How to protect the online reputation of corporate leaders

A new front has been open -for several years now- for company managers and senior executives: the management of their online reputation. Some time ago, the main risk for these leaders in relation to their reputation was in the dissemination of information through traditional media, such as newspapers, magazines, radio or television. The advent of the web and new communication technologies in our society opened up a new stage for reputation management, now on a global level, to be taken into account.

Therefore, companies and leaders are faced with the need to find new actions to protect their online reputation, although there is a factor that remains at the top of the pyramid of performance: a good communication strategy and coordinated action between the different sectors or persons involved.

What can companies and managers do to protect their online reputation?

  1. Having a specialized communications team which is present in decision-making as far as reputation is concerned.
  2. To protect your online reputation in regard to information that has been made published in any traditional medium, there are legal resources and laws depending on your country of residence.
  3. The right to be forgotten is another resource that exists currently to protect your online reputation. We’re talking about the right that the owner of personal data has to ask search engines such as Google or Yahoo to block or remove said data if the affected parties consider it to be improper, outdated or excessive.
  4. Go to the courts if the reputational damage is potentially serious. It’s not a simple decision, and therefore it is recommended to make it with those responsible for communications, the legal department and the affected parties themselves.

As you can see, before any action to reverse a complicated situation involving a corporate leader or a company, it is essential to have a legal team that specializes in online reputation that, along with the communications team, designs the legal and public strategy to carry out in order to remove the information which is considered harmful to the company or its leaders.

We must not relegate the protection of our online reputation, since in the future it can be very detrimental to the business or to the career of the person who was affected by certain comments online.

Legal departments have tools and resources to preserve their executives’ right to honour. However, prosecution is not always the best option.

Protection of reputation and the right to honour have changed radically in the digital world. The immediacy, impact and supposed anonymity offered by the Internet is a perfect formula for corporate leaders to be criticized or attacked by some of their actions. Given such circumstances, it’s important for us to know which legal tools exist to protect the right to honour on the web and when should we resort to a legal tem.

The solution to the latter is not a simple issue. It is necessary to study every case and make decisions that are best suited to each one of them. It is essential for there to be a good coordination between the legal department and the communications team.

The first step is to generate a good communications plan, besides acting preemptively. If this does not produce good results, lawyers must decide which path to follow. You can try resources such as the “notice and takedown”, a complaint mechanism enabled by websites and social networks to remove injurious or defamatory content. An injunction, as well as the right to rectification, the courts, or the right to be forgotten are other useful resources.

Image courtesy of Government of Alberta at Flickr.com
Image courtesy of Government of Alberta at Flickr.com

It’s all a matter of timing

The right to rectification is one of the most commonly used tools, although it might not always be the best option. In this case, lawyers have to bear in mind that there’s usually a deadline for exercising it, so you’d have to assess its real effectiveness.

As for possible actions in court, taking either the civil or criminal path, in the most severe cases, this will always be the most appropriate tool. However, even if there’s an adequate legal framework to protect a person or company’s reputation, there are legal factors that may hinder effective judicial protection, such as the delay of processes, the impossibility of provisional execution of the judgment, low compensations and media coverage.

One of the last options to protect your online reputation is the right to be forgotten. This type of right to rectification -applied to the Internet- allows you to block, out of the list of results obtained after searching for the name of a person, any links to sites, published by third parties, which contain information concerning that person. This option may be interesting, but you must keep in mind that this does not make the information disappear, it only makes it more difficult to find on the Internet. Moreover, the right to be forgotten is not always enforced by platforms when it comes to information that is not obsolete or remains in the public interest.

At what stage is the reputation of your company?

The trust and confidence of the consumer can have a direct and profound effect on a company’s bottom line. Recently, the importance of reputation has become increasingly apparent, as companies have had to cultivate their responses to crises in order to maintain the reputation and standing of their companies to the world.

In the past, businesses relied on word of mouth by their stakeholders in order to establish, build and maintain their reputations. In this modern age of social networking, websites, and other methods of instant communication, businesses must be conscientious of their reputations on a constant basis and be responsive to any crisis that may have an impact on their reputation.

Having a good reputation can benefit a business in a multitude of ways including consumer preference, support for an organization in times of crisis or controversy, and the future value of an organization in the marketplace. If an organization has a good reputation in the marketplace, consumers may have a preference for that company even if there are similar businesses offering the same products or services for different prices. The reputation of an organization can enable a company to differentiate its product in highly competitive markets, allow it to have premium pricing, and can become the ultimate factor in whether a customer decides to patronize one business over another.

