By now you know why it is important to monitor your online reputation. You know how to set up basic Google Alerts and advanced Google Alerts, so you know how your business is perceived, and what sort of reputation you have. This is all well and good, but you also need to know what to do with this information.

Reputation management is part of your public relations strategy. But it is also part of your crisis management strategy. While nobody likes to think about crises to which they must respond, it is well to plan for them just in case. It is unlikely that there might be a big negative stir about your business online; but ignoring the fact that it is possible is a bit like turning yourself into the proverbial ostrich.

As with any element of business management, knowing when and how to respond is important.

You also want to know how to proactively manage your business’s reputation, and grow it in a positive way. Here are some tips that will help you make the most of the information you are now being emailed each week.

The sorts of things you need to look for

At the most basic level, your Alerts will help you to preserve the value of your business. You need to keep your eyes peeled for:

  • creeping crises, like potentially negative rumours about your business
  • slow-burning crises, like internet activism, slander, or complaints
  • positive comments that you might be able to use in your marketing
  • similar businesses, doing similar things as you do, in order to keep an eye on your competition.

How to address negative things

There are a lot of ways in which you can respond to commentary about your business. The important thing is that you do respond. There is very little point in burying your head in the sand and hoping it will go away.

If the comments are on blogs that allow comments, add your own comment. Make sure it’s calm and accurate; that the spelling is correct; that it is timely. And don’t ever belittle anybody else that has made comments.

A good example of how a business responded to potentially damaging internet commentary was in the Bonsoy debate that occurred on food critic Lisa Dempster’s blog. In one small post about the health effects of drinking Bonsoy, Lisa gained a huge number of comments. It included comments from the makers of Bonsoy themselves. You can see the post here

By engaging with disgruntled people in this way, you have the opportunity to correct untrue allegations, to engage in further business improvements, and even to gain new customers. As those in market research know, some of your most valuable customers are those who complain – because if you win them back, they are fiercely loyal.

If you find that the online commentary about your business is broader than one or two blogs or forums, it may well call for a media response. This is why your reputation management strategy needs to embrace the notion of crisis management on a more general level. There might come a day when you need it.

Using positive commentary

On the flip-side of all of this, you might find that people are sharing your content, being enthusiastic about what you do and offer, and generally making a bit of a positive ruckus on your behalf. It’s a great feeling when you find things like this! And you can use it to your advantage. You might:

  • jump in on blog comments, thanking people for their lovely words, and engaging directly with your market – on someone else’s site
  • find people who can guest on your business blog
  • create new networking opportunities and partnerships
  • gain comments or a ‘vibe’ that come in handy for your marketing campaign
  • gain testimonials, if you are confident enough to ask.

If there is no commentary, though? What then?

Well, this can go two ways. Either you’re not making a big enough splash, or people are quietly content. Congratulate yourself for not having disgruntled customers who splash your name everywhere.

On the other side of this, you might want to revisit your marketing strategy, to see if you can make a bigger impact.

You might also find that your Alerts gradually show you other people doing substantially the same thing as you, but who get a great deal more notice. In this case, it’s a great opportunity for you to see what they are doing online, and compare it to what you are doing. At the very least, it’s a great exercise in reviewing your competition.