A business reputation is just as important now as it was when small towns trusted a family name in business. Luckily in the West a slip in your reputation is not going to ruin your company as quickly and as ultimately as in Japan, where there are cases where a small group of housewives have been able to take down a national company because the company betrayed them.

The online age has brought as many problems as it has blessings. In a small country like Japan where businesspersons can meet to discuss a problem, word of mouth is enough to bring a company down. In the USA there are states that are bigger than France, so word of mouth is not as harmful. Or, at least it was not as harmful until the Internet connected the country up. Now, a viral video can be seen by people around the country in a matter of minutes.

How Much Harm Can Your Reputation Do?

A British company called Ratners was selling jewelry up and down the country. It was a household name until the owner made a throwaway statement about the jewelry being c**p. The comment was recorded, and by the end of the year the entire company had been wiped from the face of the earth.

How Much Damage Can the Internet Do?

The Internet nearly ruined Pepsi when a group of people from around America launched a simultaneous campaign in numerous states. They all claimed that they had found needles inside Pepsi bottles. No reporter ever saw these needles, but the online havoc caused the national press to get involved. The stories were believed to be genuine because seemingly unrelated people from different states were making the same claim at the same time. The company nearly went under until the group responsible spilled the beans on their very well planned operation.

The Internet is Good at Hiding Things

A hate campaign may build for a company without the company ever realizing it. People hear stories and Google it, only to read reviews, blogs, articles and forums that are spreading negative press about a company. The marketing company involved has no idea that the hate campaign is going on because they are not Googling the same thing that their loyal customers are. They are not linked into any of the social media campaigns, or exposed to the forums and blogs that their customers are visiting.

All the company sees is a slow decrease in sales and goodwill without any real reason why. They take years in building their authority and brand, and often invest thousands into PR and new marketing campaigns whilst never realizing that their potential customers are reading nothing but negative press about them.

The Internet Allows for Very Quick Information Dissemination

One person may post something on one of the social media networks, and before long it has gone global. This sort of pace and power is unstoppable, and even the swiftest responding PR firm are going to be unable to stop the flow of negative press and bad PR. The only thing they can hope to do is identify the problem and then build it into a positive. Here is an example of how an American drugs firm did it:

One American town had found that somebody had been tampering with the pills of a certain company by way of revenge. The news went global very quickly across the Internet, even though people were still using dial up modems. The company issued a recall of all of their branded pills in that state, and started churning out pills in blister packs instead. They changed and adapted and put fears of pill tampering to rest. The company quickly recovered and set an example for many other drugs companies who started to secure their bottles of pills in a safer manner.

Reputation Management Tools

There are a lot of tools and services out there that may help you to monitor your online reputation and your brand reputation. It is always good to know what “people” are saying about you or your business. Knowing about them before all things break loose is a good way to manage your online reputation. Just remember that negative reviews most of the time can’t be removed. The one thing you can do is to bury them deep enough with positive reviews.

To help you get started, here are some services that you may find interesting. There are obviously a lot more out there, but these can get you started, in case you don’t know of any you can make use of. Most of these services are free when it comes to monitoring your reputation and will only charge you if you decide to use their services or improving your online reputation.

BrandYourself – A free service that empowers you to control what people find when they Google your name.

Trackur – This is a subscription service that monitors certain keywords as they appear on the net and on social media. This helps to quickly alert you if your company is being mentioned in either a good or bad light.

Brand – Offers a number of different services for the control, protection and improvement of individuals, businesses and brands, using a range of different services and online reputation management techniques.

Sentiment Metrics – This tool allows you to monitor a number of online website types such as social media, news sites, forums, etc. It keeps a lookout for the keywords that you program it with and keeps you up to date with your online brand reputation.

BuzzBundle – Reputation management + social SEO in one tool. Also a free tool (premium version available) that you can download and start monitoring what “other” people say about you.

That’s it! Have you ever felt the need to do some sort of damage control with your online reputation? What did you do to solve the problem?