Online Reputation Management 101: A Starter’s Guide

Online Reputation Management 101: A Starter’s Guide

Reputation management is the process of influencing what people think of a person or organization.

It’s not about tricking someone; it’s about presenting the best possible information rather than the worst. Sometimes it’s providing information to clarify a misinformed complaint.

Reputation management once was solely in the hands of Public Relations and Communications professionals. As the internet became a place where reputation was measured, Search Engine Optimization and Social Media specialists began taking the reins of the online aspects of the practice.

In this post:

Examples of Reputation Management

Starbucks and the Bathroom Incident

An example of a company needing some traditional reputation management or public relations is the regrettable and insensitive incident at a Philadelphia Starbucks in 2018. Two African American men were sitting in the coffee shop when an employee called the police, and the police led them out of the coffee shop. The men were waiting for their colleague to arrive for a meeting and asked to use the washroom.

This was a distressing and difficult to hear event, leading Starbucks to have an open bathroom policy for anyone in a location.

What was done cannot be undone, but there were ways for Starbucks to begin repairing their image and working towards being better. They did this by establishing policies, teaching their staff, and letting people know they won’t tolerate unethical practices by their employees.

You’ve heard the adage, “you’ve got to get out in front for the story.” It’s always true, as a proactive approach is the only approach. Change policies, apologize to victims and make things right without someone asking you to.

Once an organization can go through the steps to repair their practice they can then externally communicate what they’ve done, why, and how they’ll be better in the future. It’s the only way to improve and have less incidents.

Online Reputation Management

online reputation management

The Starbucks example is a case of national traditional media, which is not what most people deal with. Most organizations require Online Reputation Management campaigns. Fixing reviews, taking care of customer complaints, ensuring good information is front and centre. No on-camera talking, no press releases, just helping the business get back on track looking good when people are searching around.

Between Google’s 40,000 search queries every second and Facebook’s 2.6 billion active users is where most of the online reputation management happens. Search engines and social media carry most of the web’s traffic flow so it only makes sense to start there.

Once you’ve got those areas mastered, we strongly recommend looking at what is being said in online communities. Places like Reddit are anonymous, so the scrutiny and strong language flies a little more freely. A decent online reputation platform can assist in helping find the discussions and keep you aware of being what is said.

B2C Companies with Bad Reviews

Once in a while a company will get unevenly low ratings because the company is only reviewed when someone has a poor experience. In a B2C world, many companies will have thousands of happy customers per day but only see the reviews of the 0.01% of unhappy customers. So… how do you fix it?

Customer Service

When reviews are out of control, it’s important to go as far off into the big brand caring mode as soon as possible.

Take a look at the big brands on Twitter, namely Nike, Netflix, Spotify. They have dedicated Twitter accounts with a quick responding team that will help out whatever the case may be.

There’s a playbook to how companies interact with their future, current, and past customers. Twitter is where they go to help assist them. And if a brand can solve a problem, there’s less likelihood of getting a 1 star rating.

Even a mundane request gets responded to as quickly as possible. This keeps the positive connection alive and the customers satisfied.

It’s easier said than done to act like a billion dollar brand, but these companies learned at scale how they manage customer relationships. It’s easy enough to take these methods and apply them at a smaller scale.


Zappos kind of invented how online customer service works. They were one of the first brands to get noticed in a huge way for their unending desire to keep people happy and sales flowing. And they did it because they had to.

No one was interested in buying shoes online when they launched in 1999. This led them to creating a fail-safe customer service program to build trust that the customer would feel comfortable buying shoes online.

They apologize, figure out what to do, then do it. It’s cheaper for them to deliver a new pair of shoes than it is to make people feel uneasy about ordering shoes online.

Zappos understood early that bad reviews and broken relationships are more expensive than a refund.

Positive Prompts

Do your customers only have a prompt for a negative review?

If your delivered meal is great 99 times in a row, there may be no reason for you to post a positive review. If you get a cold meal when you’re hungry, that sucks. And it’s a definite prompt for a bad review.

Is there a way to ask for positive reviews? Do your customers know they can and that it’s important? Are there reasons why they would?

By determining the mutualistic rationale on positive reviews, companies can begin looking as good as they are.

