- Your brand reputation plays a critical role in every stage of the awareness funnel.
- Build a solid online presence through SEO, thought leadership, and useful, personalized content.
- Respond to feedback and create a memorable customer experience to boost your brand reputation.
- Stay one step ahead by monitoring your brand and investing in brand reputation protection.
Brand reputation matters. Want proof? Next time you’re out at happy hour, mention Comcast to your group and watch what happens.
Once I sat on the phone with customer service for 45 minutes. Then, they accidentally hung up on me.
I love it when John Oliver lays into them on ‘Last Week Tonight’.
I hate them!
Your brand’s reputation doesn’t have to inspire Comcast levels of rage before you take action. In fact, the more proactively you manage your brand’s online identity, the stronger you’ll be when it counts. And here’s the secret: it always counts.
WHAT IS BRAND REPUTATION
Brand reputation is the public’s perception of a brand. Because public perception is governed by what happens on the internet, online reputation largely drives brand perception. How is the brand discussed in news articles, blog posts, and on social media? What do reviews say? What appears on page one when someone Googles the brand? These factors have long-term implications for your company.
Why brand reputation is important
Your brand’s reputation plays a critical role in every stage of the funnel: awareness, consideration, decision, and long-term loyalty. Customers know how to do their homework. A whopping 91% of consumers say they’re more likely to frequent a business with positive reviews. Conversely, 82% say they’re less likely to use a business with negative reviews.
But, positive and negative reviews don’t just appear for the people who look for them. They can also pop up when people Google the brand for any reason. For example, when potential customers use Google as a shortcut to the website or product. If Google suggests negative comments, articles, social posts, videos, or mentions, they’ll probably think twice about continuing.
HOW DO YOU BUILD A WINNING BRAND REPUTATION?
1. Craft a strong online presence with SEO
In most cases, a company’s website ranks at the top of the search results followed by third-party brand mentions. So, what happens when a customer rants about a bad experience on a prominent review site? That negative review sets up shop on the first page of Google. Without a strong online presence, there’s no other content to fill the SERPs.
But with a strong online presence and an effective SEO strategy, there are fewer openings for negative junk to creep in.
Think beyond your own website’s content and strengthen your online presence everywhere through public relations and SEO. Get blogs and news sites to write about you. Capitalize on all owned digital assets. Create and optimize all social media profiles. If you have local brick-and-mortar locations, then claim the listings. Optimize for Google Images, videos and the vertical search engines used in your industry. Create positive PR for greater media coverage, such as for all the great CSR work that you’re already doing.
High-authority brands control every corner of their digital space.
2. Become a thought leader
Nike doesn’t just know shoes; it knows them. Microsoft doesn’t just know computers; it knows them. Netflix doesn’t just know streaming; it … you get the picture.
Think of any major consumer brand and you’ll notice a connection between their perceived expertise and the amount of authority they have in their space. And on the rare occasion when the brand itself doesn’t have a reputation for expertise, you can bet its public figurehead does. Just take Wal-Mart and CEO Doug McMillon.
Thought leadership is established through the content you produce and the people who represent your brand. The more you can provide timely, innovative, thought-provoking, and actionable information to the people who care about your industry or products, the better. Guest posts, byline articles, interviews, speaking engagements, books, and original research are all great options. With thought leadership, it’s critical to translate the insight into digital assets that can then reach a wider audience.
3. Deliver the best customer experience
An upset customer has plenty of tools to regain control of their situation: social media, reviews, and more. But they should never reach the stage where they have to complain on social media just to be heard. Deliver an excellent customer experience across every point of contact to make sure they feel positive about their interactions with your brand.
Consider every single customer touchpoint: social media, the website’s UX, product descriptions, sales, help articles, customer support, confirmation emails, follow-up emails, and more. Is each touchpoint friendly? Speedy? Transparent? Roadblock free? Go above and beyond for your customers, and they’ll become your best allies.
An exceptional customer experience is not only good for your brand reputation, but also for your customer relationships and revenue at the same time. Forrester found that in 18 industries studied, a focus on the customer experience would increase revenue in every one. Brand reputation AND revenue growth are not mutually exclusive.
