Monitoring, Managing and Maintaining Your Company’s Online Reputation
Do you know what your company’s online reputation is? Many companies don’t know, and even worse, do not have a plan for managing their reputations online. It’s becoming easier by the minute for potentially damaging information to be posted online about brands, making it essential to have a process in place to monitor the digital landscape and to ward off potential crisis.
In this webinar, Search Mojo’s Janet Driscoll Miller teams up with online reputation management expert, author of Radically Transparent, and Trackur founder Andy Beal, and reputation management lawyer and founder of Threshold Counsel, PC, Christopher Gatewood, to advise you on the steps you can take to manage your brand’s online reputation.
Presenters: Janet Driscoll Miller, President & CEO, Search Mojo, Andy Beal, Founder, Trackur and Christopher Gatewood, Founder, Threshold Counsel, PC
Presented on March 21, 2013
Okay so I think we're ready to get started now. Thank you for joining us. Welcome. Thank you for coming to today's webinar, "Monitoring, Managing & Maintaining Your Company's Online Reputation." I'm Kari Rippetoe, content marketing manager at Search Mojo and I'll be serving as your moderator for today's webinar. I just have a few reminders before we get started. There will be a Q&A at the end of today's webinar so if you have any questions for our presenters, please enter them in the GoToWebinar questions box at the right of your screen.
Also, as always we are recording this webinar and once the full recording is available, you'll receive a follow up email which is usually by Monday at the latest so keep an eye on your inbox for that. Finally, we encourage you to tweet about today's presentation, any interesting insights or takeaways you'd like to share. So if you do tweet, please use the hashtag #mojowebinar. Plus, you can also follow Search Mojo on Twitter @SearchMojo.
Today's webinar should be a pretty interesting one on a topic that many companies don't really think about until it's too late. But we have three people presenting today who are online reputation management experts. And in fact, I like to think of them as super-friends of online reputation management. And so I'd like to introduce them to you now.
Janet Driscoll Miller is the president and CEO of Search Mojo. She has nearly 20 years of marketing experience, and in addition to her work in search engine marketing Janet has a background in marketing communications. She holds a degree in public relations and communications from James Madison University. She is a frequent speaker at marketing conferences and she writes for several blogs and print publications.
Andy Beal is the Founder and CEO of Trackur, a powerful yet affordable social media monitoring solution. With over 15 years of Internet marketing experience, Andy specializes in online reputation management and is the co-author of Radically Transparent: Monitoring and Managing Reputations Online. You can find Andy on Twitter @AndyBeal, which you can see here, and also at his blog which is marketingpilgrim.com.
Chris Gatewood founded Threshold Counsel, PC in Richmond, Virginia where he works with business clients as outside general counsel for companies small and large with a focus on their IT, social media, online reputation, and intellectual property needs. He has written on legal topics for publications including ZDNet, SitePoint, RichmondGRID Magazine, the Virginia Business Law Bulletin, and the Richmond Times Dispatch. He attended Wake Forest and the University of Virginia School of Law.
Search Mojo was founded in 2005 and specializes in all things search marketing including SEO, pay-per-click, social media advertising, content marketing, and of course, online reputation management. Search Mojo is headquartered in Charlottesville, Virginia and we also have an office in Charleston, South Carolina.
We've been featured in several marketing publications and blogs and we also speak at several conferences including SMX social, actually all the SMX events, and Marketing Cross and PubCon. Our clients include a variety of B2B and consumer brands, non- profit organizations, and educational institutions.
Trackur offers social media monitoring tools and has over 60,000 registered dashboard users. Plans start at just $27 and Trackur also offers full white labeling. And it is the only monitoring tool to offer free online reputation management insurance with corporate plans.
And last but not least Threshold Counsel was founded in 2010 by Chris Gatewood and is headquartered in Richmond, Virginia. They offer legal services for businesses that include technology and Internet, social media, and, of course, reputation management.
So before I hand it over to Andy Beal, I'm going to kick things off with a quick poll, and I will launch that soon if you bear with me. So the question is: Has your business ever faced a reputation attack? So think about if that's ever happened to you, yes or no, and I'll just give you a few seconds to register your answer.
Okay, great. I'm going to close that poll out now and share those results. So, a great many of you have actually had some sort of reputation attack and so Andy is going to start things off with some information that you might be able to use to monitor your reputation going forward. Andy.
All right, thank you Kari and thanks to everybody that's taken the time out today to be here. I know some of you are probably either just back from lunch or looking at that lunch clock. None of you apparently dropped off as we went through our sales pitches about the three different companies, so that's a good sign, we appreciate you sitting through that.
As Kari said, I'm going to be starting us off today. I'm going to look at a couple of things, one is setting the foundation for reputation management, I'm going to look at some key considerations for monitoring, and also look at some proactive things before handing over.
If you like what you hear, then I'm @AndyBeal or @Trackur, if you don't like it, tweet it as coming from @radian6 let's see how they handle that reputation just for fun. No, I'm just joking on that, don't do that. All right. Let's kick it off here.
So let's start off by looking at a definition of reputation management. Back when I started consulting in this space there really wasn't a definition so I came up with this one: Realizing that the perceived value of your brand is defined by information found and discussed on the Internet therefore requiring your constant monitoring and participation in these web conversations. And that's a little wordy, but over the years I've been able to distill it down to really four key areas, so four words: awareness, monitoring, managing, and repairing.
So the awareness is basically understanding what your reputation is to start with and what you're trying to achieve. The monitoring component's pretty self-explanatory, how you actually put your ear to the ground and listen for the conversations about your brand. Managing is both proactive and kind of filling-in-the- blanks, so building profiles, blogging, using Twitter, Facebook, that kind of thing to kind of build that brand. And then repairing obviously is when fecal matter hits the oscillating blades, and you're trying to repair things and get out of a crisis. So that's really the four areas of reputation management.
