Maintaining a good brand reputation is key for businesses across all sectors. A positive brand reputation enables acquisition, promotes retention and is critical to overall business growth. The difficulty marketers face when it comes to brand reputation, is that it isn’t what you’re telling customers. It’s what customers are telling each other. As Chris Anderson,former editor of Wired stated, “Your brand isn’t what you say it is, it’s what Google says it is.” Brand reputation is the buzz on social media channels, the forum discussions that take place without you and thesearch engine results pages.
A reputation is a very fragile thing which can make or break the success of a company. In today’s fast paced digital world of viral videos, undercover photos, reviews and social media, it can be lost in an instant. So, can you correct a bad brand reputation with content marketing? In this guide, Moondust will provide an expert step by step plan for repairing your reputation and protecting it for the future.
#1 Assess Your Reputation
There’s no sense in formulating a brand reputation recovery plan until you know what you’re dealing with. Perhaps your brand has made a few PR faux pas, but have they affected your brand reputation? Here are a few simple ways to begin:
· Google your brand – Start by running some searches on your brand name, director names and any associated terms.It’s important to search in the same way that a potential customer would search.For example;“good restaurants in Florida”, “bad restaurants in Florida”, “restaurant reviews Florida”. Be sure to click through to page 20 and take note of any mentions of your business.
· Check Ratings Sites – Ratings and review sites like Trust Pilotand Trip Advisorhave gained in popularity in recent years. And that’s because 84% of peopletrust online reviews, even as much as they trust the opinions of friends. There are many different review sites, and some may be more applicable to your sector. Find the ones that are relevant and run some searches on your brand name. If your brand name is not easy to spell, try running a few searches with the name misspelled. Don’t neglect employee review sites like Glassdoor. A series of scathing reviews from disgruntled ex-employees can easily create a bad brand reputation.
· Social Media Searches – Next, run some searches within the main social media platforms for your brand name. This is important as social media conversations do not always appear in search results. Check your company name in Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Linkedin to see if there are any conversations. You can also try a few relevant hashtags containing your brand name.
Make screenshots of any brand mentions, especially negative ones. It’s important that you not only take note of the sites where you are mentioned, but also the feedback you are receiving. Larger brands may wish to outsource this task to anagencywho will have media monitoring software and can provide these reports on a regular basis.
Let’s now assume that you have found some unsavoury comments, or you already had a bad brand reputation. Let’s move on to correcting it.
#2 Address Customer Complaints.
One of the difficulties faced by marketers today is the speed at which complaints can escalate online. In fact, statistics show that 18%of all social media users expect a response in under an hour whilst a massive 48% expect a response in under 24 hours. Statistics also show that an unhappy customer will share his experience with up to 15 people. This is made even easier with public posts which quickly accumulate comments and shares. There’s a lesson here. Prevention is certainly better than cure and employing a social media manager or agency to continually monitor your channels and respond to comments or complaints is critical.
Here’s how we can address customer complaints:
· Never Delete Them- Whilst it’s acceptable to delete spam from your social media channels, it’s not acceptable to delete genuine complaints or questions. In fact, brands who do, run the risk of worsening their brand reputation. An example was that of Smucker’s’ Facebook page, which made headlines for deleting posts that criticized its stance on GMO. Comments like those featured below were deleted, causing increased complaints and fervent brand hatred.
· Turn Comments into Blog Posts – Yes really! Questions like those featured above can be turned into blog or social media posts. Perhapsyou’re reluctant to shine light on the negatives, however a post from your brand shows you are listening, you’re transparent and you’re open to feedback. It also provides you with an opportunity to highlight other positives about your product.
· Consider Forum Threads- Whilst we advocate replying to customer complaints and feedback, it’s important to do so in a prompt manner. If you stumble across an old forum thread criticising your brand it may be best to leave it alone.When you add fresh content to an old forum thread, it will raise it to the top and if it’s a particularly bad review, you may not wish to do that.
#3 Use Testimonials and Client Stories
By using real testimonials in your marketing, you can gently erase a bad reputation with content marketing. You will also add a much-needed element of trust, remembering that your potential customers are more likely to trust reviews than your official marketing line. So how can you use testimonials and client stories to correct a bad brand reputation?
· Rally loyal customers – By tapping into your loyal customer base, you will be able to highlight the positives of your brand. You might want to do this via email marketing, on your website or by picking up the phone. The trick, however is to be authentic. Consumers aren’t stupid. If they think you’re fabricating stories they will find out. An example of a brand using client stories to enhance their reputation is AirBnB. The brand’s services have expanded, but it’s still the customer who shapes them. Airbnb understands this and encourages customers to tell their stories. This is so important to Airbnb that they have a whole section dedicated to “Stories from the Airbnb Community.”
