Reputation has always mattered in business. But in today’s interconnected world, it is almost impossible to do business with a tarnished reputation—which is why corporate reputation management is key.
The corporate reputation management process is the practice of monitoring and managing the public’s perception of your business. This process involves researching what is already being said about your brand on social media, in online reviews, and in the news. Then, your team evaluates the data you collected and implements a strategy for improving and maintaining your reputation. This process may include a mix of suppressing negative online content and making adjustments to your business based on legitimate feedback.
At Minc Law, we know that your company’s reputation is one of your most important assets. We offer digital risk protection services to holistically identify and neutralize online threats, and we help our clients monitor, repair, and protect their brands’ reputations.
In this article, we provide an overview of the corporate reputation management process. We walk readers through the stages of developing a reputation management strategy, as well as the risks posed to your business if you do not proactively manage its reputation in an increasingly digital world.
What is Corporate Reputation Management?
In today’s corporate landscape, it is critically important to stay on top of both tangible and intangible reputational factors. This section covers the definition of online reputation management and why it matters.
What is Online Reputation Management & Why is It Important?
Online reputation management (ORM) is a holistic service that uses a combination of strategies and tools to protect your digital footprint. Whether you own a business or simply want to protect your individual reputation, ORM helps you create and maintain the image you wish to convey to the world.
Some ORM tactics include:
- Monitoring the internet for any negative content about you,
- Creating and boosting the visibility of positive content, and
- Suppressing or removing negative search results.
For individuals, ORM services involve taking control of online profiles and tracking and eliminating reputational threats. ORM for business also tackles online review management and removing online content that infringes on your intellectual property.
Corporate reputation management falls under the umbrella of online reputation management. It specifically focuses on businesses and entities in the corporate setting rather than everyday individuals. However, a CEO or executive reputation would also be considered part of the ‘corporate reputation’ due to the potential fallout that can affect the company.
What is Corporate Reputation Management?
Your corporate reputation is the overall public perception of your brand. The opinions of all stakeholders—including customers, investors, and employees—contribute to your brand’s reputation.
You need strong relationships with customers, the media, shareholders, political leaders, and even competitors to keep a solid foothold in your industry. Your reputation is perhaps the biggest factor in your relationship with the world, and it can impact everything from revenue to partnership and investment opportunities.
So what impacts the public’s perception of your brand? Internal factors that influence your reputation include:
- Company policies and actions. Do you maintain ethical transparency standards and security practices?
- Workplace culture. Are your employees treated fairly and in safe working conditions?
- Quality products and services. Do your products consistently live up to your marketing? Do you have good customer service?
- Corporate responsibility. Is your company well-managed and financially stable? Do you have socially responsible business practices?
- Company representatives. Do those who speak for the company (like employees, spokespeople, and executives) act appropriately and speak well of your company in public spaces?
- Online presence. Are your digital marketing materials, social profiles, and website all appropriate and reflective of your branding?
But the internal actions of your company are not the only influences on your reputation. External factors can include:
- Third-party actions. Do your suppliers and partners behave ethically and reliably?
- Customer actions. Do customers generally leave positive reviews and speak about you positively on social media?
Corporate reputation management involves managing internal and external factors to keep public perception positive. We delve further into how to develop each of these factors below.
How Do You Build a Corporate Reputation?
Bolstering your corporate reputation means assessing your performance across all departments and channels. Then, do whatever you can to ensure that your performance and the face you present to the world match stakeholder expectations.
Products & Services
The core of your reputation stems from what your business does. What makes your product or service special? Are you relying on your marketing strategy to compete with others in your industry, or do your products and services stand out on their own?
Simply stating that your products are the best does not go far unless your audience has a reason to believe it. In your corporate reputation assessment, start by evaluating the quality of your products compared to customer expectations.
How you treat your employees affects your overall brand reputation. Satisfied employees perform better—leading to high-quality products and services. Also, your reputation as an ethical employer is a factor in the public’s perception of your brand.
When it comes to the workplace environment, no news is often good news. Unless you are considered one of the best places to work, the public will generally not notice or care if you have a problem-free workplace. But if your culture is toxic or you have unsafe working conditions, your corporate reputation could take a massive hit if (and when) news gets out.