Why is this important? I don't really know a lot about who you guys are, but you probably fall into one of these three different brackets here. 90% of individuals put their trust in what others have to say about your reputation. So, as a consumer yourself, you probably realize that you're going to ask for recommendations and what other people have to say about you is going to definitely influence your buying decisions.
And then, also, 87% of consumers look at the reputation of your CEOs. Maybe you're here because you do the reputation management for your company. If your CEO gets caught coming out of a brothel or something like that, that's going to have a pretty big influence on the company's brand.
And then probably applies to all of you is the last stat which is 59% of hiring managers are influenced by your online reputation. So even if you're not here to build up the brand of your company, or that's just your day job that you get paid for, you at least also have an interest in building your own reputation if nothing else at some point, maybe to get a better job or start your own company and get some investment capital.
I've worked with people that they have a bad reputation such that they weren't able to get venture capital because of what was discovered online. So it's important for a number of different reasons. So we can't just jump in. We can't- The biggest mistake is to jump in here and start tweaking things, optimizing things, building that brand.
There's some steps that I recommend you go through and I've outlined four key steps here. First is to identify your reputations, what is important to you. Now, for individuals, that's going to be relatively straight forward, it's going to be our name. So Andy Beal, or Samantha Smith, or Janet Driscoll Miller, whoever it may be that's going to be your individual name, So that's what we're trying to focus on.
For companies it gets a little bit more complicated. It could be the company name, such as Apple, the name of the CEO such as Tim Cook, and it could be one of your many products such as iPhone. It gets even more complicated when you start looking at things like legacy brands and previous employees. So for Apple, we go back to Steve Jobs, you might still want to monitor conversations about Steve Jobs.
We did some work one time for GlaxoSmithKline, and if you think you've got reputation monitoring problems, try working with a brand such as GlaxoSmithKline because not only do you have legacy brands, like SmithKline Beecham, that kind of thing, but GlaxoSmithKline is sometimes just called Glaxo, it's sometimes called GSK, and then you've got all of the products, both prescription and non-prescription, which have different names depending on which part of the world you're in. So, we need to identify which of those are important.
Next thing we need to do is to quantify our audience. So we need we need to look at who is it that's going to be talking about our brand. Who are we trying to influence here. And that could be everything from customers, business partners, potential investors, certainly bloggers and journalists, that's going to fall into our audience, but let's not forget employees as well. We're trying to build a positive reputation not just among external stakeholders but internal stakeholders as well, such as employees.
Next up, we need to understand your goals. So for any reputation management, before you get started into the monitoring side of things, what is it that we're trying to achieve here? Are we looking for potential attacks, maybe we've been lucky and we've not come under attack yet. Maybe we're looking for product feedback, so we're going to be monitoring for comments about our products. Maybe we need to keep an eye on reviews in case something negative shows up, but just as importantly in case something positive shows up that we want to put into our marketing materials.
But there are other reasons as well for understanding your goals because you may want to look at competitive intelligence, spying on your competition. Chris will probably talk about this later but you may want to focus on your copyright information, your trademarks, intellectual property, making sure it's not being infringed.
And then the last thing we need to do, especially when it comes to the monitoring side of things, is to understand your needs. What is it that you need from your monitoring platform? Do you need alerts, some kind of RSS or email alert? Do you need information about influence? How influential is the person talking about you? What kind of damage could they exert or likewise if they say something positive, how much could that spread and do good for your brand?
Sentiment, do you want to just be able to calculate it manually or do you need a tool that can identify if something is positive or negative for you? What kind of reporting do you need? These are the questions to ask, and one of the best ways to kind of find the answers to those is to just dive in and start trying different tools. But the key thing that I would recommend is try it yourself.
For the monitoring side of things in particular, you don't want to just dive in and hire an agency to monitor for you at the outset. Now that may come, but you won't know specifically what you need from an agency until you've tried it yourself. That doesn't mean you personally, but your company has certainly gone in, looked at different tools, figured out what your needs are, that way when you hire an agency you can better direct them as to what it is you want them to do for you.
So where do we start monitoring? There are really two approaches I like to talk about. The first one is to find your centers of influence. This is a little more work upfront but is more rewarding as you go on-- as you're looking at this. Because you're going to find where is it that our customers tend to hang out? Could be Twitter certainly, could be Facebook, those are two easy ones to think of.
It may be that there's an influential blogger that's out there that people love to comment on their every post that they do. So that becomes a center of influence. It could be an old- fashioned message board. There are a lot of industries where social networking is not the main place where people go, so it may be that you're trying, your center of influence is a forum or it could be a review site in particular, Yelp, or something similar to that, Amazon.com or Epinions, something like that.
The next approach is to cast a wide net. Now, this is to use some kind of monitoring tool because maybe you don't know yet where your customers hang out. Or maybe you want to add to your focus on centers of influence. Maybe you already know, here's a couple of key places where we know our customers hang out and talk about our brand or potentially could talk about our brand. But also we-- there are millions and millions of other places that we could get mentioned.
So a monitoring tool, that's what they're designed to do, be a radar for you and let you know if anybody's out there talking about your brand. So, you can do either one. The easiest one to set up is just to get a monitoring tool, type your reputations in, let it rip, have it send you an alert if something comes up with something. The one that's better in terms of pure engagement may be to find the centers of influence but what I like to recommend is using both of those.
So the different tools that are available to you, broken it down into kind of three kind of categories here: blunt instruments, precision tools, and Swiss army knives, so let's kind of go through. Blunt instruments are kind of Google Alerts for social mention. It's kind of code for "free", right? So these are tools that yeah, they can get the job done but not necessarily the most pretty tool out there, or offers the most sophistication or fine tuning.
