The growth of the Internet has exposed companies to a range of online concerns, here Simon explores some of the more common place reputation management issues that businesses are facing today.
The Reputation Report – a survey commissioned by Igniyte, which explores how business leaders in the UK are affected by online reputation – brings to light that one in five business leaders are unhappy with the way their companies are portrayed in their Google page one results. This coupled with the fact that only a third of bosses believe they have the skills they need to manage their company’s online reputation, suggests there is an inaccurate misrepresentation of businesses across the Internet.
Just as media trends change, so do online issues faced by companies. The use of social media is growing; customers are using online networks to voice their opinions; media organisations publish their news worldwide; IT risks are increasing; and privacy concerns are rising.
Here are some of the most current online issues faced by companies today:
The ‘Exploring Strategic Risk’ report, published by Deloitte in 2013, states that half of the survey respondents were ‘active or extremely active users of social media’. Of these, 63% said that ‘confidentiality concerns’ were their ‘top risk’ when it came to social media. Social media can have a real and lasting impact on a company’s reputation. Information can be distributed and published on the Internet within seconds. Organisations using social media to promote their business are potentially at risk of confidential, false or defamatory information being circulated online. If the information goes viral, the chances are the company concerned has lost control.
Protecting company reputation is difficult for any business facing negative reviews online. With more and more searches being made over the Internet, it is important to take steps to monitor what is being said about an organisation online. Popular review sites rank highly in Google, making their content very visible to customers and the general public. Have you Googled the name of your company? Many companies are surprised by the results – which are not always positive. The vast majority of information about companies appearing online is published on independent websites or blogs, which companies have little, if any, influence over.
And, as more customers use social media to make enquiries, post comments and discuss products or services online, negative reviews may also have one positive effect: to alert you to problems you were unaware of, allowing you to take action and rectify the problem before it escalates.
So, what happens if a journalist publishes a disparaging article about your company or service online? A good journalist should seek opinions from all parties involved before they produce an article, but this does not always happen. If the article is true, there is very little you can do to remove it from the Internet or links to it on the search engines. You could try approaching the journalist if it is an aged article, but this may draw attention to you once more. The best approach is to concentrate on getting some positive press circulated, which will take time. If the article is false, there may be procedures you can follow for its removal.
Companies with sustained media campaigns are generally more successful in clearing ‘bad press’ from their page one results. Negative stories have to compete with other, and more well-established content. By publishing unique and relevant articles on your corporate website and social media networks, you will be strengthening the company’s Internet profile and improving its Google listings.
The Internet is an open communication tool, and unfortunately, if an individual or group starts an online campaign about your company, there is little you can do to prevent it. If the material published is slanderous you should report the initiator to the authorities. However, the damage may already have been done, and the reputation of the business may be at risk. Monitoring the Internet for defamatory content can be time-intensive and frustrating work. Many review sites, media publications and blogs have a policy not to respond to general enquiries about removal of content. Often, it is up to the individual or company to persuade the original author or blogger to remove the comment directly.
Another option is to use the Google Removal Tool to attempt to remove the offending material from the search results. Google will only do this where the content is clearly defamatory, of an adult nature, or through legal procedures.
Are you prepared to deal with a crisis should one arise? Being vigilant and monitoring for online mentions relating to your company name will help alert you to any potential problems. But what if your company is facing a crisis now? Companies need to respond quickly, after all, inactivity can be as damaging to an organisation’s reputation as misguided action. If matters are very serious you may need to consider employing a specialist online reputation management company to assist you through the crisis.
Not Actively Monitoring for Company Terms
Not actively monitoring for negative comments and images across search engines, social media sites, blogs and forums, is perhaps one of the most common mistakes made by companies operating online. Monitoring sentiment helps businesses analyse customers’ behaviour as well as competitors’ activities. By setting up Google Alerts for your company name and relevant search terms, you will be notified of negative (and positive) mentions, when and where they are published.
More sophisticated reputation monitoring systems are available. These provide wider coverage and will alert you to mentions on the Internet for your company name and relevant search terms. The results of monitoring can be very powerful and through them you will be able to tailor your marketing, deal with potential issues, satisfy your customers, and better manage your online reputation. Any negative comments can be countered with positive posts, helping to drive unwanted material down the search engines.
Lack of Company Digital Presence
A lack of, or a poorly managed, digital presence can be just as damaging to a company wanting to succeed online, as a poor reputation. Organisations need a healthy profile in order to compete online. If a Google search reveals not only relevant listings but results with negative comments and links, a company’s reputation may be at risk and the value of the business damaged.
Extracted from A Guide to Building Your Company Reputation Online. For more articles like this download a copy of the guide for free from Igniyte.
So how do you create a profile that will rank on page one of Google and help you to build an effective company reputation online? In my next blog post I’ll be discussing how companies can build an effective company reputation online.
If you are facing an issue relating to company online reputation, please contact Simon Wadsworth for more details. All enquiries are dealt with in confidence.