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The Ten Cardinal Rules of Online Brand Reputation Management
The internet has become the focus of so many different business-related activities. It’s no wonder that so many companies are searching for new ways to build, repair, and protect the way their brand image looks online.

Before people buy a product, enlist a service, or make a business decision, they often go online to gather all the information they can about it. Consumers are savvier and have more choices now than ever. It is imperative, therefore, that businesses act in a way that gives them the best possible online brand image.

For big reputation or image issues, it’s often best to call in the professionals. However, in order to maintain your reputation, there are little steps you should take that make sure that you aren’t sabotaging yourself or letting a bad reputation go unchecked. Managing your brand’s online reputation is an ongoing process.

Follow these ten simple rules to help your organization build, repair, and protect a stellar reputation.
 

Realize that your clients and partners will Google you.

The first cardinal rule of online brand reputation management is to always be aware that your Google results play a large role in your overall image. Anyone with any stake in your business—from potential clients to shareholders—will attempt to learn as much as they can about your business, and they will base their decisions on what they find online. Act accordingly! Build up a positive image, and repair any weaknesses in your brand’s integrity.

Have a clear idea of what you want your online image to do for you.

What are your company’s goals? If you could, how could you tweak your company’s online presence to better align with those goals? The first step to getting what you want is knowing what you want.

Assume that anyone can see anything you post online.

If your business posts a controversial tweet today to its fifty followers, you might wake up tomorrow with 2,000 followers and a major PR problem. The very nature of the internet dictates that information posted on it does not disappear—quite to the contrary, it is universally available. If your company sends out an insensitive Facebook post, a thoughtless blog, or a poorly worded press release, you could be dealing with the fallout indefinitely. Even personal emails aren’t safe anymore. Make sure that everything your organization publishes reflects it in a positive light, and would remain beneficial even if shown in a different context. Remember: it’s much easier to build a positive reputation than to repair a damaged one.

Remind your management and employees that they represent your company.

People are more and more likely to share the details of their personal life on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. And that’s fine—but individuals affiliated with your company should be cognizant of the fact that they are professionals, and their online persona could affect the company’s image as a whole. A brief memo instructing staff on how to navigate Facebook privacy settings could save your company from some major headaches down the line—as would some firm policies about what your employees can say about your company online.

Actively manage your internet reputation.

Even if you work painstakingly to ensure that your company doesn’t damage its own reputation, you can’t control what other people say about you. Set up Google alert emails so that you are notified any time something new is published about your company online. Follow those links, and if you find something disparaging, inaccurate, or misleading, attempt to contact the website to have that information changed or to have it removed. Google your company regularly.

Don’t engage in arguments publicly.

It’s inevitable that someone, somewhere will publish harmful posts about your company. In real life, the appropriate response to such an attack would be to address it directly. Unfortunately, the same logic does not apply online—even the most careful response could come off as petty, and it only serves to add fuel to the fire. Worse still, addressing negative posts often gives them more weight in search engine algorithms, thus promoting their visibility. Don’t engage blogs, websites, or posts on social media sites that disparage your malign your company—or, if you must, use utmost caution and discretion. If someone posts something disparaging on your company’s blog or social media sites, delete it.

OBRM is an indispensible part of any integrated marketing campaign.

In order to truly, comprehensively take control of your online image, you must implement an online brand reputation management campaign. Traditional SEO simply won’t cut it anymore: a company can’t rely on newswire press releases and an optimized website to showcase its unique brand image. All companies should budget and maintain a powerful OBRM game plan that celebrates the company and shows people what makes it excellent. In the past five years, OBRM has become an indispensible part of any company’s marketing plan, and it should be integrated with each product launch, communications plan, thought leadership campaign, investor relations program, social media strategy, and general online branding strategy. Remember: if you don’t take full control of your brand’s image, someone else will be able to.

Establish yourself as an expert.

Reputation is all about authority—you want users to look at your company as a thought leader. A good reputation means people associate you with the best products and services in the industry. An excellent way to position yourself as a thought leader and build up a positive reputation is to publish such informative content as white papers, blogs, and infographics. When users find that, they will recognize your organization as a brand they can trust.

Remember: the internet never forgets.

We’ve all made a careless joke or comment before—and by the next morning everyone had forgotten about it. The internet, however, is not as forgiving. Anything and everything posted on the internet can be posted, reposted, saved, emailed, archived and searched indefinitely. Don't be fooled into thinking that a conversation is private simply because only a few people are currently involved.

The internet is your resource. Use it.

Many companies forget that the internet is a resource they can exploit. Users searching for you want to learn more about your company—so give them the information they are looking for. If you post enough relevant information now, you’ll build up a positive brand image and be partially protected from future reputation problems that might crop up. And remember—it’s never too late to repair a damaged reputation!

Nowadays, the internet is where people go when they need information about a company or organization. While enlisting the help of online brand reputation management experts is often imperative for a company serious about building and protecting a positive image, there are steps all organizations should take on a day-to-day basis in order to maintain their reputation.