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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Reinventing Your Personal Brand

You might think of branding as something exclusive to major corporations with tennis shoes or sodas to sell, but it’s also a vital tool for small businesses and self-employed entrepreneurs. Your brand distinguishes you from your competitors and makes you an integral part of your customers’ lives. Suppliers are interchangeable; brands are not; by reinventing your brand and making it stand apart from the crowd, you become irreplaceable.

What Are Your Differentiators?

From clients to competitors, one challenging question lies beneath all your initial interactions with them: What makes you so special? You’re going to need an answer to that question, and that’s where strong branding is essential. All your business content, including your landing pages, blog posts, tweets and newsletters, should answer it.

You probably know a lot about Coca-Cola and Pepsi, two of the most familiar brands in the world. In taste tests, Pepsi typically wins by a large margin, yet Coke has the larger market share at 42 percent to Pepsi’s 31 percent. If people like the taste of Pepsi better in a head-to-head challenge, why have more people decided that “Coke is it?”

Pepsi is slightly sweeter and has a citrusy top note to its flavor compared to its rival. Over the course of a whole can, your tongue can no longer taste the extra sweetness or citrus notes, but that initial burst of flavor is delicious. In other words, Pepsi’s built to make a spectacular first impression. That’s its strength, and it’s why Pepsi’s closest approach to Coke’s dominance of the soft drink market was in the 1980s during the “Pepsi Challenge” campaign, writes Malcolm Gladwell in Blink.

Let’s come back to what this means for you and your personal brand. Revitalizing your brand starts with identifying your differentiators and showcasing them at every opportunity in your communication with prospects. Generic content won’t do it because it’s the same pitch everyone else is making. Custom content that demonstrates value – the value of your unique sales proposition, your differentiators – is the cornerstone of reinventing your brand.

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Reputation Optimization and Your Content Strategy

One of our previous posts dealt with reputation repair, but repairing something only promises to make it as good as it was. Making reputation optimization part of your ongoing content strategy actively improves your status, raising you above your competition and minimizing any negative press that may have attached itself to your company name. Continue reading

Reputation Repair: Protecting Your Online Image

Readers are like travelers on a train. They get an ever-changing view of the Internet from their smartphones and laptops, but the landscape through which they move remains the same. One bad review from a difficult customer or a volley of negative blog posts from a disgruntled former employee could tarnish your company’s reputation. Even when the bad press isn’t deserved or is later retracted, it remains searchable for anyone who cares to look – including your current and future customers. Continue reading

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