Reputation management is fickle thing. Sometimes it’s a simple process of identifying where a brand went wrong, backtracking and fixing the situation, then carrying on in the right direction. Depending on how well a company had been handling the situation, it’s a relatively straightforward campaign. Other times, a company has been in denial of their situation for so long that they can no longer tell up from down. Those reputation management cases require a lot more work to make headway.

Here are a few of my thoughts about reputation management:

What’s wrong with your organization?
Why are you getting so much negative feedback from your customers? One or two angry customers are normal (and to be expected). You can’t be 100% perfect 100% of the time. But if your brand is constantly under attack by your past and present consumers (like having someone create a yourbrandsucks.com website) it’s time to get honest with yourself. Is there something wrong with your product? Is it not living up to your consumers’ expectations? Or is it more of an internal problem, like bad customer service.

In order to find out what is wrong with your business, you need to start paying attention to your customers! Send out surveys to past customers asking them to rate your products/services and their overall experience with your company. Read online reviews of your brand and look for reoccurring complaints. Actually talk to your customers!

Before you start worrying about hiring a reputation management firm, you need to fix whatever problems exist in your business. It doesn’t matter how much money or time you pour into reputation management, if you just put a Band-Aid on a gushing wound you’re not solving anything.

How much money are you really losing?

Believe it or not, some companies can stare down a lot of bad press and it has minimal impact on their bottom line. Before you start throwing money at a reputation management firm, do a little number crunching and figure out how bad that bad press is really hurting your company. If it seems to be having a minimal effect, you might be able to combine proactive reputation management in with the rest of your SEO.

Are you prepared for the long haul?

I had a potential reputation management client approach me once; wanting to know how much work and time it would take to salvage their brand. A quick Google search revealed they were in some serious hot water. Searching for their brand name pulled their website and 9 negative links below that, including 100+ consumer rip-off reports and a theirbrandsucks.com in the number two spot. The person I was speaking with told me they had been having reputation management issues since 2002, but that management was only know just realizing what a problem it was. I was floored! 2002?! That’s nearly ten years of a lot of angry customers to work against. I told her flat out it would take at least two years of heavy link building, launching several microsites with their own link building and branding campaigns, developing a social presence (they had zero), a full-throttle content marketing campaign and a barrage of online PR. Then maybe they would see some positive results. They did not become a client.

Depending how much damage has been inflicted on your brand and how much work it might take to salvage it, sometimes the best course of action is to completely rebuild your brand. For the amount of effort, time and money it would take to pick up the pieces of your current company, you might as well start fresh.