FAQ for PR Agencies
What PR Agencies and their clients need to know about Reputation Management
As a leading provider of reputation management services, ReputationManagement.Co (given as RMC below) brings years of experience in identifying, monitoring, and mitigating name recognition issues and challenges to your clients. This FAQ is a no-nonsense guide for public relations specialists and agencies who need to discuss reputation management strategies with their clients. Setting proper expectations and agreeing on achievable goals is critical to the success of a reputation management campaign. Every client wants a quick, simple response to negative publicity or hostile discussions, but often that only makes the situation worse. These talking points help you explain the scope and limitations of online reputation management to your clients:
How Is Online Reputation Management Different from Public Relations?
Public relations specialists produce and oversee the release of information that may affect how the public interacts with or views an individual or organization. The role of the public relations specialist may entail direct communication and interaction with the public, news media, and other groups.
Online reputation management supplements the human component of the process. The online reputation management specialist may publish or promote Web and/or social media content for the general public.
What Does Online Reputation Management Do?
Whether in search engine results or on social media, the goal of online reputation management is to defend or protect keywords – or queries – against negative or hostile content. When users search for a company’s name or brands, they may find false, misleading, contradictory, or hostile content that influences public opinion about the reliability and trustworthiness of an individual or company.
Reputations are important to corporate success and career longevity. Of course, past errors of judgment and excess may warrant public scrutiny, but reputation management offers a way to balance older, unflattering content with more up-to-date information.
Every individual or organization that commits to earning the public trust and good faith again is entitled to be heard and to show their progress toward sincere reform of thought or action.
How Does Traditional Public Relations Improve Online Reputation Management?
A public relations agency or specialist may help clients create a new story about themselves, their work, or their past. That story becomes part of the public narrative about the client or the client’s message. The public narrative includes news stories, social media discussions and memes, and content published on random Websites.
When news and non-governmental organizations share helpful, positive information about reputation management clients, both public relations and online reputation management specialists have something to work with. The more natural information coming out of traditional channels, the better.
The reputation management specialist supports the public relations campaign in a constructive, useful way that doesn’t distract from the value or importance of the brand message.
On the contrary, the reputation management specialist’s goal is to remove distracting, misleading, and hostile content from the public narrative as much as possible – thus improving the quality of the public’s perception of the PR agency’s hard-won results.
Does Online Reputation Management Remove All Negative Content?
In some situations, it may be possible for a reputation management agency or an attorney to have defamatory, false, or misleading content removed from Websites. Fake reviews and misuse of trademarks may damage a company’s ability to do business, and there are legal remedies for deliberately harmful intent. RMC has been successful in seeking removal of or moderating the impact of false, negative customer reviews.
In many situations Website owners are shielded by laws like Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act, which compels publishers to remove content published by their visitors. Some Websites offer a process for remediating false or hostile content created by their users.
Some examples of content that may be removed include:
- Fake customer reviews
- Defamatory content or otherwise hostile, false, or misleading statements that violate a publishing site’s terms and conditions
- Content that infringes upon trademarks
- Unauthorized reproduction of copyrighted materials outside the scope of “fair use”
- Outdated or inaccurate reports of misbehavior that are not shielded by law
European law may make it easier to seek removal of older, unfavorable content, but no one can guarantee that all copies of an old story will be taken down. Some online publications appear to have implemented methods for ensuring their older content is not completely removed from the Internet, even if only by not strictly enforcing their own digital copyrights.
Online reputation management promotes favorable, positive content above negative, unfavorable content where possible in search results and sometimes social media.
What are the Benefits of Reputation Management Services?
The Reputation management company trains their clients on the importance of being proactive – seeking to avoid unnecessary hostility or rumor-mongering – or reactive. Reactive reputation management comes into play when an individual or company needs to move on from a controversy and improve their relations with the public.
By engaging directly or indirectly with the public in positive, upbeat terms, an organization or individual resets the narrative. It’s not always possible to silence a hostile entity, but every situation is different and deserves special consideration.
When false or misleading information dominates the relationship between a high-profile person or organization, it tends to grow over time as people share the inaccuracies with each other. The sooner a reputation management campaign goes into play, the better the chances are of stopping or effectively slowing the flow of false, hostile information.
RMC strives to provide its clients with a clear path forward so they may concentrate on building successful relationships with their partners and customers in the future.
Does Online Reputation Management Compete or Conflict with Normal Public Relations Work?
Reputation management campaigns may set their own priorities, and these priorities may differ from those of corporate communications and public relations campaigns. Clients should be informed of all priorities and why they are chosen.
