Reputation Management For Healthcare Providers

Consumers go to the internet to find local doctors, dentists and veterinarians.  These medical health care providers spend years trying to build a good practice, thus, a reputation.  Have you invested in building that reputation online as well?  What happens when someone notices negative reviews about your practice?  The chance of having these customers as patients will decrease, if not disappear. This is a risk you cannot afford to take.   Very likely, disappointed patients and potential consumers will run right into the care of your competitors.  

Reputation management has everything to do with the health care.  Remember that the management of your practice is the process of proactively using tools, procedures and systems to be aware of and influence what people are saying about you and your practice online.  It does not happen by chance. It is intentional and strategic. There are a series of steps that you need to be consistently working on for protecting your online reputation.  Proactively indicates professionals should not just wait for something to be said about them online and then react.  You want to do what you can to control and manage your reputation.

Therefore this is a topic that is becoming increasingly important in the healthcare area.  Before, when someone had a medical degree, patients just put their whole trust in that person and the tools to give and receive feedback for healthcare professionals did not exist as they do now.  But things are changing and patients are doing their job:  they are searching for doctors and hospitals online when they need treatment for themselves or their loved ones. They research symptoms and medical conditions. In fact, there are many ways for patients to check for doctors or hospitals and find reviews of medical practices and specific medical professionals.  There are popular review and rating sites where they can read comments and also provide feedback on their experience.  Whatever patients find, either positive, negative, neutral or non-existent about doctors and facilities will influence their decision.

Image courtesy of Neelesh Bhandari at Flickr.com
Image courtesy of Neelesh Bhandari at Flickr.com

How can you manage your reputation to attract patients?

Here are three useful suggestions…

1 . Track, research, Find:

carefully examine all your online mentions and pay attention to what people are saying.  Some people Google the name of a disease or treatment required.  Many people though search for doctors or hospitals by name.  You need to do the same thing about yourself, your medical practice and your competition.   Undoubtedly, search engines like Google, social media sites, sharing apps and niche directories are the main reference source on the internet.  People also recommend doctors and hospitals online via e-mail. Additionally, online review sites are strategic places for triggering change.  Potential customers make their decision after checking doctors or facilities on rating and review sites.  Online reviews can make or break your business and unsatisfied patients post negative comments.  It’s a fact. Be informed of what people are saying about your practice.  It will help you understand what you are doing right and what needs to be improved.

2. Work on your presence online:
 

Create your website if you do not have one but have it designed optimally.  Then, build out and strengthen social media sites.  This is your online presence and provides credibility.  You want your patients to find you and know more about your practice.  A blog is also a great idea to publish your own content, demonstrate your knowledge and expertise and help patients with their healthcare needs and questions.  This builds rapport with your patients and encourages loyalty.

3. Interact with your patients:

engage people in your online conversations and try to build long-term relationships with them. Educate them over their questions, if possible address their needs appropriately and ask them for feedback on your different online profiles.  Respond accordingly on every mention and take great cautions with negative ones.  Influence is what you can hope to accomplish through a reputation management process.  You cannot twist the arm of your patient and have them say good things about you online.  You cannot forbid them to say negative things about you either.  However, you can tell your story, contribute actively to the conversations taking place and learn from the feedback.

Your online reputation is not something to neglect.  It is a valuable asset that you need to manage in order to grow your clientele.  Through internet people are allowed to find your practice without difficulty, but this also has made it possible to access negative reviews and information that can be damaging to your medical career.  It is indispensable for healthcare professionals to control their reputation by researching, designing a plan and implementing consistent solutions to improve people’s perception in relation to their practice.  There are even management companies and professionals that can provide great insight and support for building a strong presence online.  surely, a doctor’s care is going beyond the clinics.  It is taking place online.  

How important is confidence when launching a campaign?

It has been a while now since we started to hear about brands dealing with reputation crisis.  This particular case is delightful because it will allow us to learn a lot about how to handle this kind of situations in terms of what to do and how to do it as well as what to avoid.  Of course, from one single situation, many different comments may arise.  It will always depend on the side where you are standing.  Just keep reading and let’s find out together what you think.

The famous American brand specialized in clothing and accessories, GAP, changed its logo in 2010.  For them, it must have certainly been an important moment because it meant a step forward in the evolution of the brand and the company itself.  The former logo had been used since 1986 and according to a spokeswoman for Gap Inc., the company wanted a change, and they wanted the logo to reflect that change they were looking for.  For GAP designers the new logo was more contemporary, it kept and honored the heritage of Gap brand with the blue box, but took a step forward.

