Why Online Reputation Management is Really Three Jobs in One October 27, 2014

Managing a brand’s reputation online is no small feat. The reason so many companies and professionals struggle in this area is because in order to excel it requires a diverse range of specialized skills that are relatively uncommon at most agencies and practically impossible to find in a single individual.

Online reputation management is really like doing three jobs in one.

The field has emerged at the intersection of (3) related but distinct professions, and in order to effectively protect and enhance a brand’s online presence it requires mastery of all three:

1. Digital Marketing
2. Search Engine Optimization
3. Public Relations

Each of these areas fills a specialized role in how a brand’s identity is perceived online, and without all of them there will be a substantial vulnerability in any attempt at online reputation management.

Digital Marketing

Digital marketing expertise is a necessary component to successfully manage your brand’s online reputation because it is responsible for influencing your outgoing appearance and communications. It is also the area most under the brand’s control. In order to make sure that your brand’s target audience immediately understands your core values, quickly establishes trust in you, and feels compelled to make a purchase, digital marketing expertise is required.

These days a brand’s outward impression is critical. Consumers will no longer trust an app with a pixelated logo; waste time on products that cannot be used intuitively, without needing to read the manual first; or do business with a company that has a slow website that looks like it hasn’t been changed since the late-90s. Appearances count, and in order to make sure that your brand’s image and external communications connect with your target audience in a way that increases their trust and affinity it takes digital marketing expertise.

There are numerous ways that your online reputation could suffer without strong digital marketing guidance. That’s because there are so many parts of your brand’s outgoing message that impact your target audience’s impression of you. Everything from your color palette, to your typography, to your images, to your logo, to your copy, to the layout and functionality of your site give subtle signals to the viewer about you and your values and integrity. If these elements are not reinforcing each other and telling a unified story to your audience, then at best you will be confusing them and at worst you will be repelling them.

In other words, it won’t matter if someone has a good second-hand impression of your brand before they interact with you online if after they feel let down or turned off. At some point in your customer lifecycle your prospects will have to come in contact with your brand directly, and if that interaction doesn’t make the best case possible for your brand you’re going to lose potential customers — hence why digital marketing is such a critical part of reputation management.

Search Engine Optimization

Search engine optimization is the second leg of the online reputation management tripod. This is because, like digital marketing influences a brand’s outward impression, search engine optimization has the largest impact on the target audience’s incoming impression.

Search engines have become the lens with which consumers view their world. When they need to gather information, the first place they turn is almost always Google or another search engine.

So if your information does not show up there, it’s like you don’t exist. And if the first pieces of information your target audience finds about you are negative, you will be immediately and constantly fighting an uphill battle to gain back their trust and break through their skepticism.

This is not a strong foundation for building a successful brand.

In order to make sure that when customers are looking for you on search engines they always find the most relevant, helpful, and positive information about your brand possible, it requires advanced SEO skills to simultaneously move your best results up the rankings while also pushing any negative ones as low as possible. And in some extreme cases, even intervening to have the offending content removed completely from a search engine’s index.

Without being able to optimize search results, your brand is at risk of falling into obscurity or being hurt by negative rankings. If no one can find your site or if search results show so much negativity that your target audience does not even bother to click through to your page, it won’t matter that you have an exceptional message or offering on your website. That’s why search engine optimization is another critical skill for effective online reputation management.

Public Relations

The final area of expertise that is essential for having a successful, holistic online reputation management strategy is public relations. Digital marketing is responsible for how the brand portrays itself, search engine optimization is responsible for how other people perceive the brand, and public relations moves out one layer further and impacts what third parties are saying about the brand and where those messages are featured.

Public relations campaigns fall into two basic categories. The first is to reinforce the positive attributes of the brand in order to build trust. If media outlets publish about you in an affirming way, it gives your brand added credibility because it comes from an external source.

Plus, because the skills for online reputation management are connected, it then creates the opportunity to optimize the search results for that content so it shows up at the top of the rankings for relevant keywords. These public relations efforts also help generate links to your website from respected sources, which increases your search engine status as well.

The other kind of public relations campaign is to combat a negative story that is spreading about your brand. Doing this requires all three facets of online reputation management to be working together. Your digital marketing side needs to address the issue directly, either by solving the problem or publishing a message containing your side of the story to try and turn the conversation in your favor.

Your SEO side needs to try to suppress the results that reflect poorly on your brand and boost the ones that reflect positively on you. And your PR side needs to work with media outlets to ensure that as many publications as possible take a position in their content that makes you look good.

Without strong public relations skills, even a brand with solid digital marketing and search engine optimization capabilities could be brought down by a scandal. It won’t matter if you can succeed in suppressing the search results and communicate your side of the story in a compelling way, if the negative story is spreading faster and on channels that aren’t impacted by search engines, such as social media, there will be no stopping the storm of negative sentiment from raining down on your brand. This is why public relations is the third and final leg of the online reputation management tripod.

Managing a brand’s online reputation is not easy! There are a lot of distinct skills that need to operate together to be effective, and it’s difficult to even put together a team that has them all, let alone coordinate everyone so that the sum becomes greater than the parts.

Fortunately here at The Link Builders we not only have over a decade of combined experience in online reputation management, we have a tight-knit team of veterans that has been working together for years to make sure our clients have the best online brands in their industries.

We have the skills, we have the integration, and we have the experience, so if your brand’s reputation is fighting against negative sentiment or struggling to get noticed, we can put together a targeted campaign to get your prospects and customers believing in you again.

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Nick Cuttonaro

Nicholas Cuttonaro is an Internet Marketing professional specializing in search engine optimization, lead generation, and online reputation management.

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