No one ever hopes to need online reputation management. If you do everything with good intentions, work hard, and put your heart into your business, that should be enough, right? Unfortunately, even businesses who do everything right may find themselves needing reputation management or reactive PR at some point. Whether it is bad reviews, a company crisis, or an error that has impacted your online reputation, no one is ever fully immune.
Less than 10% of people get past the first page of Google, meaning that the page one is crucial in determining people’s first impression. This is where traditional PR management, reputation management PR, reactive PR, or maybe a combination of all three comes in.
Public relations and online reputation management fall under the same umbrella of influencing brand image in the public eye, but they do serve different purposes. If you have found yourself in need of some online reputation management, or simply want to be prepared if the need arises, read on for all the key information you need to know.
Public relations vs online reputation management
Public relations’ purpose is to influence or inform the media. It is how people or organizations communicate news, events, or key messages with the press, with the hopes of gaining favorable coverage. Online reputation management can slightly overlap with PR, but relates more to unfavorable press or search results that may already be online.
Online reputation management can serve as one aspect of a comprehensive public relations campaign, and some PR firms will have a department dedicated to just reputation management. The key difference is that public relations is often proactive, whereas online reputation management is reactive.
What is online reputation management PR?
Online reputation management PR is a relatively new type of public relations. It has become more necessary for brands and businesses since the internet age and the boom of social media. Rather than putting the focus on a traditional PR management campaign, online reputation management prioritizes removing or burying negative results that are already published online. It utilizes various methods from outreach and communication, SEO, sponsored content, and review monitoring. As a result, online reputation management PR is heavily research, SEO, and tech focused.
Who benefits from reputation management PR?
Reputation management PR is for people who may have experienced bad press or a tarnished online brand image. It consists of various PR management strategies to address, remove, or bury a negative online reputation. It might be a solution to people or brands that have bad reviews, articles, or even forum comments about them. Reputation management PR can be for people who may have a past they want to move on from or people who have been unfairly slandered online.
How does online reputation management work?
Online reputation management isn’t necessarily about erasing the past, but rather boosting your new brand image. PR firms can’t control what people see or what publications post — nor can they make reputable publications remove their coverage. What ORM aims to do is work towards influencing those search results. Most people will be drawn to bad coverage when they Google anything. It becomes a difficult cycle to break out of because it means those pieces will continue to rank highly. Many large companies will have to manage this on a daily basis. For smaller firms and startups though, a few negative pieces of coverage can be fatal.
How to remove bad online results
The most preferred and permanent solution to your negative online press is removal. That means contacting the publication, reviewer, author of a review, or even a Reddit moderator. The first potential approach to take is the humanitarian one. That means telling the relevant people how this piece might be affecting your business, finances, or relationships, and simply asking for a compassionate response and for them to take it down. This may not always work.
A second approach is a financial incentive. Unfortunately, some websites will respond to this and while it is not moral of them, it can solve your problem.
The last approach could be legal action. A PR firm may have internal legal counsel, or you could approach an external party. Through this, they might be able to claim that something is defamation or detrimental to health.
What about the larger publications?
The larger and more established publications, like The New York Times, for example, will very rarely remove their articles. Journalists are held to a high journalistic standard, and will rarely print falsehoods. Unfortunately, in most cases these articles are there to stay. But there are companies, such as Guaranteed Removals, who will exhaust all resources to try and remove something unwanted online.
What is the online reputation management PR approach?
If the previous approaches don’t work, the online reputation management PR approach may be your best option. This approach is called suppression. This is the process of creating a positive online presence by publishing links with a high domain authority. This will consist of published sponsored content, syndicated press releases in reputable publications, and guest posting. This requires using optimized SEO methods as much as possible.
The idea is to push the bad results further down the Google search results, eventually onto page two or three. SEO at this level is very complicated and is affected by many factors including location. But once the bad links get to the second page, the traffic decreases, and other pages will start to rank higher.
There are other methods besides pursuing press coverage. Optimizing all social media pages: Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and YouTube, and setting them up correctly, will help them rank on the first page every time. In addition, there are various websites with strong domains that allow you to register a free account. These include things like Crunchbase, where you can register business information, and Medium, an open publishing platform. The goal then is to link everything together – sending everything to your social medial and other pages.
Pursuing new press and backlinks
An approach PR firms follow alongside suppression is running a new PR campaign in the hopes of securing better coverage. If you have a great story about your business that is not reflected in your bad links online, a reputable outlet may pick it up. This will help to push older links down the Google search ranking.
One of the factors that helps something rank highly is how many backlinks it has. This means how many other sites are linking to that piece. If your positive press has more backlinks pointing to it, Google will think it is more important and push it up the rankings. A PR firm will help boost those backlinks by utilizing new pieces of content and adding backlinks to the SEO optimized articles.
Should you just focus on press?
Often when you Google a company, other search results can rank higher than press pieces. This can range from reviews, social media, and forum discussions. Online reputation management also means responding quickly and thoughtfully to negative reviews on websites like TrustPilot or Google Reviews, as well as social media comments. A poorly worded comment can generate far more negative attention than a sincere and quick response. While favorable press coverage may seem like the logical response, there are far more factors to take into consideration.
How important is reactive public relations?
Reactive public relations relates closely to crisis management. It means responding quickly to a potentially harmful press piece that may impact your business. The reaction can be anything from a press release or conference, interviews, or social media responses. The world of journalism moves quickly and it’s important to act fast. Reactive public relations is important because silence can worsen a crisis. However reactive PR is most effective when paired with proactive PR, which means working to actively spotlight the brand in a positive light.
What else can you do?
Another option is to utilize sites like Wikipedia and Wikitia. Establishing a Wikipedia page yourself can be challenging, and there are many requirements to meet. But if you do set one up that meets the requirements, it will rank very well on Google, get a high click volume, and have very high read through rates. Wikitia is an alternative option.
Where does traditional PR come in?
A PR management campaign can be paired with reputation management. The latter will not always be related to a crisis or time-sensitive matter, but rather serves as an ongoing strategy to keep your online reputation strong. This can be done alongside a PR campaign that spotlights company news, events, or campaigns and may result in favorable press coverage. By aiming for new, timely coverage, it will help to reshuffle the Google search results and ideally push older press back into pages two or three.
Do I only need online reputation management PR in a crisis?
The short answer is no. Online reputation management is for any company at any stage, whether or not they experience a crisis. The keyword is ‘management’. It means keeping an eye on everything that is being said and posted about you online. A responsive company that keeps on top of its reviews, good and bad, will always appear as a more personable and friendly brand.
Public relations online reputation management is a very important component to any business. We are now living in a world where a single online piece can have catastrophic effects on a company. Anyone can speak freely about business online and it’s vitally important that companies monitor this. Take a proactive approach to your PR, get ahead in online reputation management, utilize reactive public relations where necessary, and you can minimize the chances of losing control of your online reputation.
Find out how Otter PR can help you with public relations online reputation management by booking a free consultation.