And sometimes they don't even work. We just wrote today about how Google Alerts seems to be going downhill because it's not sending email alerts out. But they're a good place to start up until recently. Until Google Alerts stopped sending out the alerts I would tell people that 90% of businesses would do just fine with Google Alerts. Because most businesses don't have anything complex to monitor.
Precision tools. Now this is where you start using a tool specifically to monitor a certain network. So the example here is HootSuite for Twitter. I will tell you right now that we-- obviously Trackur we cover blogs, and news sites, videos, Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus. But we still personally use HootSuite for that real-time engagement with people on Twitter because we know that's a center of influence for us so we want to have a precision tool just for that.
And then lastly Swiss army knives. These are your reputation monitoring tools. Trackur falls into that, you've also got Radian 6, Visual Technologies, there are a whole host of tools out there that offer a combination of all of the above, lots of tools such as sentiment analysis, influence metrics, that kind of stuff. So with that, I think we're going to turn it back over to Kari and she's got a question for you.
Yes, so regarding the tools that Andy just talked about, which ones are you using to monitor your online reputation? Are you using the blunt instruments that he talked about like the Google Alert social mention? Are you using the precision tools like HootSuite for Twitter? Are you using the Swiss army knives that he was talking about like Trackur and Radian 6? Or are you not using any tools at the moment?
So just take a moment to register your answer, we'll give you a few seconds. Okay great, so I'm going to close that poll out. And it looks like that most of you are in the blunt instruments bracket there and there are some of you who are using the precision tools as well. Or maybe not even using any tools at all. But I'm going to turn it back over to Andy at this point and he'll talk a little bit more about that. Andy?
Okay, yeah, that's definitely interesting takeaway. I'm sure there's some of you who looked at that screen the moment I did and thought well where's the option to click all of the above? And I'm sure that some of you fell into that. And so we understand that maybe not just one of these tools work.
But, for those of you who are not using anything just yet, I mean, please make that-- let that be the first thing you do. If you do nothing else today, listen. Listening is great. You don't have to-- If you're scared of engaging, then consider it free market research. So that's a little about monitoring.
I want to set up both Chris and Janet for their part of this by kind of talking a little bit about why in reputation management it's important to be proactive. A lot of people get caught up in just reacting to a crisis, okay, so they wait until there's a big problem and then they decide that they need reputation management. But you should start now.
You should be proactive and not reactive, because building your presence in the middle of a reputation storm is really, really hard, right? If you've got any experience with search engine optimization you know that it can take days, if not weeks or months, to get a particular page to rank for the keyword that you want it to rank for. And so if we're trying to build positive content to crowd out Google or something of that nature, it's going to be really hard to do that in the middle of a crisis.
Some companies even have like a crisis blog that's not even launched, okay? So it's like behind glass and it's ready to go, ready to deploy. But they don't know what the crisis is yet but they don't want to be building a WordPress blog out in the middle of a crisis so they've got it ready to go and the moment that qualifies as a major crisis they launch it, they customize it, and it's out there in the hour if you like.
The other thing about being proactive is it gives you an opportunity to build credibility with your centers of influence. If there's something negative written about you in a blog post or in a forum and you're trying to respond to that, it's harder to do that if you've got to set up a brand new account, go into that forum, and everyone can see in your information that you're a newbie that they don't even know if they should trust or not. Better to be proactive, engage now, build that trust.
I've had it in the past where I was a member of a popular forum, and somebody came in and started attacking a previous company that I was part of. And one of the other forum-members sent me a private message to say "hey you may want to jump on here because they're talking about your company." That was valuable, that was-- that got me in front of that person before any monitoring tool would pick it up.
Okay. The other thing about being proactive is that it gives you a chance to be congruent with your messaging. So it gives you a chance to build out that Twitter profile that's got the save avatar and background as your Facebook profile, and you're talking about the same things on Google+ as you are on your blog post. So it allows you to be more pervasive with your brand and your messaging to get it out there now and to build it out slowly and steadily and kind of get your reputation improved.
Another benefit of starting now, is without anywhere for someone to reach out to you and contact to you, they're going to maybe build their own or go to some other forum or review site or blog and vent there where you have no control. So by building a Twitter presence, by building a Facebook presence, building these out, getting involved in LinkedIn, not only can they be optimized to take up space in Google and show a positive image, but it also gives a place for your stakeholders - your customers, employees, investors - to reach out to you and have a conversation and potentially allow you to de-escalate a crisis before it gets into a blog post, and before it gets syndicated, and before it goes viral.
The other benefit for starting now is that it allows you to fill the void in your Google reputation, so you can start identifying which of your content you can optimize to push up into Google and at the same time that gives you a chance to crowd out those negative voices. Because in the absence of you having a positive, great reputation, it's going to get filled up with whatever is relevant.
Google is impartial as far as your reputation. It does not care whether a page is positive or negative as long as it's relevant. And so if you've already told Google here are the 10, 12, 15 pages that are most highly relevant to my brand then it's less likely that something negative is going to make its way into that top ten.
So it really, start with the monitoring. Identify your brands, get it in there, start monitoring, get that free research. Think about it, just 5, 6 years ago we paid thousands of dollars for more research about our brand, now it's completely free. Once you start getting an idea of what the conversations are, what perhaps the issues are, you can start being proactive and building it out.
So before we hand over to Chris who is going to talk about a few things, I believe Kari has another poll question for us.
Yes, one last poll before we turn it over to Chris. What we want to ask you today, our last poll is what is your biggest fear when it comes to online reputational risk? Are you afraid of a dissatisfied customer or a client, possibly a disgruntled employee or former employee? Maybe a malicious competitor out there, or maybe it just some innocent confusion or misunderstandings, maybe that's your biggest fear. Or maybe you don't really have any fears right now, which is good, maybe. But go ahead and register your answer, we'll just give you a couple of seconds.
