“Reputation management is one of the hottest topics in online marketing. Protect your reputation and brand online with the right strategies in SEO, PR, PPC and social media. Reputation management issues will be harder to manage as time goes on, so if you haven’t already had a problem in this area – be prepared”

Is your brand naughty or nice? You might not be in the Christmas spirit yet but you should be thinking about this question year round. People love brands and they love to hate them. If you don’t know which category your company is in, then you’re not equipped to handle how your brand reacts within the marketplace.

Rhea Drysdale, Co-Founder and COO of Outspoken Media, Brian chappell, Sr. Social Serach Strategist at Ignite Social Media and Andy Beal, CEO of Trackur, complete the panel of experts on reputation management. Moderated by Krista Neher, we can expect to a diverse perspective on how brand reputation should be pursued.

Six Steps to Becoming a Reputation Monitoring Ninja

If you want to be a reputation monitoring ninja, then you need to follow Andy Beal’s six steps. That’s  six steps left than an AA program. As the CEO of TRackur, which specializes in reputation management, Beal knows how to solve brand issues.

What are the keys to a successful brand monitoring program? First, don’t rush. You need to understand what goals you have for your brand. Will it be to:

  • Improve your reputation
  • Increase engagement
  • Measure campaign success
  • Track rogue employees (yes, this can hurt your brand as well)
  • Spy on your competition. Every ninja must be a good spy.
  • Keep an eye on your CEO. Even CEO’s can slip up and hurt your brand images.

What are you monitoring?

Once you have your goals you can categorize them that will eventually allow you to make them actionable.

  • Your Brands
  • Employees
  • Trademarks
  • Secrets

Beal has come up with 30 different metrics for brands to measure. You can download the pdf here: http://gri.ms/KUVW

Don’t Spend Just Yet

Reputation monitoring doesn’t have to be expensive. If you’re just beginning out, start with the free tools.  This will allow you to understand what networks have the most value for your business. Utilize free resources like Google Alerts, Social Mention and Trackur (he’s a bit biased) before expanding out.

DIY First

Before you get involved with an external company or even commit yourself to an expensive package, test out your own strategy. Find your centers of influence first before outsourcing it. Don’t be afraid to use your virtual elbow grease.

Share the Knowledge

If people are talking about your brand, devise a strategy to determine who handles your brand online. Community managers are great in house people to facilitate what is being said about your brand and filter it to the right department who needs to handle it. These key people should have the access and resources they need to protect your brand.

Don’t Just Sit There

This is a common theme in many reputation management talks that we’ve heard. Fix the cause of the issue not just the symptom. It may be that you need to build better products or provide better services. This should also include immersing your employees in what key factors you’re trying to improve. Finally, don’t forget to engage customers. This is probably the easiest thing you can do to keep your customers interested in your brand. Whether positive or negative acknowledge, reply and thank them.

Homework

  • Make a list of your goals
  • Compile a list of keywords to monitor
  • Setup a free monitoring tools for testing
  • Make a list of your needs and available resources
  • Assign someone to monitor
  • Establish a plan for actively listening
  • Grab a beer and toast to your success
Reputation Management for Big Brands

First off, Brian Chappell chose his child’s name based on search results. How cool is that?

Andy Beal catered mostly to smaller organizations but what about the larger brands? Brian Chappell from Ignite Social Media knows all about big brands and the tools.

What is the key to reputation management? There’s a lot of information being shared on the internet but you only need the key pieces. Just like for smaller brands, you need to know what keywords surround your company: brand names, employees, executives etc. After you have established that you still need to sift through the noise. Spammers will often use your keywords with unrelated terms, clogging up your search results. You can use query searches to diffuse the word streams and find what you need to monitor.

Sites that mention your brand, like forums, should be white listed. On the other hand, you should also blacklist sites that prove to be spam or don’t have relevant information about your brand. The result is a clean stream of data.

Automated alerts in the form of email or SMS can help you keep track of your brand’s health on a day to day basis. But you have to be careful about automated sentiment analysis. Some products offer this but Chappell believes this produces an inaccurate picture of a brand online. The key is to analyze enough date to for accuracy and look for tools that feature sentiment scoring.

Tools

  • Sysomos
  • Radian6
  • Buzzmetrics
  • Alterian SM2
  • Converseon
  • Cymfony
  • Visible Technologies

But tools can get expensive! If you can afford these tools, you may also want to consider hiring a social API engineer to build an internal tool. They can create a custom solution that is relevant to your brand and works within your means. Gnip is a great tool for helping engineers tackle online APIs.

The truth is, you can’t afford to fully automate monitoring.  But what you can do is take actionable steps with what you are doing on a daily basis.

The Basics

  • Improve products
  • Optimize customer service pipeline
  • Establish unique selling point
  • Mitigate brand damage

Online Reputation Monitoring & Preparation

Predict your brand reputation? Rhea Drysdale of Outspoken Media believes it’s possible but first you need the right strategy.

You’re not paranoid, if they really are out to get you.

Believe or not, your brand is a target and can be brought down easily with a news report. Outspoken Media had a client who was battling a multi-million dollar lawsuit and everyone from media networks to politicians began using them as a scapegoat. They had to react quickly to dissolve the situation.

Get to know your medium

  • Google, Facebook, Twitter etc. Where is your brand being targeted?

What Factors Influence Reputation Management?

  • Web history, IP address, Freshness, Relative # of queries, content, SERPS

What Angles are Impacting Your Brand?

  • Individual reporters, national media sites ( who’s interested in this subject), industry specific organizations

Prepare for the Unexpected

  • State attorneys general
  • Class-action lawsuits
  • Movie release
  • Bloggers
  • Random crazies
  • Scrappers and news aggregates

All these people are building back links that can damage your brand.

What is your Response Strategy?

If you’re doing the monitoring but you don’t have someone who can appropriately respond, the situation can quickly escalate. Creating a structure of response will expedite how issues are handled within you organization structure. In the short term, it’s going to be rough. However, you’re establishing yourself in the communities and networks that your brand needs – helping you out in the long run.

Brand management is a team effort. You need to involve everyone from PR, marketing, executive team, HR, SEO and consultants. Together you need to come up with a strategy to change your brand’s messaging. Randim6 is a good tool to help capture what’s going on with your brand and help you develop that message. Plus it has filter options so you don’t catch what isn’t necessary.

For additional coverage of PubCon 2011 Las Vegas, visit the Outspoken Media blog.