Manage your reputation online…

As excellent as social media and review sites can be to get your brand out there, they are just as effective, and speedy, at damaging it.

Sticking your head in the sand will certainly not make negative publicity go away. Customer-facing organisations like banks and retail chains pay thousands to maintain a positive brand reputation. It takes loads of listening, constant engagement and proactive communication to get it right.

In a world where travellers go online to check the reputation and status of companies with which they’d like to do business, it is essential that you paint a positive brand picture and encourage those who do business with you to do the same so that when a customer finds you online, they feel overwhelmingly positive about the prospect of having you assist with their travel arrangements.

And are 5 handy tips to polishing your online persona, without spending a fortune:

  1. Are they talking about you? What are they saying?  Assess what the current perception is of your brand. What online channels are your customers using to talk about you? Hello Peter? Facebook? TripAdvisor? What are they consistently saying? You can use tools like Social Mention <link to>and Google Alerts <>and Hootsuite <> to monitor any mentions that are made about your company.
  1. Is their perception accurate?

Are the perceptions accurate? If customers continuously slate your brand for poor customer service, perhaps they have a point? No amount of damage control is going to work if the fundamental issues your customers are complaining about are not fixed. Appoint a task team comprising staff from all areas within your organisation, e.g. to identify what these are, how to fix them, and who will be responsible for what? This team should meet weekly to ensure concrete steps are being taken to solve the issues.

  1. Listen, learn and engage.

Monitor conversations and respond quickly to concerns raised. Your messages should be empathetic, not robotic, with a genuine tone of ‘wanting to assist’. That said, a quick, brief reply is better than a late reply with lots of information, or no reply at all. Consistency is key. Monitoring and engagement should happen continuously, not as a once off when you start your image management initiative. Learn from your mistakes, give feedback to the ‘offending’ parties that have caused the criticism. Engage with the customer till the situation is as resolved as it can be.

  1. Your online business card

Treat every online brand presence as your business card: Google’s search results can be influenced by brilliant Search Engine Optimisation so ensure your meta-descriptions, keywords, etc. are well selected and written; Ensure that happy customers post positive reviews on Facebook and Hello Peter; Generate positive PR about what you do and why you can be trusted; Position yourself as an expert in your niche by creating and distributing online useful, engaging and informative content about what you do to enhance your credibility, e.g. honeymoon specialists providing content on tips for romantic breakaways.

  1. Repeat and referral rocks

Have a clear repeat and referral strategy that encourages ‘happy’ customers to proactively talk about their experience with friends and family. Ask for a referral or review on Hello Peter or Facebook, proactively ask for feedback on how you can improve their experience. And once you have the referral or review, thank them for giving it.

Remember it’s a journey not a destination, but as long as you keep listening, engaging and improving your positive reputation will make you famous.