The reputation management specialist’s role is not to undo what corporate communications or public relations teams have done. Rather, it is to improve the visibility of their campaigns to the best extent possible. If insufficient positive content is released by the teams charged with managing the narrative, the reputation management team must seek out alternative but acceptable content to promote.
If clients feel any strategies or priorities conflict with each other, the teams should work together to determine how best to go forward.
What Can an Agency Guarantee Its Clients about Online Reputation Management Success?
Because of its dynamic nature, social media content changes every minute. An online reputation management campaign for social media can guarantee to publish shareable content or to provide guidelines and strategies for publishing shareable content. Some agencies may deploy their own or contracted resources to assist in the social media experience.
Search engine results are usually more stable and may be adjusted for longer periods of time. The goal of the search engine reputation management strategy should be to ensure that searchers find the best possible content for a client’s brand, message, or name.
Some search engine optimization agencies may deploy their own resources to assist in the publication and promotion of client-approved content. Public relations specialists should discuss the potential risks and rewards of such strategies with their partners and clients.
RMC has developed effective methods and tools for monitoring and mediating many reputation issues.
What Are the Risks to Public Relations Clients Who Contract for Online Reputation Management Services?
The worst possible scenario is that the reputation management campaign creates a new reputation management problem. This is often called the Streisand Effect, which is described below.
Another risk is that a strategy fails to take standard SEO risks into consideration. Search engines publish Webmaster guidelines forbidding certain practices, which they call “spam”. They may punish violations by reducing the visibility of Websites deemed to be using spam strategies.
Reputation management providers should ensure that clients know what these risks are. It is best to use strategies that don’t create risk for client Websites and social media accounts.
Some of the services RMC provides help to defer risk for your clients to protect them from avoidable new controversy. Deferred risk strategies entail a deep level of trust and RMC works hard to earn and justify that trust.
How Should a Public Relations Company Monitor Online Reputation Management?
Many tools are available for monitoring brand name visibility on the Internet. None of these tools provide 100% accurate information.
Weekly or monthly reporting of search engine rankings for protected brand keywords are one common method. These ranking reports use estimates and may not reflect actual search results and traffic.
Client Websites should break out their own search referrals for protected brand queries. Bing and Google provide the most accurate data for verified Websites, but their data may disagree with other sources, including server-based analytics, 3rd-party analytics scripts, and rank reporting tools.
Establishing alerts for new mentions of protected keywords in search and social media is also standard practice. The alerts won’t cover everything, but they usually provide sufficient notice when public discussion spikes.
Changes in activity and visibility of both favorable and unfavorable content should be graphed. The trend lines are the best indicators of success in reputation management campaigns.
Should A PR Agency Hire an Offshore Online Reputation Management Company?
This is a business decision, and there is no way to predict how such a relationship unfolds. When you hand some or all responsibility for a reputation management process to another provider, you defer some risk for your clients, but you may be inadvertently creating another risk. The competence that your partner brings to the project is important.
Good practices to follow include:
- Meeting your partners either via video conference call or in person
- Maintaining regular contact via email
- Setting reasonable goals that must be met
Although some agencies use project management methods to manage large campaigns, the project consists of the work performed. The results of reputation management campaigns cannot be guaranteed nor guaranteed to last.
A hostile entity may come back and create harmful content again.
So, key performance indicators should be tied to statements of work. Both domestic and foreign service providers should be capable of meeting the weekly and monthly targets for work to be performed.
Your agency should understand the scope and terms of services it contracts with companies like RMC.
What Are the Best Practices for Managing Online Reputation for Premium Clients?
Premium clientele are usually newsmakers by virtue of their activities. They may be talented or wealthy individuals or larger organizations that engage with the public on many fronts. Brand name recognition is critical to the success of elite individual and corporate clients.
Client-produced news and fresh content that should be given priority in reputation management. They must decide what their message or story will be. It is better to work with natural but favorable content than to flood the Web and social with low-value articles that are obviously intended for reputation management.
A reputation management strategy works best when it sculpts existing or normally produced resources to support a client’s message.
When deemed necessary, more aggressive strategies should be limited in scope and applied with full consideration of the potential risks to the clients. RMC can offer your agency a full plan for reputation management to protect your clients’ names and trademarks.
Does Online Reputation Management Violate Search Engine Guidelines?
It doesn’t have to violate search engine guidelines, but every client’s needs, tolerance for risk, and priorities are different. Some agencies manufacture Websites and links via software. These strategies do violate search engine guidelines. Other strategies may walk a fine line or violate some search engine policies.
