By Dan Rose
Reputation management is a topic which business owners all over the world need to be fully aware of, yet many still overlook its importance or don’t know how to approach the subject. The fact that businesses with mostly 1 or 2 star reviews online fail to convert around 90% of prospective customers indicates that business owners need to be proactive in their approach to reputation management. But what is it? And how do you go about ‘managing your reputation’?
When you commit to sponsoring a specific charitable cause, that’s reputation management. When you respond to negative feedback online, that’s reputation management. Essentially, reputation management is anything that you do to ensure the public has positive thoughts about your business.
First things first, what are the laws?
What you must remember as a business owner is that your customers and anyone you come into contact with has the freedom of speech to give honest opinions and feedback on your business. However, if they use insulting, threatening or abusive words and behaviours or try to report false information, they are breaking the law. There are lawyers who specialise in defamation, so if your business is being attacked in this way, you can take legal action.
Your reputation is most at risk during an event
Events are live. You and your employees are interacting with the public as well as suppliers, sponsors and other businesses. The safety net of your office has been taken away and anything could happen at any time. While in most cases your event will go off without a hitch, it’s wise to be fully prepared to proactively manage your reputation at your events. There are several strategies you might want to consider:
- Staff training beforehand – how to communicate with the public
- Sponsorship of a relevant charity – corporate social responsibility
- Give the audience the opportunity to provide feedback – surveys, questionnaires etc.
- Film the event – you then have marketing materials to further boost your reputation
- Insure your event – insurance protects you from certain issues which may arise that have financial implications for your business, including:
- Public liability
- Employer liability
- Every equipment damage or loss
- Adverse weather conditions
- Cancellation or abandonment of the event
- Non-appearance of entertainers etc.
The road to good reputation management
While it’s not particularly challenging to implement a reputation management strategy, it does require a certain commitment of time, energy and consistency. Business owners who want to build strong relationships with their customers that continue to grow will consider the four key elements of reputation management:
The biggest threat to your reputation is a disgruntled customer or business partner. Human beings can be stubborn and hold grudges, so it’s important for you to resolve any disputes in as quick and clean a way as possible. Instead of trying to argue your point, try to find common ground and a way to resolve the issue which benefits both parties:
- Create a dispute resolution policy
- Find common ground with the customer
- Offer compensation where necessary
Your staff represent your business. If they act inappropriately, cause offence or behave badly, your business will be tarred with the same brush, so staff training is key to a successful reputation management strategy. Whether it’s online or in person, your staff should act in a way which sheds positive light on your business.
- Provide a customer service training program
- Create a social media policy
- Restrict access to harmful websites on business computers
One of the most powerful tools at your disposal when managing your reputation is ‘public relations’. Of course, your approach to public relations will differ depending on your industry, the size of your business and your overall business goals.
- Take a proactive approach to public relations
- Choose activities which reflect your overall business goals
- Consider corporate social responsibility
With around 81% of all shoppers conducting online research before making a purchase and businesses losing around 70% of customers when 4 or more negative reviews are found online, business owners must be actively managing their reputation online. Whether it’s on social media, review sites or forums, your reputation really hangs in the balance online.
- Respond to online reviews, good and bad
- Try to take any disputes offline
- Encourage happy customers to review your business online
- Report fake or abusive reviews
- Become active on relevant forums to build relationships with influencers
How you tackle reputation management will depend on your overall goals. If you are suffering from a bad reputation, it should be at the top of your to-do list, but if your reputation is currently strong then you might just want to set up a monthly ‘reputation health check’. One thing is for sure though, reputations can change overnight, so keep reputation management in mind at all times.