With the globalization of internet, customers, users or potential business partners, often tend to do at least a little research, they want to know where their resources are going. The information found is known as online reputation. Online reputation management is the process of controlling what shows up when someone uses a search engine and type your name. It shows you how to promote positive content to the top of your search results and push unwanted content (negative, irrelevant or competition) farther down to ensure that when someone researches you, their results are populated with positive, relevant content about you or your brand.

 

Image courtesy of nicolask at Flickr.com
Image courtesy of nicolask at Flickr.com

The reputation of your brand could be in one of three stages. First, it could be unknown and in need of building. Second, the reputation could just need well managed maintenance. Or three, the reputation of the company could have suffered a mishap and because of that it would need a recovery.

Building

This part requires a lot of effort and resources. The social media world is one dimensional, but you can make yourself multi-dimensional. Writing for social media sites is very different than writing a “term paper.” Take a more personal approach to writing. Write how you converse. Practice and study other successful bloggers and web writers. Let people know you care about them, their issues and challenges. “Here’s what I can do to help…” is a powerful connector. Sharing, serving and giving good, useful and pertinent information to help them solve problems goes a long way. Hey, I love a great joke and some edgy language, but I don’t need anything really off color or any profanity to get my attention. Careful here. Remember, you can’t delete or erase this. One click and it’s on the Web for what could be a very long and tedious time. Lots of people are comfortable with giving to others but not allowing others to give to them. This is one area I have really improved on. When people ask me how they can help me, and I know they are coming from a genuine place, I accept their invitation and allow them the pleasure of giving and me receiving.

Maintenance

After having developed an online reputation, the best thing to do is avoid the setbacks, because the recovery could be hard or near impossible.

Whenever you join a site that allows you to add a good profile, use each profile opportunity as a chance to show your best side. Write the profiles carefully, highlighting the things about you that really matter to you and that you’d like other people to acknowledge you for. Try to be consistent concerning the information that you provide in profiles. As things change, keep these profiles updated. Avoid poor spelling and grammar. Thoroughly proofread and copyedit any online postings or resumes before submitting them. In most cases, employers frown upon and likely will turn down hiring you if your resume or other important applications are littered with mistakes. Additionally, your friends, family, or coworkers who can see your social network posts may find consistent grammatical errors annoying. Share things that are fun and productive. This means sharing information, photos, videos, and other online items that reflect well on you and improve the general nature of online communications. Things that are not productive include embarrassing photos of you or others (in the latter case, you show poor judgment in hurting someone else’s feelings), defamatory or degrading content, filthy jokes, crass comments, flaming or trolling commentary, and so forth. If it’s negative, degrading, and hurtful, it’s unproductive and will saddle you with a poor reputation.  Focus on shining when online.

Recovery

If your business has gotten a bad reputation for any reason, then the recovery portion of reputation management is for you. Remember to be transparent and use the situation to explain and return in strength.

 

Why is online reputation important for e-commerce sites?

Behind all of the work that an e-commerce requires to function, there is a communication task which is essential to build its online reputation and boost sales. This is one of the only ways in which we can achieve an adequate positioning in the minds of millions of Internet users who post their opinions on the Internet.

E-commerce has been growing in an unstoppable way since its early days. Users resort to the web to look up information prior to making purchases, reading reviews and opinions that other have published in order to make a definitive decision. Hence, the potential of electronic commerce is quite remarkable.

In addition to the ever growing number of users who purchase online, there is something in common, something intangible that happens to require a great deal of communication and the existence of a digital strategy that is aligned with the business’ goals: online reputation.

Does it sound familiar? Even when concepts such as “positioning” sound too abstract, we can take a closer look at what this implies for commerce sites. When it comes to perception, it is often difficult to turn concepts into something tangible. In online reputation management, it is not enough to have a beautifully designed page or a pay per click campaign with a few branding goals. These are totally valid actions, but they have to come guided by a central axis which is the strategy.

Management of social networks, management of customer service, logistics management, usability and user experience of the online store, neuromarketing techniques, post-purchase satisfaction, customer loyalty… As you can see, when we’re dealing with online reputation, everything has an influence, going from what is strictly offline to the most online aspect we can possibly imagine; and from tangible things such as mailing a package to the more intangible aspects such as the feelings that users get from their experience. And it is impossible not to communicate what we do -or what we don’t do-, regardless of its nature.

Delivering our product with a nice packaging helps create a reputation, replying to customers’ inquiries with a kind discourse does it too, and so does generating interesting content in social media or showing up on the first page of Google’s search results through SEO techniques. One thing to assess the importance of online reputation, especially if we manage our brand’s social networks, is that over 80% of users read the opinions of others in social networks and, without a doubt, today the opinion of an influencer is heavier than that of our friends. By “influencer”, of course, we mean both bloggers and also journalists who talk about our brand.

