3 Steps for Developing an Online Reputation Management Strategy

  |  September 19, 2011   |  Comments

How can you set up the right strategy to help protect your brand from negative influences?

Online reputation management (ORM) has become a critical component to many corporate branding campaigns in 2011. With all of the online conversations happening today, the ability to replace positive sentiment with the negative is a primary goal of any reputation management strategy. At this moment, do you know what is being said about you, your brand, or your company? Right or wrong, what is being said online can have a major influence on what others think about you.

In fact, 76 percent of today's retailers expect online content to play a greater role in their public relations strategy in the future. It is understood that reputation is thought of as the number one danger for any company's future success. The question is how to set up the right strategy to help protect your brand from negative influences. Here are three steps you can take to set up a successful online reputation management campaign.


Step 1: Tracking and monitoring. Before you can manage your online reputation, you need to first learn what is being said about you and get an idea what the sentiment is. Sentiment is usually measured in positive, negative, or neutral terms. To do this, you should identify various methods you plan to employ to listen into online conversations. Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and blogs are all great places to monitor. To get started with this process, you should identify keywords that represent you, your brand, your company, or anything you want to track. There are several tools that allow you to type in a keyword and then have a report sent to you via email or other means that provides blog posts or tweets that include those keywords. You then need to read through and pick out the ones that are relevant to you.

Some good tools to help you with this are:

  • Social Mention – socialmention.com
  • Google Alerts – google.com/alerts
  • TweetBeep – tweetbeep.com
  • Technorati – technorati.com
  • BlogPulse – blogpulse.com
  • TagBulb – tagbulb.com

One that I like to use if I am spot-checking keyword phrases is Social Mention. As you type in keywords, you get a list of tweets and posts relevant to your keyword phrase. You also get a report on sentiment. This can be helpful as you want to spot-check different keywords.

Another aspect of monitoring is to type the keywords into a search engine and see what results appear. If you have negative listings that appear next to your brand, you may want to develop an SEO campaign to suppress the negative ones with fresh positive content.

Step 2: Evaluate and interpret. Since there are many tools that help to automate the process of finding conversations online and measuring sentiment, you can easily miss this important step if you are not careful. It is important to read through the results and try to interpret the true meaning.

Set up a process where you identify key statements from step one that you feel are impactful regardless of the sentiment. Then read those aloud to your team and try and interpret what is really being said. The information that comes out of a team discussion during this interpretation session can make a big difference in your entire online reputation management strategy. It will provide you with the right basis as you decide how you are going to act on what you have learned.

Once you have interpreted the various messages and conversations you have mined, you should place these into several categories that you will address in the next step. Some of these categories could be broken down into:

  • Positive
  • Negative
  • Branding
  • Personnel
  • Regional
  • Industry related

Step 3: Engage and act. Now that you have a list of categories you wish to address and you have the basis for what the issues are you want to focus on, you need a plan of action. I suggest that you put together a type of editorial calendar that allows you to plan how and when you will act. This will help you pace yourself and act when the timing is best.

For each of your categories you made in step two, you should plan a specific action you will take to address them. For instance, you may want to directly comment on a blog post or you may wish to write an article or white paper that addresses a specific concern or perception. Once you have your editorial plan in place, assign you or your team members to execute the plan.

There are two strategies to consider, reactive and proactive. Reactive is to have accounts set up and people in place to quickly respond to conversations (positive or negative) that come up. In this case, a policy should be put in place on what should and should not be said as team members respond to comments and feedback. Additionally, you should identify at what point is an issue serious enough that it should be escalated to a higher level for the correct response. Issues can happen overnight and you need to have a plan in place and be ready to act at a moment's notice.

Acting proactively is an important part of any reputation strategy as you plan positive messages, articles, press releases, etc. to insure you have a constant flow of content that you have planned in advance from your editorial calendar.

Remember that this is a cycled process. Once you are done with this last step, you need to start over and listen and monitor to see if your efforts have made an impact.


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Ron Jones

Ron was president/CEO of Symetri Internet Marketing, which provides strategic SEM consulting and training. Ron was actively involved in the SEM community and spoke and trained at conferences and seminars. Ron also served on the Board of Directors for SEMPO and was one of the authors for the SEMPO Institute Fundamentals and Advanced courses.

Ron also published a book called Keyword Intelligence: Keyword Research for Search Social and Beyond. This book outlines various methods and tips for conducting keyword research but more importantly outlines many ways to use keyword research for social media, site design, content development and marketing, and even traditional marketing and branding.

Ron passed away on June 30, 2012.

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