Okay great, and I'm going to close that out now. And it looks like a pretty big majority of you are - you're concerned about a dissatisfied customer or disgruntled employee, someone who is dissatisfied in some way and that is what you are most afraid of when it comes to your online reputation. And with that I am going to turn it over to Chris Gatewood and he is going to talk a little about what kind of options that you have for your response. Chris?
Thanks, Kari. Afternoon everybody, thanks for joining us. I'll start with this slide, which is kind of the basic playbook. I'm not going to echo Andy too much I hope, but these in my mind are the chronological steps to take to get yourself squared away and be ready to act if and when something bad happens in your business.
First is the policies and presence piece. As Andy mentioned, you really have to be present, and not simply because of SEO purposes or building positive things to fill Google but to know your audience, be a part of the conversation as the social media agencies all like to say, and be credible. Be there before you've got a problem and you're much better able to deal with what arises.
The policy piece is both internal and external policies around how to use your company blog, your social media presence or maybe lack- of-presence, put some monitoring on certain other platforms you don't get into actively. Whatever those are, internal policies and external policies will help you be prepared so that you can act quickly if and when the time comes.
Second piece is what Andy spent a lot of time on, and rightly so, which is the listening part. If you don't know what's being said, you're going to be way behind the curve and very-- have a very difficult time in mediating and remediating that.
Three, iron while damp, is don't wait until the clothes are all dry and crinkly, but go ahead and try to smooth it out as soon as you can.
Number four on this list, ask for help. Figure out who you need to go to and what they need to hear from you to help you and don't go calling up Google and saying, "hey take me off the internet" because it simply doesn't work that way. So having some education and some context and understanding to who you're talking to and what it is they need to hear is very helpful and the message is very different depending on who your target is for the message.
And then for the last one. I'm a lawyer, so I'm not going to tell you that you should go to court but once in a while you don't have a choice. That really, that's number five on the list, it should be a last resort but sometimes it happens and we've all read about instances of that, so I'll give a little bit of context into the kinds of considerations there.
The first piece, the presence part of the problem Andy's covered sufficiently but I just would reiterate that if you're out there you can provide some positive to minimize the negative if and when that happens, and you can let people find you and ask you directly or be willing to give you the benefit of the doubt because they're familiar with you and you have a presence and are a known entity.
Policies are important. Some companies have them, a lot don't. And some of them have downloaded them off of an internet site and they may not be the best fit. Beyond that -- by the policies I'm talking internal: telling you your employees and your other management what it is you should and shouldn't be doing online; as well as external, which is when we've got a problem, who handles it and how?
And those policies both are not very useful if they're simply part of a binder in the back of a file cabinet, so I really advocate and participate and help out with training for every client that could use it and hasn't already done it internally so that their people know exactly what's in the policy and why and that really helps them be an effective preventive measure.
The listening piece, to Andy's point, there's lots of tools on that. Trackur, I think is a good one, it's one I'm the most familiar with, I don't know the others as well. There's obviously a gamut and a market for them.
Active ears is an important point that I hope we don't miss today because unless you know who it is that is meant to get those email alerts or checking the sites to watch the statistics or things like that, it's easy for that to kind of get assumed around, if PR thinks that Marketing is handling it and Marketing thinks that PR is handling it, PR thinks that HR is handling it and so forth and so on, it may not be getting handled.
So I think another thing to do, is once you've got your tool, you've got your information feed, figure out who it is that's been deputized to do those things so that you're sure that somebody in fact has them.
Now to mainly, I guess what's mainly the meat of my practice in this area is helping people respond and mitigate a crisis before it comes up. Prevention and policies and training can sometimes be a hard sell for me.
Some clients find it easy to put it off and I get that, I definitely do, but the phone will ring and the emails will fly when something starts to happen, whether it be a disgruntled former employee, or the client who thinks they didn't get what they wanted or even a customer who bought one plate of food and spent the next three weeks lighting up Yelp about it. So that-- that's when I tend to get involved, whether or not I'm involved at the front end, is the back end.
And so my advice in a lot of cases is go ahead and respond where the problem is. It doesn't always make sense, but a lot of times it will. The reason for doing that is the iron while damp analogy, which is simply if you wait too long it's going to dry, it's going to be really crinkly and it's going to be hard to smooth it out.
Speed is very important there and the location if you respond inline on the same site, be it a blog, a Facebook page, on Twitter, so that you can get into that conversation there, it helps folks see both sides of the story much more quickly than if you're responding on your own blog where you control the territory but the conversation is happening somewhere else.
You may not want to get involved in the conversation "stoop to that level" or something like that and there can be good reasons for that. Such as, it's a blog that nobody really reads, in some obscure evenings-and-weekends project that somebody has and you've got good reason to believe that the readership is quite small and the impact will be increased and not decreased if you engage these folks and have a lot of back-and-forth and get involved in comment wars.
I think that's a good reason not to do it, but particularly when it's out there on one of the existing platforms, the Facebook, Twitter, Yelp, what have you, that if you can reply that's always a good idea, to get it there because I'm acutely aware in my daily work as an attorney that no matter how flat the pancake is, there are always two sides. And getting yours out there quickly is a great way to mitigate whatever damage may be going on from these disgruntled employees or customers or whoever they may be. So I think in most cases it's worthwhile and it's a good investment of time and energy to go ahead and respond right inline right where you're seeing the problem.
The demand. When you reach out to, when you get past the point of the do-it-yourself response on your own blog, on the social platform, what-- wherever it may be, and you get to the point of reaching out to someone or getting someone to advocate for you, to reach out to these third parties, you have to know what it is that the request can be. What can you ask for and be taken seriously.
