How to use PR to protect your online reputation

Businesses of all types and sizes may, from time to time, receive a negative review from an irate customer. There are even services that attack a company’s reputation and then snags a page 1 placement on search engines as part of an elaborate scheme to sell you online reputation management services. (It’s a subtle but effective form of extortion.)

With search engines becoming so critical to a company’s brand and lead generation, you can’t simply ignore a damning, perhaps even malicious, comment without fear of negative consequences.

Since PR dwells in the domain of brand management, we thought it appropriate to give you a few tips on how to repair your business’ reputation without resorting to paying online bribes or expensive reputation services.

Online Reputation Tip #1: If it’s a genuine mistake on your business’ part, then don’t deny the reality. PR is about improving your image by taking the high road where and when possible. It’s far better to work behind the scenes with an angry client to resolve the complaint and then get him or her to voluntarily remove it. Consider doing something extraordinary to make amends, as it might get the customer to sing your praise in social media and you might have a future story to share with the media.

Online Reputation Tip #2: One way to deal with a negative comment online is to push it down with blog posts. If your business has a blog, then consider addressing negative comments with a post about how you have a customer service team ready to help resolve customer concerns or negative experiences. Also, look for guest blogging opportunities in order to get backlinks to your website, which will effectively drown a negative comment with informative links.

Online Reputation Tip #3: Press releases are another way to get positive backlinks to your website, while improving your search engine rankings as part of an overall SEO strategy. Consider writing 1-2 press releases monthly and distributing them on various press release distribution platforms (PRLeap, PRWeb, PRLog.org). Keep your releases focused on newsworthy topics, like recent product / service introductions, new hires, company milestones, etc. Also, avoid stuffing the press releases with keywords as Google may actually penalize you for pursuing an overly aggressive SEO strategy.

Online Reputation Tip #4: Pursuing an effective PR strategy that results in publicity in local (even national) media outlets is another great way to dissipate the effect of negative online reviews and burnish your brand image for the world to admire. Brainstorm with your marketing team, or consider bringing a PR agency or contractor, to come up with some unique ideas that will interest reporters from local print dailies, TV newsrooms and online publications and blogs. Praise in the press is one of the best ways to outshine a vicious online reputation attack.

Online Reputation Tip #5: Any positive news you intend to share with the media can also be shared in social media. Tooting your own horn is always something you should do with caution – nobody loves a braggart, after all. But if your social media posts are couched in fairly honest language (i.e., no exaggerations) and you can get others to chime in on the topic, then you should let your network know how you are helping customers, doing cool things, setting records, paying it forward, etc.

Got any suggestions based on your past experience? Please share them with us below!

About Dave Manzer: Dave Manzer founded an Austin tech PR agency for startups and emerging-growth businesses in 2009. In 2010, Dave launched PR over Coffee to provide small business PR advice so that entrepreneurs and startups could practice “DIY” PR and promote themselves directly to media outlets. For more information about Dave or PR over Coffee, email info(@)PRoverCoffee.com.

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