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How to Vet Online Reputation Management Vendors

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Our professional and personal reputations — good or bad — inform every aspect of our lives. When you launch a website or a new online brand, explosive growth and reputation building can be exciting. However, a cyber attack or an inundation of negative customer reviews could swiftly destroy the business you worked hard to build.

The good news is, there’s a plethora of online reputation management vendors that offer their services to small and large brands alike. A recognizable company name or an inexpensive contract may seem appealing and compel you to choose a particular reputation management firm.    

In order to thoroughly vet vendors, you need to understand what reputation management means and how it can be impacted by cyber-attacks.   

What reputation management means for your brand

Reputation management may seem like a 20th or 21st-century concept, but it actually dates back to ancient civilizations when word-of-mouth helped judge the trustworthiness of merchants and services rendered. For centuries, face-to-face interactions and customer service became an integral part of a company’s overall success.

Since the dawn of the Internet, the online reputation of a company has played just as vital a role in business success as physical interactions with customers. An amazing online reputation can lead to increased revenue, brand recognition, and rapid brand expansion. 

According to a 2013 study, 79% of consumers trust online reviews, and that number has only increased in the years since. The brand you build can be made or irreparably broken by online feedback and your brand’s interactive presence.  

How does online reputation management work?

The majority of U.S. residents spend a considerable amount of time online. According to the Pew Research Center, 31% of American adults are online all day. Thus, much of the advertising and marketing we consume is via social media or websites.

As we spend more time glued to our smart devices, online reputation management becomes increasingly vital for a brand’s survival. Here are some of the ways it works:

Accounts for brand market value:

In 2020, global communications and marketing solutions firm Weber Shandwick found that corporate and brand reputations contribute significantly to a company’s success. The firm also shared that corporate executives believe 63% of a brand’s value is based on its reputation.

Content moderation:

A great online reputation manager will moderate your brand-related content. This not only applies to the content you publish, but any signs of hacked content or social media comments from customers that includes hate speech or troll-like behavior. 

Your reputation manager can delete or block Internet trolls and ensure your cybersecurity is up-to-date to protect you from hacker attacks.

Creates constant consumer engagement:

In order to build and protect your brand, you need heavy online engagement. Responding to customer questions and creating fresh, engaging content is paramount to building a fantastic reputation. 

Ensures your online content is accurate: 

An excellent online reputation manager will audit any content published under your brand name, search for any online references to your brand, and verify the trustworthiness of brand-related content. They can flag inaccurate information and work to take it down.

Sales Boost:

As an online reputation management consultant helps your credible online presence to grow, you may see a significant increase in your sales, subscriptions, and in your website traffic.

Main types of online reputation management

Reputation management using online reviews

Reputation management consultants work to cover and protect all aspects of your business. Often, this includes paying close attention to the details and nuances of your online reputation. 

Here are some methods of online reputation management:

Online reviews:

As more consumers turn to online reviews to choose businesses, your positive and negative ratings matter more than ever. 

According to Inc Magazine, the White House Office of Consumer Affairs found that 13% of dissatisfied customers share their experiences with 20 other people. Consider the huge increase in these numbers when reviews are posted online.

Free, third-party promotion:

As you publish credible, engaging, and unique content, you may find that your brand is freely promoted by other websites and brands, press releases, social media pages, and third-party listings. 

Prompt responses to customers:

An online reputation management consultant can stay on top of customer messages and allow you to respond with empathetic solutions to customers’ needs. This also helps to build your positive reputation and impact online reviews.

How to research and choose reputation management vendors

Now that you know what online reputation management consists of and how it can benefit your brand, you need to decide whether you want to take care of this in-house, or hire an outside consultant. 

There are numerous vendors who specialize in reputation management consultation, so it’s important to know what to look for and how to hire someone to best suit your needs. Some of the ways to vet an online reputation management vendor include:

Research. Research. Research.

Spend time perusing customer reviews and testimonials. Check out reviews from reputation management publications. Check out the vendor’s search engine rankings. Never hire a consultant without conducting diligent research first.

Check out their website.

This may seem obvious, but if a reputation management vendor has a sloppy or non-interactive website, this could present a huge red flag. Look at their “About” page and ensure their mission statement and philosophy align with your needs.

Meet with potential consultants.

A face-to-face meeting — whether in person or remotely — can help you to get an accurate read on the strengths of the vendor and their team of consultants. Prepare a list of questions to ensure they can provide services that will grow and protect your online reputation.

Cyber hacker attacks your online reputation

How cyber attacks can impact reputation management 

A great management consultant will deal with cybersecurity risks and threats quickly, and will understand the powerful impact cyber-attacks can have on your online reputation.

Cyber threats such as data leaks, cross-site scripting (XSS), and distributed denial of service attacks (DDoS) can leave you (and your customers) vulnerable and exposed. These attacks can destroy the reputation you took years to build in a matter of hours.

An online reputation management consultant can calculate your cybersecurity risk level and create a communications plan to deal with any attacks immediately after they occur.

For more insights into how to protect yourself and your online reputation, check out the What Is My IP Address blog.

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