don’t write a 3-page flame-o-gram and post it to your corporate blog – contact them directly. If a competitor starts lying about you, though, take a walk around the block, ask some of your friends and allies for advice, and then craft your response.

An ounce of prevention…

In the case of reputation management, almost every cliche applies. The more you do now, the less you have to worry about later. Best case? You never have a crisis, because you’re a great company, and because you’ve got tight control over your online brand.

CEO & Founder

Ian Lurie is CEO and founder of Portent and the EVP of Marketing Services at Clearlink. He's been a digital marketer since the days of AOL and Compuserve (25 years, if you're counting). He's recorded training for Lynda.com, writes regularly for the Portent Blog and has been published on AllThingsD, Smashing Magazine, and TechCrunch. Ian speaks at conferences around the world, including SearchLove, MozCon, Seattle Interactive Conference and ad:Tech. He has published several books about business and marketing: One Trick Ponies Get Shot, available on Kindle, The Web Marketing All-In-One Desk Reference for Dummies, and Conversation Marketing. Follow him on Twitter at portentint, and on LinkedIn at LinkedIn.com/in/ianlurie.

Start call to action

See how Portent can help you own your piece of the web.

End call to action


  1. The subdomain tip is brilliant!
    I never thought about that before, sometimes something so simple is missed until someone like you points it out.
    Thanks for sharing, Sally 🙂

  2. “If a competitor starts lying about you, though, take a walk around the block, ask some of your friends and allies for advice, and then craft your response.”
    Your work is brilliant. You might want to add “attorney” to the list of persons to consult, though.

Comments are closed.

Close Mobile Menu Button
Close search overlay