Image courtesy of Fosforix at Flickr.com
Image courtesy of Fosforix at Flickr.com

It is at this point when we talk about the concept of “prosumer”, or the consumer who interacts with our products, generates opinions and influences the purchasing decisions of others. Just imagine that you are the owner of a small company and a small user community speaks badly of your product or service. A crisis of this kind can seriously damage a company and sometimes it is quite difficult to recover from something like that.

Everything has the potential of being influential. We must be careful and pay attention to details, strive to have a personality and get the consumers’ perception of our brand to be the one that we wanted from the moment we designed our strategy.

So, behind all of the work that an e-commerce implies, there is a communication task that is essential to boost sales and bring together all the other tasks that must be performed for everything to work smoothly. The offline and online worlds come together through a communication that generates a reputation, whose online management becomes more important by being subject to the opinion of millions of Internet users.

Even if we are permanently pursuing conversion goals and wanting to sell more, we must pay attention to how we communicate our campaigns and our identity. Only by aligning the work of all departments and transmitting it correctly we’ll achieve the position that we want and only then, that place we reach in the minds of our potential customers will help boost sales.

Be concise and clear with your site’s information

When we talk about doubts and problems in setting up an online store we’re essentially referring to information. Product descriptions should always be clear and specific so that any potential customer that gets there, knowing nothing about your product, is able to understand its utility and performance.

Therefore, when we find an e-commerce that is not completely clear about what it offers and what are the characteristics of their products, the customer may feel scammed after making a purchase, when the product arrives at their home. These cases are really dangerous for your online reputation since the heartbreak of a customer regarding a brand or company is a really complicated thing to manage. Hence, it is best that, when designing your e-commerce strategy, you have a very clear idea of what it is that you want to sell to customers in order to avoid further trouble.

Awesome example of outstanding reputation management

What would you do if your company was receiving bad reviews in the social media, if a certain problem with a costumer was threatening to ruin the reputation that you worked so hard to achieve? Rest assured that from an online reputation crisis you can recover and even come back with more strength. In this occasion we are going to analyze some study cases of adverse situations that were well managed and they knew how to spin the situation and recover from the crisis. Exposing your company every week, or even daily, in social networks like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google+, posting articles, photos, comments, etc., is good for your Social Media Marketing, but that kind of exposure is susceptible to critics and poor reviews from time to time.

First, for you to really understand the threat that an online reputation crisis means to a brand, we should see an example of it. Some of the most skeptical, think that paying attention to this is an overreaction, that this kind of comments disappear overnight and soon are forgotten, they think that investing resources in the solution of a situation like that is a waste, that the problem solves itself in a short time. This could be a big mistake for your brand.

This kind of issues are more serious than you think, but easier to understand it by analyzing an example.

Everything began when in the official web of Dodot, a commercial brand of Procter & Gamble that works with diapers and baby wipes in Portugal and Spain, appeared the translation of an article of Suzanne Dixon, a professor in the University of California, where she was talking about issues of discipline with the children and a tolerant stance in front of physical punishment.

The article from Suzanne has this kind of statements:

  • Although no other long term study has demonstrated the effectiveness of spanking, neither there is one that shows that this kind of punishment causes bad relevant effects in the long term.
  • […] It is not advisable to hit babies under 2 years, because there is a risk of causing injuries.
  • […] Whichever is your decision about hitting, make sure that the members of the family and the nanny agree with this form of discipline.

The scandals reached national press, as we can see in the digital diary “El País” from Spain. This also generated groups in Facebook denunciating Dodot and its lack of sensibility. The response from Dodot was a simple statement that read:

“Dear users,

Thank you all for helping us notice the mistake that took place. We proceeded to eliminate the article from Dr. Suzanne Dixon from our web. Again we apologize and we are going to take measures that this won´t happen again.

Responding to your petitions, we declare that, off course, Dodot does not support child abuse in any way, we are deeply sorry for this kind of doubts.

Our commitment is to keep learning each day, thanks for your help.

Thank you for helping us grow with you”.

The statement is real, and Dodot does not share the points exposed by Dr. Dixon, but this measure alone, was not enough to tackle the crisis. If today you search “Dodot children”, the negative article will appear in second position even when this article is from 2011. This demonstrates that Dodot should be offering better and kinder information about those two combined key words. This teaches that doing nothing is not going to solve anything.

To know how to spin an adverse situation, you can learn from the experience of other companies that succeeded in that endeavor. Let’s review an incident with the brand Zara, and a garment that was available via Zara´s UK homepage as well as in a number of its international outlets, including Israel.