As I mentioned, you can't simply email or call Google and say, "hey take me off the internet." It doesn't work that way, and if you do that you're wasting your time and you're probably going to be not taken seriously if and when you double back the next day with a request that does make sense. So I think the thing to do is to look at what it is you need and what it is you want and deliver that to the service that you're talking about.
Part of that, a big part of that, is knowing the limits of what these platforms, these websites and social platforms have to do and what they don't have to do. If your request is of Facebook, if your request if of Google, or someone else that is using content provided by others, they're protected by Congress under the Communications Decency Act, section 230, the CDA Safe Harbor as it's known by its friends.
And this is a good thing, it's not a bad thing, it's what makes the internet go around, but it also means that your demands of these platforms, of these content hosts if they are not themselves the author of it are pretty limited. They don't need to take it down if it's harmful, they don't need to take it down if it's rude.
They will most often take it down if it is revealing private information, if it is extreme cases such as child pornography, there are certainly things that are far enough over the line that anybody's going to help you get rid of them, but most of what happens and what has the business impact is along the lines of disgruntled employees, and disgruntled customers, or malicious competitors perhaps planting false and negative information so those things, those ISPs, those hosts do not need to take stuff down.
If you're going after the person posted, the author of the content, oftentimes the question is defamation, is it or is it not? Defamation is not simply a matter of opinion: "That was the single worst chicken burrito I've ever had in my life." It is "The restaurant owner who served me that chicken burrito was beating his dishwasher with a spatula." Something factual but that's false and something that is harmful.
Defamation claims vary a little bit from state to state as do the kind of damages in money and recourse you can have under state law, but the common elements are that-- that it can't be just opinion, and a lot of things that people say that are harmful are not defamation, so take a hard look at that before you go screaming defamation so that you're not wasting your time and energy.
The Terms of Service is where I always go when I get one of these calls and figure out what the platform is and where the things are appearing. The request or demand of the site that's hosting the defamatory or problematic content, you've got to be able to speak to them in their own language because they've got their song-sheet that they sing from. And you need to have a hook on which - to mix a metaphor, sorry - you've got to have a hook to hang your hat on when you call these people up or email them or send them a demand letter.
In Facebook's case you want to be talking about something that is one of their many categories, just to use them as an example, of community standards that have been violated. Not simply it's harmful but why should Facebook care? Well, because it violates your policy against posting bullying and harassing messages, or hate speech, or nudity and pornography, or intellectual property infringement, or phishing and spam, it's a security issue, an identity and privacy issue.
Those are the kinds of pegs that Facebook will let you hang your hat on when you reach out to them for a take down. So look hard at the terms of service of the specific site and when you contact them make sure that you're speaking their language.
Part and parcel of that is know the enemy. I mean Yelp is one thing, Ripoff Report is something else. And each of them have their challenges and problems if you get hung out to dry there, but there are different ways to respond to them and they each have their own history online, and tendencies and practices into how they deal with claims and demands. So if you're able to take a little time to assess that before you reach out, you'll be well served in getting where you want to go more quickly.
The next thing is certainly not just know your enemy but know your goal. What is it that you're asking for? If you're asking for an outright take down, sometimes you can get that, often I've gotten that for clients and have been surprised by it. We went for it because that's really what was going to fix the problem and were able to get it. Other times we know going in that we're not really going to get a take down and we end up-- we can't really pull a rabbit out of the hat sometimes.
Sometimes journalists will do a correction or an update to a story if there's an online news outlet that says for example your client or your CEO or my client, whoever, has been arrested for a Drunk in Public five years ago and that's still the thing that pops up the highest in Google when you search their name, but maybe the charges were dropped because it wasn't him, rather his buddy that was causing the problems, and once they got everybody in the cop car and down to the station they dropped it.
So maybe you can kind of advocate with the editor that we're going to have the record expunged, that takes time, can you take it down in the meantime? If not, can you no-follow it? Some of you probably know what that means, which is, make it invisible to search engines.
I've had some cases where the host site says, "absolutely not, never, no way do we take down content," but call back, talk to a few people a few times, explain the economic impact on my client and maybe they'll no-follow it for us so that it becomes invisible to Google, which, as you all know, is really the goal in the end, is to get rid of it in a visible way that is harmful. So it's out there but it's darn near invisible or much less visible and that's really a win.
The litigation, it's not a place to start but sometimes it's where we end up. There's going to be fallout, so just be prepared if it goes that way. The first and often the most difficult choice that clients have to face is, is it worth doing, not only in terms of money, not only in terms of distraction, but is it simply going to serve to create headlines and call more attention to an issue that you'd like to bury?
If it's really too late and the damage is done, you may find that that's less of a factor. But if the harm is pretty recent and may be ongoing you may save yourself some heartache by moving on with life and not suing.
There are no guarantees in litigation, the judge or jury may just not understand what it is you're talking about or what the harm is. State laws vary, as I mentioned, as far as what you can actually recover in terms of money. New Jersey, for example, has a presumed damages theory of law under defamation. Virginia has got a claim called defamation per se, which is professional harm where you get some assumed damages and recover those in dollar amount.
So, the only guarantee in litigation is cost and distraction and kind of hassle factor of it. And I say that as somebody who's been to court for 13 years for clients.
The litigation claims, what are we talking about here? Defamation comes up a lot, oftentimes what's harmful is not defamation, as I mentioned because it's simply opinion or maybe it's actually true but we'd just rather people not know about it.
Employment claims happen a lot. And that may simply be firing someone who said too much on Facebook and the reputational harm to your company is that you look too heavy-handed or more a PR issue than an attack because it's something that you had to do and your employees weren't trained and prepared so you end up looking bad both in how your company interacts with the internet perhaps and also with how you interact with your employees even if you may not have much choice.
Regulated industries, publicly-traded companies are treated very differently. Think about healthcare and HIPAA, or think about financial companies and stock brokers and their obligations of privacy and compliance with all these just worlds and worlds of regulation.
