There’s a saying that, “Any publicity is good publicity.” It’s wrong. If you have negative publicity it can sink your company. Here are some do’s and don’ts of reputation management online.

Your brand’s reputation is the image it conveys to others that affect whether or not people do business with you. There are a number of variables that factor in, including trustworthiness, friendliness, visibility, and quality of product or service.

Brand reputation management is the practice of taking steps to control and influence these factors, actively shaping public perception in order to dictate how others see you. A well-executed brand reputation management strategy is one that consistently monitors your standing, responding to and fixing problems when and where they arise.

Where to Start

Before Al Gore invented the Internet, there were fewer avenues of perception that brands had to pay heed to. It was simple, there was TV, newspaper, and radio.Through a combination of good service and well-intentioned, well-designed advertisements, brands could effectively shape their image to the one that promised them the most success. Now it’s TV, newspaper, radio, and a hundred online variations as well. In truth, there are thousands – but the average brand only needs to focus on those relevant to it’s customers and industry.

The playing field is larger, the competition is fiercer, and there are significantly more angles to consider. Brand reputation management, once a subset of a business’s marketing plan, is now the driving force behind it.

There are several key facets of online brand reputation management, each of them equally important.

Don’t Spam Search Results

If you create a large number of web profiles in an effort to overwhelm Google, you’re digging a hole for yourself. There are a lot of reputation management companies that offer to build a lot of social media profiles, press releases, and other garbage web content. It’s both cheap and ineffective. Google and Bing are smarter today, and they don’t fall for this technique anymore.

Do Work to Improve Your Search Ranking

The view from the top of the search engine rankings is pretty great. A study from online ad network Chitika found that the first organic listing on any given Google search page (that is, the first listing that is not a sponsored ad), receives 32.5% of the traffic. The second listing receives 17.6%, the third listing just 11.4%. “Position zero” search results, like Google’s “Featured Snippet” and “People Also Ask” boxes may garner even more attention.

Your brand reputation management strategy should put particular importance on getting your listing to the top of the search page, and making sure it stays there. That means providing varied, quality content, and doing the proper SEO legwork to make sure you stand out.

Be Careful with Social Media Responses


Social Media Horror Stories

There are plenty of horror stories about brands throwing their reputations for a loop on social media. (See: Kenneth Cole’s infamous tweet promoting its Egyptian-inspired clothing line in response to the 2011 protests in Cairo; a Fourth of July 2014 Tumblr post by American Apparel intended to convey an festive explosion in the sky, but which was really the iconic and horrifying image of the Challenger explosion; Tinder’s overly defensive Twitter responses to a blog post in 2015).

Though many brands can—and do—recover from online reputation mishaps, these sorts of errors cost customers and credibility, and, if they’re entertaining enough, live on infinitely through many a web page listicle.

Leverage Review Sites Before Bad Reviews Appear

Word of mouth is just as important as it’s ever been for businesses – today the mouths are electronic. That’s because people aren’t just hearing those words out of the mouths of family members and friends – but from strangers across the country and globe, too. In fact, people believe the reviews of strangers at an alarmingly high rate.

Protecting your brand’s reputation on sites like Yelp and Google Reviews means incenting happy customers to leave positive reviews before they decide to hit review sites on their own; and then responding appropriately to negative reviews when they occur (meaning with politeness, not defensiveness, and with an active solution).

A review management program, enabled early, will help improve your brands star-rating long before the first negative review rolls in.

Doing Transparency Right

The expectations put upon brands when it comes to managing their reputations can be ridiculous at times. Some call it radical transparency. While publishing the salaries of every employee online might be taking brand transparency a bit too far, being transparent under the right circumstances is important to the public today.

The requirement of increasingly open levels of communication with customers both current and prospective is a given. An individual who complains about a company’s product or service on social media does so because by taking their problem public they except to raise the stakes for the company, instigating at minimum a response, and ideally, a resolution.

Embracing transparency as part of your brand reputation management strategy is a wise move for maintaining a positive online image. And there are a few tried-and-true rules for doing it well:

When Brands Are Called Out Publicly


Nobody likes to be called out publicly for something negative, but there is much to be gained from conveying professionalism and courtesy in your response. By addressing criticism publicly, you show consumers that you take them seriously and you’re open for improvement. Social media is a public forum, and everyone is watching your response.

Do Ask for Feedback

Assuming you’re not in the middle of a big scandal that’s likely to illicit more negativity than you need, asking the online universe for feedback is a great way to elucidate your commitment to providing the best product or service possible. Try a simple Facebook post asking your followers what else they’d like to see from you or where you can improve. This shows initiative and humility, both of which play in to your company’s trustworthiness and likeability.

Keep Lines of Communication Open to Head-Off Problems

If you can catch a problem early you may be able to keep it from snowballing. So make it easy for customers to connect with you. Remain openly active on your social media channels, respond to both good and bad reviews on review platforms that enable the original poster to edit their response. This last bit is important, here’s why.

If you have a problem with a site like RipOff Report, remember the person who posted the problem can’t take it down, even if it’s untrue. If you respond on a site like that it will add content to the page. This is called a refresh. When you refresh the content of a web page, search engines tend to visit them more often because they like fresh content.

Don’t Respond Publicly If You’re Upset

Some of the worst reputation problems happen when a business owner, attorney, or PR professional responds to a bad review, blog post, or article in an ill advised manner. Whether with anger, sarcasm, or just badly worded responses. It amazes us how many people respond in ALL CAPS. Trust us, it’s a bad idea… always.

The Good News

The good news is that the Internet, while certainly making brand reputation management a much more extensive undertaking, has enabled businesses to take greater control over how they are perceived and what sorts of conversations take place around them. But it takes effort and planning.

A consciously executed reputation management strategy is its own marketing campaign, each step taken either adding to—or detracting from—the image you want to convey. Put effort, time, and resources behind brand reputation management and you’re sure to reap the benefits.

Neglect to do so and you’ll notice that either your story gets told for you, or it doesn’t get told at all.

Read more: Reputation Management Starts With Authenticity