Building a Better Reputation

Whether you call it reputation management, reputation optimization or reputation enhancement, it all adds up to the same thing: How can you preserve a great name while protecting yourself from undue negative publicity? Building a better reputation is more important than ever, yet it’s also become more challenging. The rise in social media, crowd-sourced review sites and SEO changes has made skilled reputation optimization vital even for companies that have never suffered an unwarranted complaint. For those that have been unfairly targeted, it is essential.

Reputation managers rely on numerous strategies to restore a dented reputation or polish an already sterling one. Through take-down requests, dilution of negative information with positive content and possibly even legal action, a company can minimize the damaging fallout from online attacks on its reputation. For companies that haven’t been the focus of a disgruntled customer’s ire or an unscrupulous competitor’s misinformation, taking a positive, proactive attitude will bolster reputation. Positive press releases, white papers and an active social media presence can give you protection from concerted efforts to harm your reputation and cushion the impact of the inevitable poor reviews that even the best companies sometimes get.

The Ethics of Reputation Management

No business wants to be at the mercy of those who want to damage it, but businesses must also respect the voices of those who have legitimate concerns. While some techniques for silencing critics are clearly unethical, such as denial-of-service attacks or camouflaging biased statements as facts from neutral sources, many others are benign. Encouraging your satisfied customers to offer accurate reviews, for example, can do an excellent job of counteracting a few less-than-glowing statements.

Using SEO to form a sturdy reputation with authoritative articles, regular blog posts and white papers is an effective form of passive resistance against negative information. With constant positive pressure buoying the good news about your business, negative information has nowhere to go but down on search engine results pages. Since 80 percent of searchers never look beyond the first page of results, this strategy is often enough to protect you from undue reputation damage. The unwanted information is still there, and you aren’t actively concealing it; your content team is just doing a good job of painting a larger and more balanced picture of your organization.

Are Paid Reviews Legal?

Content creation companies are sometimes approached to write falsely positive product reviews, but this practice is more than just unethical; it’s illegal. The Federal Trade Commission requires full disclosure of material connections and imposes fines on companies that don’t abide by these regulations. The FTC fined numerous review-buying companies a total of $350,000 for their practices of spreading artificial sunshine.

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