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:
Best way to avoid that? Own page 1 for your brand.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Keep in touch. Don’t expect someone to leap to your aid if they can’t remember your name.
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:
- Use Google Reader as a basic social media monitoring tool – that way, you’ll know when a crisis hits.
- 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.