Online reputation management is one of the most buzzed-about corporate catchphrases in recent memory—and according to Rich Gorman, there is a reason for that. What the Internet reveals about a brand has a direct, bottom-line impact on the brand’s sales, its client retention, and even its ability to attract top venture capitalists. As such, more and more companies are getting on board with the ORM bandwagon, seeking to seize control over their search result listings and their social media mentions—and to avert the threat of online defamation.
According to Rich Gorman, however, there remain many misconceptions about precisely what online reputation management is, and where the best online reputation management practices truly begin. Rather than jump headfirst into these deep waters, then, brands are encouraged to think long and hard about what prudent online reputation management truly entails.
There are seven specific questions that Gorman believes every company should be asking, Rich Gorman unpacks these questions—and offers his own answers—in the paragraphs that follow.
Rich Gorman Answers the Top Questions About ORM
The first question every company should ask, according to Gorman: How can I find out what people are saying about my brand? “This is the baseline concern for those zealous to defend themselves against online defamation,” Gorman comments. “Luckily, it’s fairly easy to develop a rudimentary sense of how your brand is perceived on the Web. Simply going to Google or Bing and conducting a thorough search for your company name, and all branded terms, can prove illuminating and helpful.”
But what exactly should companies be looking for? “In an ideal world, the top listing is your company website, and under that are your social media profiles and possibly some brand-enhancing press,” notes Gorman. “Be on the lookout for bad reviews or consumer complaints, or even for any listings that you don’t have full control of. Such listings could ultimately endanger your online image, in the long haul.”
The second question—closely related to the first—is that of how companies can stay abreast of new online mentions of their brand. “Search engine result notifications, like Google Alerts and Bing Alerts, can go a long way, though they are not quite comprehensive,” says Gorman. “As such, it is also important to look into other, third party reputation monitoring programs, such as Social Mention. ReviewTracker is also worth noting.”
The third question that all companies should be asking, concerning their online reputation, is simply this: Does my company website represent my brand in the most appealing and informative way possible? “There are several concerns here, starting with your online domain name,” Rich Gorman explains. “Your company needs to have yourcompany.com as its primary home page—and if you don’t have it, you need to either acquire the domain name, or else change your brand name to something for which you can acquire the domain. Exact-match domain ownership is that important to online reputation management.”
There are other website concerns, too. “Your branding should be consistent, meaning that all of the colors and fonts and logos and even the language used should be congruent from one page of your site to the next,” affirms Rich Gorman. “What’s more, the site should feature some information—not just promotion—about your industry, and what the business actually does. Finally, links to social media profiles and review site profiles should be clearly evident to all who visit the site.”
Fourth, Gorman says that companies should be asking what people are saying about them on review sites. “Statistically speaking, an overwhelming majority of consumers consult with online review sites, such as Yelp.com and TripAdvisor, before they make any big purchase,” he offers. “These sites have tremendous sway over consumer decision-making. They represent the new word of mouth, and no company can afford to take them lightly.”
Gorman recommends that companies take ownership of their reviews by signing up for review site profiles, and ensuring that all of the company information is thoroughly and accurately filled out. He also says that companies should get into the habit of responding to negative reviews in an appropriate manner.
“That’s the fifth question,” says Gorman. “How can brands respond to negative feedback? Negative reviews almost always happen, sooner or later, even for the best brands—so having a right response is crucial.”
Rich Gorman advises companies to respond promptly and politely to positive comments and even to constructive feedback, but to leave scathing or defamatory reviews well enough alone. “A response only draws more attention, and creates more Google traction,” he says. “Besides, what good could possibly come from engaging with online bullies?”
A better approach is to work to cultivate positive reviews, and also to build up plenty of positive, brand-enhancing online assets. What kinds of brand-enhancing assets can companies develop, though? That’s question #6 from Rich Gorman. “Here, the possibilities are endless,” he asserts. “Regular blogging, consistent social media posts, press releases, optimized YouTube videos—basically anything that engages users and presents your brand as authoritative is going to help build your online reputation.”
The seventh and final question that all companies should ask, concerning their online reputation: What about the reputation of the business owner, or the chief executive? “The reputation of your most visible executive and the reputation of your company are closely interwoven,” Gorman offers. “As such, it is absolutely important to ensure that your president or CEO is branded as someone who is authoritative and respected within the industry.”
For Gorman, the bottom line is that positive online reputations seldom happen by accident. “If you want to be portrayed as a brand of integrity and of quality, you need to take matters into your own hands,” he asserts. “Seize control of your online image by implementing the best, most tried and tested ORM techniques. It all starts by thinking through these basic questions.”
Rich Gorman is a long-time online marketing pioneer and an ORM advocate.