Online Reputation Management Needs to Be Brand-Integrated — Pre-Crisis
The C-suite invariably sits up and takes notice when persistent negative coverage or online smear campaigns target your company. At this point, you’re in the online reputation management game, whether you want to play or not.
But let’s widen our forward-looking executive view of what ORM really is: More than a crisis response protocol or a way to counteract bad reviews, it’s a natural extension of your branding, PR and digital marketing practices. Or at least it should be.
In crafting engagements alongside executives of publicly traded companies, I see consistent gaps (and fantastic low-hanging-fruit opportunities for improvement) in the following areas:
You Probably Have the Resources, But Formal ORM Thinking Is Missing
The C-suite and the marketing execution layer often know when there’s a reputation problem, but there’s no baked organizational process for painting an actionable picture. Chances are you already have search engine optimization muscle in place, internally or otherwise. But many SEO and marketing teams have tunnel vision, focusing almost exclusively on driving traffic and leads with no thought to ORM — or if they are doing ORM, focusing only on online reviews.
Takeaway: Challenge your marketing team to make ORM a more intentional part of their tactical quiver and make sure you’re getting the most out of SEO resources that you’ve already budgeted.
Task Your Team With Finding the Low-Hanging Fruit
Sophisticated ORM requires a broad spectrum of marketing and technological expertise, but you don’t have to boil the ocean today. Providing that you’ve made ORM more of an organizational focus, your existing resources should be able to provide you with a granular picture of which Google results are the biggest drag on your online reputation. Close analysis often reveals that attacking one or a handful of negative listings can bring you from a “D” Google grade to a “B,” almost overnight.
Takeaway: The CMO should be able to easily come up with a one-quarter plan for identifying and containing the most salient negative asset(s). What the marketing team learns from this drill can be templated for longer-range efforts.
Build on Your Launch Efforts to Increase Differentiation and Long-Term Brand Value
A recent deep audit of a new client in the medical industry revealed that a close competitor had a differentiated messaging presence that was much more cohesive than our client’s. Granular brand reputation audits are insanely useful for ensuring that your internal branding and positioning efforts are unified and more effective, giving you ways to micro-position yourself to stand out in the market and create more affinity.
Takeaway: Once you’ve got the short-term reputation fires put out, ask your marketing team to start building a framework for measuring where your online footprint is costing you leads and brand equity across the digital landscape. They should be able to provide an executive dashboard that shows you how year-round efforts are linked to leads and revenue.
The closer you look, the more it’s true that every company has a unique and varied online footprint — and that major factors impacting customer perception and willingness to buy aren’t always readily apparent. But if no deeper organizational focus on ORM exists, you’re missing easy opportunities.
The good news is that your company already has a lot of the necessary pieces — they’re just not snapped together yet. If the C-suite puts ORM front-o- mind across the org chart, you can see significant and measurable improvements fairly quickly without major extra investment.