Publicly traded companies if any of you all are within publicly traded companies, you probably already have, and if not I would encourage you to take a hard look at what's called Reg FD, Regulation FD Prepared Disclosure and make sure that you have your C-level people, board members, executives, DVPs, SVPs, all of those sort of alphabet-soup of people aware of how their tweets, their Facebook posts and things like that, that even if they're not officially deputized to speak on behalf of the company, they'll often be interpreted in that way.
So make sure that the people in your organization aren't saying the wrong things in advance of announcements or earnings calls or investor relations official processes. So not all companies are created equal, not all policies and training are going to be created equal. And just as an overview, these are some ones that are specific and have to act differently than the rest of us if they are publicly traded, highly-regulated industries. As the law is, as well, obviously, accountants, other professional associations and professions are heavily regulated as well.
That's pretty much it for my slides. I'm going to go ahead and hand it off to Janet. I don't think Andy or Kari mentioned, but these slides will be available on SlideShare afterwards, which I think should be a resource, I hope.
Thanks, Chris. So Andy told you about monitoring, maybe you weren't proactive. Chris told you about how you can get some things removed, and ideally I think you should try and get things removed if you can so they hopefully don't come back to haunt you later. But if you can't remove it, what's the next step? Well the first thing I want to talk to you about is that the court of public opinion and a verdict in a court case are two different things.
Even though Chris was talking to us about maybe getting some legal action, the reality is online and legal action are two different things. And what I want to use to illustrate that is a picture of this guy and most of you probably know who he is. Even though he was found not guilty nearly 20 years ago of his ex- wife's murder, a survey about 10 years ago showed that a majority of Americans believe that he did murder his ex-wife.
And so even though he was found not guilty, people-- the court of public opinion is very different than the result of a court case, and it can reflect online and so not just is a court situation going to help you, but you also need to continue to monitor and deal with these reputation issues online as well, because they will live on even if you're found, let's say, not guilty or your company's found not guilty for a particular issue.
So let's talk a little bit about the challenges of reputation management. The first one is online can live forever, which is again why I feel like you should try and get things removed if you can or have them removed from the index if you can, but that's not always the case.
The other thing you should be aware of is that not many firms really know how to do online reputation management well. Some people make the assumption that SEO firms can do it. It's not really the same as typical SEO or typical search and optimization.
So, for instance, SEO typically when you have a client for SEO, they're looking to promote their site for a particular number of keywords. And in that case you typically own the site, you have content control and you can do things to the site to help rank it better.
But in online reputation management, you're really focusing instead on de-emphasizing possibly negative, maybe multiple negative entries on websites you typically do not own and you have little to no control over the content of those sites which makes it really challenging.
The other thing I'll bring up here is that a lot of PR firms may try to do online reputation management, and you do, in some cases need an online reputation--sorry, you may need a crisis communications offline firm, and PR firms tend to handle that very well. But a lot of PR firms aren't really well-versed in how to handle online, so you may need both firms to work for you depending on how deep the problem is.
So what are our steps here? The first step I recommend is don't panic. Don't panic. You're going to be okay, it's all going to be fine. So don't panic first of all. So now I'm going to tell you a few things you can do to hopefully fix, help fix your online reputation.
The first one is and I think Andy touched on this as well, you want to identify the platform or platforms you're dealing with, you know, where does the problem really reside? So there are a couple of places that we tend to see the most types of problems.
There are different flavors here. We have search engines, so you might have some very negative search results like in Google for instance. And that could be website pages that are being ranked, or images, or video.
I had someone literally coming to me last week because there was a negative image that was ranking well in a search for her name and it was a picture of her unfortunately sleeping during a court case, not good. Fell asleep in the middle of it and that picture was ranking.
So there's a variety of things there in the search engines that can rank. Also, auto-complete, and I'm going to hand it to Kari real quickly and she's going to show you an example for Burger King. Nope. Flip over to the Google search there real quick, in your Chrome.
And she's going to show you here, if you start typing Burger King, this is what auto-complete is at the top. And notice that the third entry there of the suggested terms is Burger King horse meat. That's not good, and I'm sure Burger King doesn't want it there. But it suggests to people what they can search for. So really this is where auto-complete can also show some negative entries.
And so the next one is social media sites like Facebook and Twitter and so forth and then other types of third-party websites like Yelp or those types of sites where, as Chris mentioned, you might have people giving reviews, that could be a problem as well. Today we're going to focus on search engines and how to deal with that.
The next step is evaluate the damage. I have to tell you that I have a lot of folks seemingly overreact a bit to some of the challenges that they're having because some of the challenges maybe aren't as bad as you think.
First question you have to ask yourself is, is this damage going to affect my bottom line? Can it have financial damage to me in some way? Can it affect me getting a job? All of those types of things, you need to ask those questions first.
Not everyone is going to love you all the time so you need to know, you really need to think about, how impactful is this damage? So I want to give you an example of one that is going on right now. Lululemon, maker of very high-end workout gear for women. They're having a problem, if you probably heard the news. I would say its translucency, not transparency, in yoga pants where women are bending over and they think that their pants are see-through.
So, the challenge here is this brand is known for its quality. It's expensive pants, they're a hundred dollars for a pair of yoga pants, they're not inexpensive. And this particular product that we're dealing with here makes up 17% of the sales in all their stores, so this is no small issue.
They have a recall for these pants right now and it makes up a large percentage of their sales. And they face losing business to places like Target and other retailers who offer the pants that are not obviously, hopefully, see-through for less than a hundred dollars.
So this really could be damaging to their brand and right now their stock price is down 16%, so is this a crisis? You better believe it is. Now in their case, they also have an offline crisis, so they may need to engage a PR firm to help them with that, but they definitely have an online problem as well right now.
