“Amazing service,” “I have cancelled my service,” “I will never go anywhere else!” “I will never work with them again!” Twenty years, even 10 years ago, statements like that would go unknown to brands and advertising agencies. Consumer input used to entail lengthy research projects and focus groups, which were very costly. The goal of the media and message was to mold the perception of their consumers, often through a one-sided conversation.
Present day is a little different. Your brand’s reputation is no longer your own; it is controlled primarily by the thoughts and feelings of your consumers. It’s time to embrace the age of immediacy and two-way conversations. With these changes, the idea of traditional media planning has gone out the window and the role encompasses brand reputation management. Without accepting this, all the hard work put into the right media mix could falter or encounter resistance from the consumer.
While brand reputation management is inclusive of many media tactics, I want to take the opportunity to dive into how to approach ratings and reviews. Across many industries – automotive, travel, and retail – the content listed about a brand can have a large impact on sales. Here is how I like to classify the major players in this space:
Local ratings and reviews websites. Websites that list and allow users to review a product, place, or thing within geographical locations.
Research websites (industry specific). Websites that are customized to niche industries, allowing consumers to provide feedback in a relevant manner on a particular topic or interaction.
Social media. The ultimate environment for brand reputation management, and opportunities for “likes,” fans, and recommendations.
While all support standard advertising such as display banners, search/local search, and mobile, the real opportunity lies outside the traditional advertising methods. Most popular reviews and research sites have enhanced buy-in programs, which allow for extensive profile management. You can monitor and update your business listing and profile, increase your visibility, respond to your consumers, and add advanced imagery.
With advertiser monitoring and control, it is important to realize this is an opportunity to accept, listen, and adapt to consumer feedback (think of it as a low-cost research study). If handled inappropriately, it could have very negative repercussions, so keep in mind some standard do’s and don’ts:
- Do update your listings to maintain accuracy.
- Do respond to comments, but do so appropriately and objectively. Many businesses will selectively respond to negative reviews to clarify a situation, apologize, or indicate how the issue will be corrected. Be sure to provide a timeline if you are addressing a specific problem.
- Do use feedback to change or adapt your offerings, if feasible.
- Don’t try to moderate. Users can express opinions, good or bad, and any attempt at moderation could lead to a backlash among visitors.
- Don’t review your own company or product.
- Don’t feel like you have to respond to every negative comment. Choose carefully when and how you respond.
There are a lot of challenges with this new age of consumer feedback. Large brands typically have several employees with roles and responsibilities (think franchises) that may not have experience responding to feedback online. Traditionally, managing the brand reputation was handled by a marketing manager or brand manager with a broad reaching media communication plan in place. It is now imperative that companies put guidelines in place that speak to the right voice and approach to updating, responding, and maintaining positive brand equity online.
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