If a person likes your service, they will recommend you to a friend; if they leave dissatisfied, they will tell ten friends. That’s how the old saying goes, but that is no longer the case. With the increase in social media popularity, the number of people who can potentially learn about your bad reputation can count in thousands or even millions. Rightly earned or not, bad online—and offline—reputation can and will negatively impact your business revenues.
We have all heard about the new Google feature that allows you to ‘delete your history’ from Google Search but, alas, bad reports, reviews and news don’t fall into this category.
Below are a few things you can consider to rescue your online reputation.
Be the change
Carrying a due analysis and making an improvement is not necessarily the very first step but is the most important one. If you fail to make changes, no effort will be enough to improve your online reputation.
I have previously written about the indecent matchmaking agencies that can be absolutely unethical in handling their customers. The web is full of negative reviews and court cases against both, the agencies and unhappy clients. The agencies have done a great remedial work populating all 5-star reviews on Google but because their approach hasn’t changed, the negative reviews keep cropping up. Use tangible metrics – stats and figures – where possible to demonstrate the improvement.
Be honest and strive to deliver
Each client deserves your best… each time. They will be your own mouthpiece regarding your services.
“Most people, especially those who consider doing business with you for the first time, will ‘Google’ you,” commented Joe Alvarez – journalist and Editor In Chief of Ikon London Magazine. “And when they do, negative information -if there’s any- may appear in the search engines along with –hopefully- positive ones.”
Being a celebrity photographer, Joe Alvarez found himself on the covers of major newspapers, TV news and radio worldwide a few years ago, when at the otherwise uneventful premiere at the Toronto Film Festival, he managed to ‘upset’ actor Colin Ferrell. “I was very surprised when the news appeared in every newspaper, TV and radio” admits Joe Alvarez. “It wasn’t the attention I wanted, but you have to move on and leave that behind you. Curious thing was that after this incident my bookings and reputation went through the roof.”
Despite the story being out there and anyone can come across the articles, it hasn’t affected him negatively. Joe’s reputation of a very skilled, consummate professional precedes anything else: “Always remember,” continued he, “Each client deserves your best… each time. They will be your own mouthpiece regarding your services.”
Become an expert on your issue and educate others
People who have gained life experience are now making hundreds of thousands of dollars a year teaching on their specialist topic, whilst positioning themselves as the ‘go to expert’ in their area.
Once you have prepared a case study with tangible data and proven track record to support it, you have become an ‘expert’ on your problem. It’s time to share the knowledge and inspire and motivate others.
It is also a great opportunity to turn your bad reputation into a story of your success. Consider joining a panel discussion on the topic or ask for a keynote speaker slot on a professional trade show. “People who have gained life experience are now making hundreds of thousands of dollars a year teaching on their specialist topic, whilst positioning themselves as the ‘go to expert’ in their area,” declares Andy Harrington, the public speaking expert. In his boot camp, Andy teaches how to extract valuable learning from your experience and inspire others by speaking about it.
Be aware that simply securing a few interviews in mainstream publications and avoiding addressing the ‘white elephant’ can only make it worse. If the story has made it big, readers might feel like you are not genuine. You must always follow a clear reputation rescue strategy, specifically tailored to your situation and the desired outcome.
Create your own content
The story about the most expensive doughnut worth £1,500 has attracted the attention of every major online publication and is still floating online, generating a great interest and driving customers in.
By generating more interesting content to attract more potential customers, you will increase the ranking of your website, thus moving negativity further down.
“A good way to gain a lot of publicity,” advised Joe Alvarez, “is to run a carefully thought-through publicity campaign. For example, the story about the most expensive doughnut worth £1,500 has attracted the attention of every major online publication and is still floating online, generating a great interest and driving customers in. Despite the ‘price’ being purely a stunt that is easy to do. The price really depends on whose menu you’re reading.”
Update all your social media profiles and fill it with more positive quality content. Make sure that when you’re being quoted in the media, it’s the good stuff they’re quoting. Make sure to share and celebrate your success stories via ‘blog posts’ and press releases. This will send a strong message that things have changed.
Besides, if you manage to get your new successful content on the first couple of pages and your negative content is on page 17, chances are that hardly anyone will see or care. This, again, only applies if you mean to change your approach and genuinely want to leave this behind you.
Reinvent yourself through re-branding
Consider investing time and effort into re-branding – new logo, colour theme and new web site layout are the first things to consider. This will remove the association with the ‘old you’ and will flag that you are on the path of a change, suggests PR Daily.
More effort would need to go into reinventing your personal brand but with the help of great personal branding consultant, it can be done.
Things are no longer business as usual—every single product, advertisement, and strategy decision in your pipeline needs to be re-evaluated in the light of ‘no trust’.
While at times it might seem like with the backlash everyone has turned away from you, use this time to form new connections and explore the possibility of new collaborations. Attracting ‘fresh blood’ might be seen as a good change but make sure to duly research every opportunity. I will quote Martin Lindstrom, one of the world’s foremost branding experts, who wrote in the FastCompany.com: “Go back to the drawing board and ask yourself what’s needed in order to recover your long-term reputation. Remember you’ve just lost your most essential brand value—trust—so anything and everything you say in the future will be questioned.
“Who can you team up with in order to recover trust when you release your next product line? What features can you include that scream “trust”? Things are no longer business as usual—every single product, advertisement, and strategy decision in your pipeline needs to be re-evaluated in the light of ‘no trust’.”
Improving online reputation takes time
Much of the heavy lifting that will reveal the root cause and changes necessary to fix the problem usually don’t come until later and require real work and commitment.
“I’ve often seen leaders think that a crisis can be resolved in a day or two, in the misguided belief that things can’t get worse,” said Stephanie Nora White, founder and managing partner of WPNT Ltd, an international communications consultancy. “While the acute phase of a crisis may end quickly, true change comes from living through it, as difficult as that may be. Much of the heavy lifting that will reveal the root cause and changes necessary to fix the problem usually don’t come until later and require real work and commitment.”
As you can see, there are a few things you can do to turn your bad online reputation around. If you feel like you need more personalised and tailored guidance, approach a media or branding professional with a great track record who will be able to guide you through the hard times.