4. Respond to comments and reviews
One of the easiest and most effective strategies on our list also happens to be the one that busy brands frequently put on the back-burner. Seventy-eight percent (78%) of customers say that when a brand responds to their feedback, it feels like the brand cares about them.
When someone posts a comment on Facebook, mentions you in a Tweet, or writes an online review, respond! It’s important for your customers and prospects to feel like their relationship with your brand is a two-way street. Whether the customer has positive or negative feedback doesn’t matter — everyone who engages with your brand wants to be heard.
5. Personalize everything you can
Personalized experiences improve customer satisfaction and help them feel valued and connected to your brand. They can also reduce frustration and boredom.
Personalized experiences aren’t surface level. You don’t just use the customer’s name in your marketing emails; you tailor the emails they receive so they only get material that’s relevant to them. Similarly, your customer support isn’t personalized just because you know the customer’s name and can see what they’ve ordered.
Use your CRM system as a hub for customer information: what they’ve purchased, problems they’ve had, solutions they’ve tried, the quality of their past interactions with customer support, etc. Whenever the customer interacts with your brand, this information can be the jumping-off point. Aim to continue each relationship, not start anew each time.
6. Nurture an exceptional company culture
Just like your customers, your happy employees can be your best allies — and the unhappy ones won’t be shy about airing their grievances.
Make sure your company culture fosters the former. The companies that fail at this are the ones that think all they have to do to have great employees is find great people. But if the company culture is bad, great people are as prone to dissatisfaction and low productivity as everyone else. Create an environment where great employees can thrive and where average employees feel empowered to become great ones. Foster a culture of transparency, trust, and open communication.
And just like with customer reviews, negative employee reviews such as on Glassdoor typically only happen if the employee hasn’t had their feedback heard in a productive way. So when employees have concerns, listen to them. Your employees are the canary in the coal mine. If they don’t like a product update or company decision or CEO behavior, your customers probably won’t like it either.
7. Use social media to engage with your audience
Social media isn’t just a way to share information with your audience. It’s also a chance to receive information from your audience. Building a positive brand reputation can’t be left to word-of-mouth referrals anymore. Social media allows you to engage returning and potential customers in meaningful ways. Ask questions and conduct polls. Use social listening tools to monitor brand sentiment. Not only will direct engagement with your audience build a strong brand reputation, but you can also catch potential issues before they have a chance to snowball.
8. Listen to (and act on) feedback
Remember those reviews and comments we told you to respond to? It’s not just about responding; be sure to respond to customer feedback in a way that reassures the customer that you hear them and have taken steps to remedy the issue. Doing so can transform a dissatisfied customer into an impressed one, and your approach to the feedback will also register positively with anyone who sees the exchange, which ultimately boost your overall brand image.
And like your social media engagement, your response to feedback isn’t just for the customer. For every customer that comes to you with a specific piece of feedback, you can assume there are countless customers who feel the same way but aren’t moved to leave feedback. Fixing the issue, whether it’s a customer service hiccup or unclear product descriptions, will have a positive effect on your company’s bottom line.
9. Improve your content marketing
Educational, useful, gripping content marketing in many different formats is helpful to establish thought leadership and develop a positive relationship with your customers. A great content strategy earns links and shares from the people who found it useful. Therefore, it also increases your site’s authority, which boosts your SEO. And when people are talking about your content, they create a stockpile of positive sentiment that makes it hard for negative sentiment to breach page one.
Mix up the content formats you deploy in your marketing strategy so you can hit every target:
- For people who need more information and reassurance prior to making their purchase, try white papers, case studies, customer testimonials, and reviews
- To present information in a digestible format, try video, infographics, lists, and interactive content
- For meaty content, you can offer as an incentive for email signups or other interactions, try ebooks and guides
- To educate users, try guides, blog posts, a video series, podcasts, webinars or e-courses, live Q&As, forums, and Slack channels
- For user engagement, try UGC, social media, forums, Slack channels, live Q&As, webinars or e-courses, and interactive tools and templates
- Need to tell a story? Try videos, blog posts, and podcasts
Learn more about the many benefits of content marketing here.