· Understand your audience sentiment– Where AirBnB created beautiful user generated stories, other brands have failed. When McDonalds encouraged user interaction on it’s hashtag #McDStories, the opposite happened and its channels blew up with less than favourable stories. When gathering client stories, it’s important to understand your audience sentiment. Do people love your brand or are you battling to save your reputation? If it’s the latter, be careful what you ask for.
· Incentivise Good Reviews– 5-star reviews are the holy grail of content marketing, but the problem is, they’re difficult to obtain. You cannot force customers, however happy they are, to place positive reviews and yet unhappy customers will be quick to do so. Repeat customers are the key to success here because you know they are happy with your product or service. Consider a discount code in return for a review, or a gift after they have completed a survey. There are also review plugins you can effectively utilise for your site such as Kudobuzz. This is a plugin which displays selected testimonials on your website, therefore enhancing your ability to build trust through social proof and onboard new clients.
#4 Build Credibility With Thought Leadership
Building credibility is one of the most important things to focus on when correcting a bad reputation with content marketing. This is not an overnight fix, but one which requires strategy and time. One of the most effective ways to do this is via thought leadership.
The idea behind thought leadership is to establish a brand (or its people) as an innovator or leading source of information. Depending on your sector, it could be your CTO sharing cutting edge technology insights, your CMO blogging about the company’s charitable efforts or your HR manager sharing positive work culture tips. Most importantly, you can use your thought leadership content to create a positive brand driven buzz around your industry, brand and products. Here are some tips for building credibility with thought leadership:
· Be Responsive- A good thought leader is one who engages with the online community, not one who shouts from a podium and then scurries away. If you want to build credibility with thought leadership, it’s important to foster a positive and open online community. Your brand or its appointed thought leaders should be understanding innovation, identifying with their community and providing relevant insights and guidance. Putting a responsive face to a brand instantly conjures transparency and credibility.
· Be Authentic- Being authentic must be the foundation of your thought leadership. If you’re trying to correct a bad reputation with a fake thought leader, your audience will see through it straight away. Choose subjects that your brand or its thought leaders are passionate about. Understand that the thought leaders within your organisation may not be natural writers and therefore some form of collaboration between the thought leader and your marketing team may be necessary.
· Commit Yourself– Creating content as a thought leader doesn’t end when you publish a blog. Being a genuine thought leader may include creating videos, participating in events, speaking engagements or joining charitable organisations.
When done properly, thought leadership content is authoritative, engaging and reassuring. It’s the kind of information people in your sector and potential clients are eager to consume and share. A great example is Northpass a course authoring platform used by Fortune 500 companies to train employees and partners. Northpass use thought leaders from within their own organisation in addition to interviews from industry experts, even when they are unaffiliated with the company. This adds honesty and credibility to their brand.
#5 Bury Negative Content With SEO
Let’s be clear, negative content cannot be deleted from the internet. It doesn’t belong to your brand and you have no control over it. Understand that a bad reputation cannot be entirely erased. It can however be buried with fresh content. This is where we utilise the power of SEO (search engine optimisation) to ensure that the content you control is the content discovered by potential customers. To do this we need to ensure that the content we produce matches the search words entered online. We then include these keywords in our text. Here are some tips for correcting a bad reputation with SEO:
· Don’t overdo it– There was a time when marketers stuffed articles full of keywords to trick search engines into ranking their content. A sentence may have looked like this “If you’re looking for the best laptops in Chelsea then our laptops are the best laptops because our laptops in Chelsea have all the best laptop features.” Horrible isn’t it. Luckily, search engines are smarter now and will downgrade a piece of content for keyword stuffing. Longer blog content (1000+ words) however, tends to perform better in search engines. The goal is to achieve a rich piece of text which naturally factors keywords. Tools like Yoasthelp marketers to achieve a good keyword balance which may be between 2-5%.
· Blog Frequently– Firstly it’s essential that you blog. Websites with a blog have on average 434%more indexed pages (an important element of SEO is having plenty of content for search engines to crawl and index.) Search engines also favour sites which generate fresh content frequently, especially if it’s good content. Companies that published 16 or more blog posts per month get 4.5Xmore leads than companies publishing 4 blogs or less per month. To generate 4 blog articles per week, especially if you’re a small business may feel impossible and therefore outsourcing should be considered.
· Utilise Guest Blogging – Guest blogging is an effective way to improve your SEO ranking and bury negative content. By utilising the power of a third-party site (ideally one bigger than yours), you can drive traffic to your site and create positive brand mentions online. Usually guest blogging involves providing educational content for free to an established site. Your brand will benefit from a backlink driving readers to your site and from the third party’s elevated search engine ranking spot.