A fourth step is to determine your course of action. So now that you know that you've got a problem and you really need help, the next question I would ask myself is do I need professional help? And that really depends just how deep and challenging the issue really is. And again, don't just hire a SEO agency or a PR agency.
Be sure to ask questions, specifically around expertise in online reputation management and understand their process and what the costs are involved. Don't let them nickel and dime you to death by adding on this or that later on.
The other thing that you need to be very aware of, is when you ask for professional help, don't expect to get testimonials or references from people that they've worked with before. Why? No one wants to rehash the negative thing.
Ask yourself: If I resolve my negative issue do I want to be a testimonial about this negative issue later on down the line? Probably not. You don't want to rehash it. So you have to know it can be difficult to buy these services for those reasons, but you likely will not get testimonials.
The first thing I would do, as Chris had mentioned, I would attempt to contact that person and I would do it on that particular platform if you can, reach out to the person or individual-- any individual who's complaining in some way or having an issue and try to, in a positive way at some point, especially if it's going to be a long lengthy conversation, start to move that conversation offline.
People don't need to see every single thing that you're saying to the person. And especially if this person is coming back with nasty comments, you don't want to continue to propagate more nasty comments on the web. And you can also ask that person will voluntarily remove the item. That is one of the first steps I would take.
Now as Chris mentioned, if you have an issue in Google and you want to get it removed from Google, there are only a few ways you can get it removed. Google doesn't know you from Adam. They don't know anything about you, they just know what content is out there. And they see-- they don't know that you're a good person or a bad person or you're a good brand or a bad brand. They don't judge you that way.
So they have to rely on other information to tell them whether or not they should remove this information from the internet, or from the index specifically. And so one of the things that they look at is they can remove content for legal reasons. If you have a judgment against someone and they need to remove it, you can have Google - you can appeal to Google and they will remove it from their index.
You can also have content removed that contains sensitive personal information like pictures of your children that you have not authorized, or your Social Security Number, you can have those types of things removed. And if there's content that's really no longer live and somehow it got stuck in Google's index and is still there you can have that removed as well.
Those are really the only three ways Google will remove something. Don't just expect to come to Google and say, "but I'm a nice person and this is an error and I really think it should be removed." Google is not going to take down necessarily.
So what can you do? You can accentuate the positive. That's the first step. Make a list of all the types of assets that you have. What do you have? Can you create some of these things? Like blogs and videos and images, press releases. The list is really just endless. And so what do you have out there that can you use? What can you create as well that really focuses on the positive?
The one really shocking thing that I find about people who come to see me, brands and individuals, is that they often downplay all of the really positive things that they're already doing in the community or for others and they really should be accentuating those things. So don't be afraid to talk about yourself. The best time to talk about all the positive stuff that you have is when you're in a crisis and you can start promoting that you're a better person than people think you are.
Get social. If you have-- these are some of the profiles that you can start filling out on social media. I know a lot of people may be hesitant still to get into social media brands and so forth but realize that social media just amplifies the conversations that were already out there.
I might tell Kari "I really hate this restaurant," but now I can say it to her online. And now, the benefit for you as the marketer, is you can now monitor that and you can respond to that. You couldn't respond to that when I told Kari at the water cooler because you couldn't monitor that.
So this is a great way for you to get insights into what people are saying and deal with them proactively. And, like Andy said, to give them a safe place to converse or you could answer their questions, so definitely get in social. I will tell you, we typically do not work with companies to help them unless they will agree to get online with social and that they agree to start taking charge of these problems because you have to communicate. If you're just going to hand this off to an agency and say handle it for me most of the time you will not be successful.
Also, use universal search to your advantage. In Google as well as Bing they show many different types of content. So there's lots of different content that you can get ranked for your brand search like maps, reviews, video, images, news, all sorts of great things, so use all the types of content that are out there that can rank for your brand to your advantage.
Lastly, de-emphasize the negative. So, once you've done all these positive things you've really pushed out a lot, as much as you can on the negative, if it's still there you can also perform positive SEO for all of the neutral or positive websites and profiles that pertain to you. So there's lots of steps you can take to try and promote those and give them higher visibility so that that negative one that maybe isn't getting any SEO love will hopefully drop out of the top ten.
And I don't think we can stress this enough, I think all of us have said today, you've got to monitor. Why should you monitor-- what should you monitor? Well you should really be monitoring your brand, key people's names, et cetera, key words possibly, and monitor in various online venues like Google, Facebook, Twitter, and other sites. For instance, if you want to know what's going on in Yelp you can sign up your company for Yelp and get weekly emails from them to see what's being said about your company.
Why should you continue to monitor? You can catch new problems before they even arise, before they fester into something horrible. Let's get control of this before it gets worse. And how long should you monitor for? I'm really sorry to say you got to monitor forever. It's an ongoing thing, it's a part of what you have to do to make sure that your brand is protected.
And above all, really if you're thinking about being proactive, start thinking about a crisis communication plan because you want to make sure that you can be proactive and react in a very fast manner. As Chris said, you want to react quickly.
Finally I want to leave with haters are going to hate. You're not going to make everyone happy, so know that going in there are going to be people who are just not going to like your brand and there's not much you can do about that. And so you're not always going to have only positive reviews, and frankly, that doesn't always look realistic when you only have positive reviews.
So, it's okay if you have a few negative reviews, especially if some of them seem kind of extreme in some cases. I know I've bought products that don't always have 5 out of 5 stars. That's okay. So, don't feel like you have to be perfect. That's not a realistic goal. And some people, even when you engage with them are just not going to be happy with you.
So some key takeaways I think we have from today. We've all said be proactive. An ounce of preventions is worth a pound of cure. Many companies aren't doing this today, but get a crisis communication plan in place, decide who's going to respond and be monitoring. That's really important.