Zara

Image courtesy of Leif Harboe at Flickr.com
Image courtesy of Leif Harboe at Flickr.com

A simple model from the department of design could generate a dark controversy. This is what happened with a striped pajamas with yellow star, created for the children idle in the chain stores from Inditex. A Jewish media noticed this pajamas and immediately said that this garment was just like the uniform that the Jews were made to use in the concentration camps. Zara reacted on time, retrieving the shirt from all the stores and saying that this design was inspired in the Western genera, it was quite plausible if you consider that the design of the star was just like the stars the sheriffs used to wear in those western movies.

The lessons is: Act fast!

In this case, the quick reaction of the company, avoided that the issue grew bigger. Is important to be always alert. An online reputation crisis has a lot more changes to be kept in control if it is detected on time and if you act fast enough.

Believe it or not, online reputation affect the income of hotels

These days, every company is surely aware of the importance of protecting their online reputation, given the fact that a poor management can lead to irreparable consequences for any brand.

The hotel sector is, without a doubt, one of the most sensitive ones to negative reviews and customer feedback. Studies in North America and Europe have shown that having a positive reputation online is not only applicable to online pricing policies. As a matter of fact, it goes far beyond that. It influences the bargaining power of the company in every thinkable way. A hotel that has a good image will be ready to increase their price ranges, since users will prefer it over other ones with less online relevance.

Online reputation can be understood as the image projected by a brand, a company or a particular institution, on the internet, through their actions. But said reputation is built not only from the actions of that company or brand, but also from the comments and opinions that other people post online.

For hotels it is especially important to effectively manage their online reputation, because when it comes to making a reservation, users increasingly turn to websites like TripAdvisor to read reviews from former guests before finally making a decision. It is important for hotels to create expectations that are in agreement with the reality of what the hotel has to offer, in order not to disappoint customers. In other words, honesty is definitely one of the keys to get a hotel’s online reputation to remain positive.

It is vital for hotels to always have the need to improve their customers’ experiences. Here are some important points to consider in regard to this matter:

Image courtesy of InterContinental Hong Kong at Flickr.com
Image courtesy of InterContinental Hong Kong at Flickr.com
  1. It is essential to monitor the online reputation of both the company itself and their competitors. In this way it will be possible for us to get to know the views of users about our company and know what other options are being considered by potential customers. We can also get to know the interests of users, the overall supply that they’re facing and the trends of the market, and adapt to them. This snapshot of the sector will also reveal the causes which improve the level of customer satisfaction, or what is it exactly that makes it plummet.
  1. Companies must care about improving the user experience and offer the best service. The analysis of the views and comments of users is a valuable source of information from which to draw conclusions about which aspects meet customers’ expectations, what are the most important ones to them, which must be strengthened and which should be improved.
  1. You need to plan reputation goals. The success of any company depends on the degree of customer satisfaction, which is closely linked to the online reputation of the brand. Therefore, it is desirable not only to set sales targets, but to improve the service, in order to achieve excellence and make users feel so satisfied as to want to show it publicly, thereby benefiting the online reputation of the company.
  1. The best experiences get the best reviews. To get customers to write positive comments about your hotel, there is nothing more effective than making their stay at the hotel as pleasant as possible. An excellent service and a team willing to please the customer are undoubtedly the best tools.

    Image courtesy of feriansyah at Flickr.com
    Image courtesy of feriansyah at Flickr.com
  1. A committed team. In order to get each team member to give it all, it’s essential to motivate and involve them in the common goal. Show them the positive customer reviews. To highlight and value a work well done is the best way to get the whole team involved.
  1. A well-defined philosophy. Not all hotels have a five star rating nor are they luxurious. In fact, many of the hotels that have a good online reputation cannot be described that way. The secret is to understand what makes our hotel different, what are our strengths and what is our philosophy. If we are able to pass that on to our customers, we will have achieved the goal.
  1. Deal with complaints. Naturally, you can’t please everybody all of the time, and regardless of how well you do your job, there will always be customers who have complaints or ask for improvements to be made. It is essential that in those cases the staff tries to solve the problems as soon as possible, not allowing the complaint to end up in a total customer dissatisfaction, which will ultimately end up posted on the Internet.
  1. Don’t ignore the comments. If those negative comments or reviews exist indeed, they should not be deleted or ignored under any circumstances. It is best to reply politely, apologize if necessary, and try to offer something in return to  “reverse” the customer’s negative experience.

Reply to each and every one of the customer’s comments, in a personalized way. They will appreciate it and it will show that the most important thing for the hotel is the customer’s satisfaction.