Search reputation management should begin with fully compliant objectives, such as adjusting existing Website content, adding appropriate links to client-owned assets, and promoting useful, helpful, favorable content via regular channels.
A public relations agency should not leave the decision to violate search engine guidelines to a reputation management provider. Discuss the pros and cons with your search partners and determine a best course of action that helps your clients.
Is Online Reputation Management Ethical?
Online reputation management is a methodology for improving a brand or entity’s visibility in search results and social media. Ideally the message is both factual and positive in scope, helping to restore an individual or organization’s trust and reputation.
But it would be dishonest to say that reputation management strategies cannot be used to mislead people. In fact, phishing and malware campaigns sometimes use the same tactics used by legitimate businesses: they publish Websites, distribute content to other sites, and build links to their own sites.
A reputation management campaign can be used for good or ill. The process itself is not necessarily unethical, but some practices may be more ethical than others.
The public relations specialist should understand the ethical implications of every strategic decision made in the campaign.
What Ethical Practices Are Used for Online Reputation Management?
Ethical online reputation management always promotes honest, accurate information. The ethical campaign strategy does not attempt to mislead the public.
When promoting content on the Web, an ethical reputation management strategist avoids using invasive technologies (hacking Websites). No site is leveraged without its express permission for publishing content, and the published content is designed to comply with the host site’s guidelines.
The ethical reputation management provider is transparent with partners and clients. You should be able to ask about what work has been done and get a straight answer.
Some agencies may insist they are protecting trade secrets, but if they are publishing content or links that impact the client’s reputation, you should know where the content and links are being published.
How Should PR Agencies Set Expectations for Reputation Management Clients?
Just as it is impossible to fully control the narrative among news Websites and social groups, it is impossible to fully control the search results and social media. At best, a reputation management campaign can only create and promote an accurate, informative, and favorable message to be shared online and via other channels.
Lacking the ability to silence negative or hostile entities the client should expect every reasonable effort to be made to ensure their message is seen and heard where required.
Although goals cannot be guaranteed, they should be clearly established in unambiguous language. Tying performance evaluation to achieving these goals is a business decision.
Because some strategies may fail, some experimentation is usually required. Clients should be shown the need to discuss progress and alternative approaches if progress seems unsatisfactory.
Results should never be guaranteed.
Long-term success is also elusive, as a reputation problem may return in the future as a result of unforeseen events or hostile activity.
Does the Online Reputation Management Process Interfere with a Client’s Normal Search Marketing?
A search reputation management specialist should review the client’s existing Website and social media assets. The specialist may identify some pages or wording that can enhanced to help the online reputation campaign.
Such proposed changes should be discussed with clients as they may be helpful.
But it should never be necessary to undo a client’s normal search marketing strategies unless they are the source of reputation problems. In that case, clients may have unreasonable expectations.
Reputation management strategies should complement rather than interfere with existing marketing goals and practices.
Should Client Campaigns Use More than One Online Reputation Management Provider?
Some agencies contract with multiple reputation management specialists. If the teams are given clear and explicit guidelines to follow – and as long as their progress is carefully monitored – this should not be a problem.
Working with a single reputation management provider minimizes risks, simplifies monitoring and accountability, and should be efficient. The campaign partners need to be flexible in their strategies and decision-making, able to respond to new developments in a timely fashion, and capable of handling a diverse set of resources.
Some reputation management service providers may work with their own partners. Your agency should be aware of such relationships even though you don’t manage them.
If the campaign is working, the size of the team and the number of partners involved should not present a problem.
What Software Is Best for Online Reputation Management?
Every provider has their own recommendations.
Software only performs part of the job and may not be helpful in all situations.
To maintain transparency and accountability it’s helpful to use publicly available resources for monitoring search results and social media. These resources may entail monthly subscriptions, or they could be free to whomever needs their data.
Some agencies provide their own solutions.
What Are Autocomplete Suggestions?
When people begin to type queries into the search boxes on sites like Bing and Google, the search engines use predictive algorithms to suggest queries that may complete the users’ requests. These autocompletion suggestions are ways for searchers to save time.
This is generally helpful.
Autocomplete suggestions may also introduce searchers to new ideas about topics about which they have little or limited knowledge. The downside of query autocompletion for individuals and organizations is that the suggested queries may include unwanted terms, sometimes even misleading terms.
The search engines update their prediction models over time, and these results may change. Reputation management seeks to influence that change.
What Is the “Streisand Effect” and What Should Clients Know about This?
Named for the actress, the Streisand Effect occurs when the public becomes aware of and reacts negatively to attempts to remove, replace, hide, or censor information that may be embarrassing, harmful, misleading, or exposing wrong-doing.