Understand what you're trying to achieve. What are your goals and how are you going to deal with those goals? Have a presence before you have a problem. So, as we mentioned social media profiles can rank really well. Have ways and channels to react and communicate with people before a crisis happens.
Know who's in charge of setting the internal policies and practices, also part of that crisis communications plan. Who's going to be the one that reacts, who gets the messages out? And start monitoring today because that is really key in making sure you can protect your brand.
And with that I'm going to hand it back to Kari.
Great thank you so much, Janet. And I know we're going a little bit over today. We're going to go into some of your questions. Do-- please feel free to put those into the question box.
I know that a lot of you did indicate at the beginning that you have had an online reputation issue in the past, so rest assured, we're not going to read any names off when you ask your questions, so ask anything, but we're just going to ask a few questions and then anything we don't have time for, we're going to write a follow-up blog post and we'll make sure that you get that blog post too. So please feel free to enter your questions if we don't get to you then we will address it.
First, actually before we go into Q&A, I just want to let you know we do have an upcoming webinar that will be three weeks from today on April 11th. And so if you are at all involved in running PPC advertising campaigns then this webinar will show you how to get more clicks and conversions from your PPC ads. And so that's going to be three weeks from today. You can register at search- mojo.com/PPC-ads.
So with that, I will go into a little bit of Q&A here. And Andy we had a question from someone who wanted to know what type of tool that you would recommend to monitor Facebook. That there might not be so many tools out there that allow you to monitor that platform so what would you recommend?
Well, the key thing with Facebook is the amount of data that they actually let out. For all the bad press that they get about privacy, they're actually very good at making sure that private data stays within Facebook and so pretty much all of the tools get the same information unless they violate Facebook and try to scrape it so.
Trackur includes Facebook on all of our paid plans which start at $27. We include Facebook monitoring, so anything that you can get out of Facebook you can get within Trackur.
Other tools that do it, I'm really not sure. You can try social mention, I'm not sure if they mention Facebook or not. But really we've all got the same data, we just present it differently because pretty much we're all pulling from the same API. But Facebook does provide quite a lot. So basically if someone makes a public post and it is public and includes your brand then it's going to be available to crawled and indexed and shared.
Great thanks, Andy. Chris here's another one that might be a better question for you. What resources do you recommend for developing social media policies and for training employees on those policies?
I think if you have a deputized person or people within your organization who are the social media people, then those folks hopefully will be able to find some examples to start with. I would caution that one size definitely does not fit all.
There have been companies who have gotten in trouble in employment law litigation, because their social media policy, although it exists, it was written down, they were savvy enough to do that, it was kind of a blunt instrument and was too aggressive and so they ended up being sanctioned in court for that by, for using it as a basis to fire somebody.
Not that you can't or shouldn't have a social policy that lets you tell people when they've crossed the line and get rid of them for that reason but theirs was too aggressive the court thought later, so it needs to be tailored.
Resources out there, there are a couple of, if you just go to Google and do Social media examples there's a couple of - I can't remember the URL right off, but there's two or three that have made it their mission to archive a lot of these. And on those there are public companies, there are private companies, there are healthcare companies, there's even county and local governments, things like that.
So there's some good examples and hopefully you can be able to find something in your industry. Writing these policies and training on them is part of my practice, and sometimes you might find that an internal person to do a lunch and learn on a policy is fine and if you serve pizza people actually show up. Sometimes it helps to have the outside voice to come in and say this our sort of ringer whether that's somebody across town or down the road a piece.
It just depends on your access to those folks and whether you feel like handling it internally and externally, but I think it's certainly something worth doing and worth communicating that you are doing. And then training, because as I said before if you don't train on it, it doesn't mean anything and it it's not really going to save you any heartache or damage at the end of the day.
And one last question, Janet how long does it typically take to resolve an online reputation issue.
I get that question a lot and it really is based on an individual basis. Because it depends on how complex the problem really is. So for instance if you just have one item ranking in Google it may not take very long to get it removed. But if you have 20 or you have you know, let's say the top 10 is taken up by 5 things that are negative, that can be a problem.
The other major factor is if the crisis is still going on. Because one thing that ends up happening is you've got news coming out about that crisis, which is again why you might need an offline crisis communications planning company to help you deal with and mitigate those issues as well because as long as it's live there'll be new news and blogs and so it's an ongoing issue. So it really does vary.
The other thing is, we showed the autocomplete as an issue. Autocomplete is does not, the way that's based is by how many people are searching and clicking on a particular term. And so when you get a term in the autocomplete, it can be very difficult to remove it because of the fact that people see it, it suggests it to them they say oh that's interesting let me see about Burger King horse meat and they click on it. And so it continues to be, unfortunately, self-fulfilling prophecy of constantly having that negative in there.
So that can take a bit longer to get out because you have to take some real interesting strategies to try and basically convince people to search in a different way and that's a little bit more challenging at times than maybe just pushing things out of the top ten. And so it really does vary by the type of problem, how many issues are hanging out there, and even the types of sites that are hanging out in the top ten.
If it's a government site with government information it can be harder to remove from the top ten than say just any old blog. So that's, that-- it depends on how much authority as an example Google might give to that site. So it can be really challenging.
Okay thank you so much Janet. And thank you all for coming, I know we went a little bit over today and you all are very, very busy people so we appreciate you staying with us, we appreciate you coming to today's webinar. Don't forget to register for the next webinar in three weeks at search-Mojo.com/PPC-ads. Thank you so much to our presenters Janet Driscoll Miller, Andy Beal of Trackur, and Chris Gatewood of Threshold Counsel and thank you so much, have a great day.
If you’re in need of an online reputation overhaul, Search Mojo offers Online Reputation Management Services to help you prevent, treat and purify online reputation issues.