However, the debut of the new brand image didn’t go as well as expected.  It seems like there were a few mishaps -not to say it was a disaster- with this bumbling selection.  Apparently, there was a leak and a document with the new logo was revealed.  After this event, Gap decided to change the logo in their website, but they didn’t communicate it to the media.  As it could have been expected, media specialized in design and advertising started commenting on the change made, the image of the new logo expands online and therefore all kinds of comments and taunts started to pop up.  The first reviews were basically focused on the use of Helvetica because it is a font with more than 63 years and it is quite standard.  Additionally, someone created a Twitter account in order to continue the discussion of the logo, and it actually attracted 4,000 followers in just a week.  Also, there is a website, (www.makeyourowngaplogo.com) that provides an application to create your own logo “Gap style” with more than 15 thousand different designs.

Image courtesy of Graham Smith at Flickr.com
Image courtesy of Graham Smith at Flickr.com

Given the storm of criticism, the brand decided to offer on its Facebook page -using the old logo- an open invitation for people to send their proposals for logos in order to get new ideas.  They couldn’t have imagined that the strategy to solve the issue would make the situation worse.  Media specialized in marketing insinuated that GAP could be doing a covert campaign of crowdsourcing.  Additionally, many designers found distasteful GAP’s idea of collecting designs for free while within the company parallel projects to redesign the logo had been created.  In her defense, the CEO of Gap admitted that trying to feed the collective work and listen to their consumers was not proposed in the right time, giving the wrong idea to the customers and public opinion.

Unfortunately, the reputation of the brand was not the only trouble generated by this incident.  Gap shares fell since the introduction of the new logo which led the company to finally decide to withdraw the new logo and put back the old one.  However, one must be careful, this is not an example of consumer power or the power of social networks. This case is a clear example of bad practice by a company that did not give enough importance to the process of changing its visual image, and did not properly planned what communication channels to use in order to present their new logo.  The consumer did not intervene as much as the design community and specialized media.

GAP learned from this experience that if your brand is established, it is because customers identify with the product, and once this happens, your brand no longer belongs to you exclusively.  You must not carry out a makeover without adequately managing the process of introduction; send an e-mail or present the logo to your fans on Facebook or Instagram, you will win more than you think. Just remember, customers become part of your “family” and they like to feel involved and know firsthand what happens to the brand.  

It is easy to imagine the nightmare this was for GAP designers, and it is very likely that they along with the head of the Marketing Department thought quite opposite to the rest of the world.  The truth is that this is not an isolated case, as something similar has happened to Tropicana, Kit Kat or Fanta brands a few days ago and probably this won’t be the last time it happens.

Finally, it is important to reflect upon the fact that Gap didn’t stand up and defend its new logo.  How much certain determination would have changed the result of this event?  It is said by many experts in the field that you not always have to ask consumers what they want, just show them.

How to Salvage Your Shattered Reputation

Small town gossip has nothing on the Internet. Historically, people may have whispered about infidelities to their neighbors or aired their opinions about a shady business deal on coffee-row.  With the advent of technology, however, that changed drastically and now people can post a comment or write a blog that goes viral.

Like the nebulous cloud where information is stored, bad publicity is difficult to control and/or delete. Unless that is, you have connections with the American Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the Israeli Mossad or the Russian Glavnoye Razvedyvate’noye Upravleniye (GRU.)

What to do? What to do?

You Google, Bing or Yahoo your name or that of your company or business and — gasp, shock, horror – some negative comments appear on the screen. What should you do next? Screaming at the computer won’t work. Neither will grabbing a bottle to Scotch.

First of all, take a deep breath. Secondly, hope it is not as bad a situation as you initially thought. Thirdly, call in the experts to help if you don’t think you can handle it. And, frankly, most people can’t.  

How to use a reputation service

The first question to ask is “What, exactly, is a reputation service?”  The second is “Why do I need one?” The third is “How can a reputation service help me?”

The 25-word summary is that a reputation service can assist you because they can “bury” any negative publicity about you found on the Internet.

If you run a pet shop in Kansas, chances are you likely don’t have a need for a reputation service. Unless that is, you get done for selling poisonous food that killed numerous pets. Once CNN arrives, it is unlikely anyone – even a top-notch reputation service – can do much. Get out of Dodge; change your name; move to Milwaukie.

For people who haven’t made the national news, there are measures that can be taken to restore a tattered reputation.

People who need/want/can use a reputation service include business people, physicians, lawyers and various other professionals. Negative comments of any kind can have an immediate and adverse effect on your reputation, your business and, consequently, your income.