10. Improve your customer support
Customer support representatives are at the frontlines of most reputation management strategies. Give them all the tools they need to address issues quickly and route feedback to the appropriate channels. That includes a good CRM system, enough time and support to handle each customer, and a way to access customer history so they don’t offer repeat solutions.
Be careful about which metrics you use to measure the success of your support representatives. It used to be popular to measure support reps on how quickly they could get through each customer interaction, but today, only the most bureaucratic companies use this as a metric. Focus on KPIs that measure the quality of the exchange instead.
In addition, give your customers all the support channels they need: social media, live chat, email, phone, and the ability to upload files or share their screen when necessary. And because most customers would rather not have to contact customer support in the first place, provide everything they need to solve their own problems, too. Examples include getting-started guides, knowledge bases, forums, FAQs, support communities on Facebook, and detailed how-to articles.
11. Use influencer marketing
Increase your brand’s authority and trust by having industry influencers vouch for you. Consider the audience you want to target and the influencers who appeal to them. Then, build a relationship with those influencers. Collaborate with them to produce compelling content so you can increase the odds of your brand resonating with the audience. (You’ll impact your brand reputation more with actual two-way relationships with influencers rather than treating your engagements as transactions.)
Micro-influencers can play a role in brand reputation management. These are people with passionate and loyal audiences, and they tend to know the mindset, tastes, and preferences of their audience at a granular level. They’re also much cheaper to work with, so you can partner with a large number of micro influencers for results that compound.
12. Increase customer loyalty
Your satisfied customers and employees become brand advocates who can generate momentum and excitement in neutral times and defend your brand reputation if things go south. Brand loyalty is created when you have an excellent customer experience and employee culture. But you have to proactively nurture these relationships to maximize their potential.
Use social listening tools so you can receive alerts when people mention your brand. When the mention is positive, don’t wait — reach out to the customer immediately and build your relationship with them. Offer them special insider deals and discounts, or let them become beta testers for new products. Treat loyal customers like VIPs. And don’t be shy about asking them to write reviews or share news with their friends.
13. Get reviews and bylines
Reviews and bylines also require a proactive strategy. A common pitfall occurs when a brand has mostly happy customers, but it hasn’t asked any of those customers for a review. When those voices aren’t heard, a small handful of negative reviews can create the false perception that a brand has disproportionately unhappy customers. Integrate public relations and SEO to fortify your online presence with all the positive things you are doing and all the positive relationships you are building.
Ask for reviews in your confirmation emails, on social media and and any time a customer favorably rates an exchange with customer service.
To get bylines published, make a list of industry blogs and start pitching. Make your pitch as relevant to each blog as possible by paying attention to the type of content they publish, what they’re missing, and what their audience would love.
14. Monitor your brand
Monitoring your brand means staying on top of mentions as soon as they happen. Set Google News alerts for your brand and any high-profile products or people connected to the brand. You’ll be alerted when blog posts or news articles mention your brand so you can take appropriate follow-up actions, including:
- Engaging in article comments in a positive way — answering questions, thanking people for their feedback, etc.
- Contacting the article author to correct errors
- Crafting your own response to what was said and publishing the response on your blog or in an editorial
And you don’t have to wait for blog posts to be published to stay on top of brand sentiment. Social listening tools like Sprout Social, Keyhole, and Mention will alert you anytime someone mentions your brand on social media. Respond to feedback as quickly as possible. Negative sentiment spreads rapidly on social media if you don’t quell the problem.
15. Think ahead with brand reputation protection
Experienced reputation management professionals aren’t just for damage control. They’re also part of a forward-thinking brand reputation management strategy. They help you stay ahead of the curve. Great reputation management companies work proactively to strengthen your search engine results and get high-quality content circulating related to your brand. They benefit not just your reputation, but your SEO and content strategy.
Your reputation is too important to push it off until you’re forced to address it. With a proactive strategy, you’ll be prepared for anything.