Reputation management specialists should be aware of the potential consequences of being exposed for manipulating what the public sees about a protected name. Since the term was first coined in 2005, privacy laws have been updated to help people in distress. While not perfect solutions, these laws make it easier to identify what is achievable with a minimum risk of controversy.
While the public may have “a right to know” many things, individuals and organizations also have rights to privacy and – more importantly – to tell their stories.
Individuals and companies lacking experience in the field of reputation management may be more likely to accidentally trigger the Streisand Effect. The challenge of correcting a false or outdated public image may be magnified by new controversy and hostility over an improperly designed and managed campaign.
What Services Does RMC Provide?
For full details please review our reputation management services guide. RMC offers the following services to agency partners and clients.
Remove Negative Content Online – Not everything published on the internet about you or your business is true.
One service we offer is the deletion or removal of negative content. Depending on your circumstances, this might include content on one, dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of Websites. These removals generally take between 2 and 4 weeks.
We back up this work with our Service Guarantee.
In some cases, we might deal with another publisher who refuses to cooperate. We have multiple strategies to negotiate the de-indexing or removal of that content from Bing’s and/or Google’s search results.
Business Brand Management Solutions – An important aspect of your brand management involves how the public perceives your company based on what they find on the internet.
RMC has been featured on the radio and television for our past efforts in this regard. We provided both online reputation management and public relations services for a variety of industries. We also help individuals build their personal brands.
How do we do this?
Our history has provided us with resources where we can publish content in the right industry news channels. Our relationships with legitimate journalists can help you get in front of the right people’s eyeballs.
We work hand in hand with our clients to plan strategy, and we keep our clients updated regularly on the execution of that strategy. This includes a launch plan with a list of media outlets to target.
Pissed Consumer Removal – Many of our past clients have had negative listings on Pissed Consumer. We have experience improving or replacing those listings with new, brand-friendly pages.
Pissed consumer is a website where customers can review and connect with businesses on the internet. Often, they feature negative content about a company more prominently than positive content.
In the past, you needed court orders to address this situation with Pissed Consumer.
We have solutions and strategies that enable use to replace negative reviews with pages that have a more positive message that outrank the negative reviews.
Autocomplete Removals – No one does a better job of removing negative search engine autocomplete suggestions than RMC. We have software that focuses on positive suggestions that replace unwanted suggestions.
If you see autocomplete suggestions that imply biased or negative connotations around your brand, know that over 200 factors affect those suggestions. We offer a guaranteed solution for improving your autocomplete results on Bing, Google, and YouTube.
These solutions all work the same way – we create desirable suggestions that outweigh the undesirable suggestions. It works in much the same way as standard SEO reputation management, where the goal is to rank positive content higher than negative content in the search results.
We have the resources to do this work cost-effectively and efficiently. The side effect of this work is to also change the related searches that appear for your brand name.
Autocomplete Marketing – Even if you don’t have negative autocomplete suggestions, RMC can help you create positive autocomplete suggestions that enhance your brand-building efforts.
Managing Online Reviews – We offer a review management platform called PULSE which allows you to manage your online reviews.
PULSE uses a central dashboard to help you manage your internet presence. From this dashboard, you can find what existing online reviews are saying about your company and find the reviews which represent reputation problems to solve.
You can use PULSE to keep an eye on your reviews on Google, Yelp, and other popular review sites. When something negative pops up, you can use PULSE to find important customers who are willing to share their positive experiences with you and your company.
By putting all this data in a single place, you’re more easily able to manage your online reviews.
And, even more importantly, it can help you target where you’re falling short in your customer service efforts so that you can improve actual customer satisfaction – which is the best way to manage your online reputation, anyway.
RepCheck, Name Monitoring Services – RepCheck is our tool for monitoring mentions of your brand name on multiple important Websites. It has an alert functionality that enables you to see these brand or name mentions as they appear.
Using RepCheck can help you identify whether people are saying negative or positive things about you or your company.
You can also use RepCheck to see what people are saying about your competitors.
Finally, RepCheck can be an important tool for both link building and keyword research, which are important aspects of the entire SEO process. You can see how Web users are using your keywords when they’re searching to create content specifically for your potential customers.
Also, when people mention you or your company on the Web without linking to you, RepCheck flags you to this opportunity to get a new link to your site. Many times, it’s just a matter of contacting the site and asking them to link your brand or name mention back to your site.
You can even use RepCheck to set up alerts for the names of products you sell to find even more link opportunities.
The number and quality of the links pointing to your site is one of the most important factors for ranking high in Google.
RepCheck will help you with both factors.