Image courtesy of Marc-Andre Lariviere at Flickr.com
Image courtesy of Marc-Andre Lariviere at Flickr.com

What do “they” have to say?

Consider for a moment that you are going to take your significant other out for a special meal to celebrate whatever. You scan through the lists of restaurants, including those recommended by friends.

You have heard that a place is great, but the first thing you see is the comment “Don’t eat here, the food is like poison.” Are you going to:

  •    pick up the phone and make a reservation?
  •    bother to scroll through another five pages of glowing comments?
  •    call the restaurant to hear the management side of the story?
  •    none of the above.

Remember that anyone with access to a computer and an email address can leave an unjustified comment about you, your business or your services. While you can’t stop them from writing whatever, a reputation service can help you control the damage.

Increasingly, there are reports coming out about customers holding businesses to ransom. The attitude of “If I can’t get a complimentary room upgrade I will leave a negative comment on hotel review sites” seems to be on the rise.

Again, that is where a reputation service come to the rescue.

How to understand the process

In the digital age, we are quick to move on – it only takes a click – and not bother to investigate any further. So to preserve your Internet reputation you have to set up a process to ensure the positive comments come to the top of the search engine results while the negative ones slide back into the double and triple digit pages.

A reputation service can help by following a tried and true process. First of all, they will meet with you to find out what your goals are and how best to achieve them. Next, the consultants will come up with a strategy plan for how to best address the issues.

The “secret” is to provide content – which you approve prior to publication, of course — that ranks highly with the search engines. This moves any negative comments about you or your business to page 33.

Really, when was the last time you bothered to search that far about anything? Even your competitors aren’t going to scroll through that many pages. And even if they do, what does it matter as nobody else is probably going to read it? It is “buried six-feet under,” so to speak.

The new and positive content then does its work through page position. It pushes back the negative by highlighting helpful comments and by encouraging good search results. Materials can be tailored to suit specific situations.

The result of working with a reputation service is that you can Bing, Yahoo or Google your name – or that of your company – and see only positive results.

And remember that your reputation online is as important as your reputation about town. So call on reputations services when you need them to help you keep your image clean. Then breathe a sigh of relief as it can be done.

Do Restaurants Need Reputation Management?

The way people look for restaurants has changed greatly during recent years, and many of the traditional forms of advertising such as printed fliers, newspapers and brochures, radio and TV commercials have become insufficient. But believe it or not, everyday people are increasingly looking for products and services, especially restaurants which are by far one of the most highly searched industries online.  

This poses a question.  Would you visit a restaurant that offers food or service that has bad ratings and reviews?  If you searched online and you found three similar restaurants, with three different reviews, which one would you choose?  …The one with no reviews? …The one with 4 positive reviews and 2 negative comments? …Or the one with all 6 positive reviews? The answer is obvious. Customers want to have a restaurant they can trust and that is why reputation marketing is the most important tool to market a restaurant.  

How does it work?

Potential customers Google the type of food or restaurant they want to visit or they go to online review sites and social media before making a decision on who to trust.  They start out by looking for the restaurants with best reviews and they have the possibility of filtering by price, rating.  Review sites such as yelp have become a common place for this sort of reviews although there are many others as well.  Since these reviews sites appear in Google searches, results in Google have become an important source of leads for many restaurants but it is not the only one.  The point here is, if you are not focusing your restaurant’s marketing on managing your online reputation, you are missing out on many customers. Therefore, from mobile websites and directories to Google searches and reviews online, reputation management is key to getting more customers for your restaurant.  

How do you show up?

People read on average 3-10 reviews before calling, making a reservation or making their decision on where to go and what to eat.  If people receive a recommendation on where to go, they search the restaurant online to find out more information after being referred.   

Your business depends on the reviews you have or if you have any at all.  That is why it is so important to show up well online in the places where people are looking for you.

Image courtesy of Neil Moralee at Flickr.com
Image courtesy of Neil Moralee at Flickr.com

What can you do?

These are some tips to reflect on your online reputation strategies.