B2B Company with Bad Reviews

A business services provider can get hit with negative reviews for a few reasons. Employee turnover rate is a common one. If there are many entry level employees being churned out from an organization you can begin to expect negative reviews. Entry level jobs are difficult, and many find out they are not a fit for the position, and can air their grievances online.

How do you avoid this negative feedback loop? Take the roots out. The problem will not go away until the root cause is addressed. Until then, there are more topical solutions, but the problem will most likely continue.

Again – Prompts!

If you have a boatload of happy customers, just ask for a review! It’s often that easy.

Before you request them, consider the ask. Over time you’ll see a pattern of how to execute this campaign, or you can hire us to assist in this process with our reputation management services.

Reputation Management on Google

Have you ever Googled yourself? Others doing business with you certainly will. There is more Google traffic for names than you’d expect.

It can be distressing having incorrect or embarrassing information online about someone or a company. So how does someone get the right information out there when people are googling? Search engine optimization.

SEO is about optimizing page content and off-site factors that push Google to prioritize different pages. SEO is at the core of much of our work. Both technical and content SEO will begin moving pages with the right information up and those with the wrong information down.

Reputation Management on Social Media

There are 3.7 million social media users in the world and a lot being said. What this means for your brand or personal image is that you don’t want to wait too long to find out what is being said about you or your company.

How to track social media mentions? That might be the easiest part of online reputation management. Set up listeners to help assist in being notified when your name and brand name is being thrown around.

Reputation Management Platforms

There are a wide range of different ways to execute on a reputation management campaign and a confusingly large number of platforms.

Some of the larger platforms like Podium or Reputation.com are great at what they do but are not a fit for every person or company.

Podium is used to gather reviews, accept payments and get feedback. It’s better used as a system that you can build into a process to help improve the overall reputation of an organization.

Reputation.com is one of the well known reputation management platforms, but is used mainly for retailers. It integrates into a CRM and is largely built for businesses with multiple locations to manage their reputation by responding to customers.

There’s not a lot of platforms out there that can beat a hands-on approach to listening to a person with an identifiable reputation problem, and fix it.

Personal Reputation Management

Mugshot Websites

Planet Money had a great show about the online mugshot industry. Websites publish mugshot for ordinary citizens, optimize the pages for the person’s name, then charge a fee for them to be taken down.

This ridiculous type of business should be illegal, but it’s not. There are certain criminals that the public should know about, which is why a blanket law applies to the ability to publish any mugshot.

Can I Get a Page Taken Down from the Internet?

Yes, and no, and maybe.

Getting pages removed from the internet is tricky at best, and can sometimes backfire. Some publishers will take a request seriously and some will ignore all appeals. Radiolab had a good show about a group of publishers trying to decide what’s in the public’s interest. We recommend giving it a listen.

There’s always the tried and true method of a cease and desist, but that’s a discussion with a lawyer. There are services you can find online that do exactly this. If you’re looking for a good one, contact us and we’ll steer you in the right direction.

The Streisand Effect

The Streisand Effect is when you attempt to hide something, only to draw more attention to it.

When reaching out to blog and site owners, you can never predict the outcomes. In fact, none of the outcomes of requesting information getting taken down are predictable. That’s why the best online reputation management companies will recommend pushing good news up and misleading stuff down.

Can I Buy Online Reviews?

You can, but it might not be a good approach. When buying reviews you’re entering a grey market for anonymous online services.

When a person purchases online reviews, there are a few technical problems. One is that places that store online reviews (mainly Google, Facebook, Yelp) have systems to detect fake ones. There are pretty clear signals that a review can be faked. The IP address, the account history, the language and browser settings all tell a story about someone. The seller of the reviews knows this, so anyone selling would only be able to offer a few reviews. Two new reviews isn’t going to turn the tide.

Will the reviews stay online forever? This might be the best question to ask. If you purchase reviews, what is stopping someone from taking them offline in the future in order to clean up their account? It’s not like you’ll be able to take an anonymous internet account to small claims court.

Buying positive reviews online is laden with risk and can only be trusted as a short term bandaid to a problem that needs to be solved. We’d rather see you solve the problem!

The Solution

The sensitivities surrounding reputation should be handled by a professional. You can hire us at The Status Bureau to adjust your positions online, or a Communications or Public Relations expert for offline needs. Either way, with something as big as people’s expectation of you on the line it’s best to trust someone with experience.

Let’s Chat!

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