  • Do you know your reputation online? Many restaurants neglect their social media presence online and their ranking and they don’t know where to start.  You might be one start away from getting a bad reputation.  Bad reviews show up in Maps and Google+, websites rankings, local directories, TripAdvisor, Yelp and other sites people use to find restaurants online.  Building a 5-star reputation and marketing that to get more customers is a priority.   Understanding what is said about your business will reveal the areas that need fixing or improving.
  • Your business needs to appear on the show up in TripAdvisor and Yelp since they both get used very heavily to look for restaurants and they are free. If you are not present or if you do not have a good reputation in those directories when people look for food services, you are not capitalizing new customer opportunities.
  • Provide your business name, address and phone number correctly in directories and update information when there is a change.
  • It is necessary to develop a system in place to consistently solicit feedback and reviews from customers. Unless you have a way to ask your customers after the experience to go out and review your restaurant, people are not always inclined to go out and leave a review all the time.  Generally, customers do not take the initiative to refer your business, but if they were satisfied with their dining experience and you ask them to review the restaurant, for the most part they will.    
  • Restaurants can interact directly with their clients on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. YouTube is also a great way to improve your restaurant’s social reach online. From designing high-quality websites to optimizing them for search engines, will help you manage your reputation anywhere your clients will find you.  
  • Staying in touch with their clients and responding to positive and more importantly, bad reviews can improve the restaurant’s image before customers.  When responding to these reviews, the attitude should be empathetic and not defensive. If it is necessary to compensate for bad service or food, offer a refund, discount or a gift.  

Restaurants do need reputation management to maintain and increase their reputation online and help them get a dramatic increase on customers.    

What do you mean by reputation management?

There’s a lot of truth in old sayings: “You are the master of your silence and a slave of your words”. It applies not just to what you say, but to what you do (or omit). Before Internet, if you did or said something followed by bad consequences, you just had to wait time for cleaning it. In this era is harder to forget and being forgotten. The mistake you made in the past can haunt you for years when people google your name while making research about you (let’s say, when you are looking for a job). It’s a problem of today’s world and a need of today’s people. And, as we all know, the need creates the offer.

There is actually a complex industry focused on making bad things quietly disappear on Internet, and promoting good things for looking clean: it’s reputation management. It’s a growing business. Some RM companies can earn from five thousand to twenty thousand dollars every month per client, and they always need people to work for them.

The basics of the work is tricking search engines by burying down bad news under layers and layers of information in the search results, while leaving the positive results up high in the first pages of the engine. It is a dirt in the electronic eye of our panoptic era. The basic principle is to create the narrative you want to tell about yourself and, then repeat over and over until it becomes the available story about you online. Internet is a double-edged sword: even though it does not let time to clean the reputation that comes after your bad actions (or other’s bad actions towards you), it is possible to modify reality by modifying the content people find in search engines, like Google. In a world of forgetful people, who don’t read much and don’t think by themselves, if it’s not online, it does not exist.

There are ways to do it: writing positive blog posts, creating websites for promoting those posts, writing reviews (sometimes fake), Wikipedia articles, comments plastering… etc. A large range of companies and people use it every day, from small-businesses to multinational enterprises, politicians and celebrities. This is a severe world that don’t forgive people’s mistakes. A typical case is, for example, a company that filed for bankruptcy in the past, but could dig out of crisis some years later. But the bad news of that unpleasant past are still there, no matter if they happened twenty years ago. Or maybe someone was involved in a car crash and accidentally killed a person. Even though is not guilty, the stain is there.

Image courtesy of wai kin wong at Flickr.com
Image courtesy of wai kin wong at Flickr.com

People may start wondering about ethics, but, as any other kind of business, there are black and white situations here. There are two common kind of clients: (A) Companies or people who made a recent or old mistake, and wish to start over and keep going, and (B) People who got bad publicity because others actions: viral nude pictures or videos, being homonym of a criminal, being involved in a legal process (although you are really innocent) … etc. In both cases a Reputation Management company can bring the following solution: moving the current positive information available on search engines over the bad press. In some event, a RM company can successfully move a decent amount of positive web sites to drawn down the undesired information to page three or four in Google. Of course, it implicates a huge volume of website launching and the creation of content. Definitely, not a crime. In the first case, it’s about giving others an opportunity to do move on, and, in the second case, to help victims of other people’s harm.

Of course, it depends on how does the RM company achieves that result. Or, better to say: what kind of RM company it is. On one hand, there are legitimate service companies that work hard for improving a person’s or a company’s reputation. They are called “white hats”. They achieve their results by tried and true marketing applied knowledge, and they don’t break any rules. But there are sharks in the dark waters of Internet, and you can find people who do whatever it takes to clean other’s reputation. It certainly includes taking questionable shortcuts and breaking the law. They are the “black hats”. They both pursuit the same objective: making good news / articles and launching helpful websites for making the clients happy. People will type their names and won’t find anything wrong. But, for making it happen, the thing is how they do it. That’s another cup of tea.

In ideal conditions, the best way for cleaning up your online reputation is simply doing good things. Never forget that every cause has an effect and it’s a natural law of our world. However, if you want to start again or to clean what others have done to you, here we are.