Vision & Leadership
Your CEO’s reputation can influence consumers’ trust in your business as a whole. Executives and CEOs are personifications of the company. In fact, the company market value attributed to CEO reputation ranges from 25% to 68% around the world.
Company culture and performance start at the top, which is why your leaders’ vision and actions should align with your goals.
Financial Performance & Stability
It may seem like a chicken-and-egg situation to say that your financial performance affects your reputation. After all, customer trust influences how much they buy from you, right?
While these factors are extremely interconnected, your financial performance does not rely solely on sales revenue.
Be sure to employ sound fiscal practices and responsible spending to show shareholders that you are a worthy investment. And stable financial management shows employees your company will be around for a while—so there is no need to jump ship.
Corporate Social Responsibility
Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is not simply a new buzzword. Showing that you care about your community and society as a whole can garner goodwill.
Engaging positively with the community can not only attract customers and boost employee morale; it can also meet social needs and benefit everyone.
Although we like to think logic drives our decisions, studies show that emotions play a significant factor in customer buying decisions. If a customer does not trust or respect your brand, they will likely buy from a company they trust more.
This fact applies to more than customer purchases. Your brand’s trustworthiness affects your corporate reputation with all stakeholders. Focus on building trust and positive emotional appeal through prioritizing ethical business practices, integrity, and humanizing branding.
For further reading, we recommend checking out our guide explaining the importance of brand reputation to stakeholders.
Why Introduce a Corporate Reputation Management Process?
In today’s business environment, anything from a small misstep to a major oversight can have devastating consequences. Corporate reputation management strategies can bolster investor confidence and improve the loyalty of both customers and employees.
What Is the Reputation Management Process?
The reputation management process begins with evaluating the public’s current perception of you. You can then compare this data to your current performance to create a plan for improving and managing your corporate reputation.
Phase 1: Research and Clarify Your Current Reputation
Before developing a plan, you need to know what the public currently thinks about your brand. You can use social listening to take the pulse of public sentiment. This sentiment is generally expressed in a mix of positive, neutral, and negative terms.
The following social listening tools can help you track chosen keywords (such as your brand name, CEO, or specific products) to find out what people are saying:
- Google Alerts,
- Sprout Social,
Phase 2: Evaluate the Data & Compare It to Your Current Performance
Once you have collected public feedback, read and evaluate the data. It is easy to jump right into creating a plan based on a few anecdotes, but you should take the time to carefully analyze a large portion of results to find patterns.
Mine the results for key statements and sentiments. Break them down into categories relating to your products, overall branding, and even location-based mentions. Keep tabs on positive and negative patterns as well.
Phase 3: Develop and Implement a Strategy
Once you have compiled a list, create a strategy for each area of improvement. Be sure to set up action plans for reacting to issues that come up in the future. Also, create proactive plans to correct problems or create positive branding moving forward
For instance, you may set up a social media strategy for identifying and responding to negative comments and media. This strategy might include escalating any larger issues to the proper channels before they get out of hand.
At the same time, you might decide to proactively overhaul your IT security policies to prevent reputational risks relating to potential data breaches.
Why Implement a Corporate Reputation Management Process?
A positive online reputation directly impacts your organization’s success. Your reputation affects everything from media coverage, to consumer behavior, to how highly your website ranks in search results.
And in today’s extremely online environment, small comments can have massive repercussions. 97% of consumers read online reviews, and more than one-third of buyers will not make a purchase without first reading reviews. For all intents and purposes, your online reputation is your reputation.
If you are not actively monitoring and managing your business’s online reputation, you leave your reputation in the hands of consumer reviews, social posts, and news media. Online corporate reputation management involves creating positive, on-brand content and actively suppressing or removing negative content.
A positive reputation is more than how much investors and customers trust you right now. It can also have a domino effect of increased investor confidence, employee loyalty, and customer retention over time.
What Can Threaten Your Corporate Reputation?
Almost anything could be a threat to your company’s reputation, not just large-scale missteps. Small issues can snowball, turning a reputable brand into a sub-par company in a few years. That is why it is important to emphasize customer loyalty, employee retention, corporate social responsibility, and ethical practices.
Below, we list four common threats to your corporate reputation you can avoid with an effective reputation management strategy.
A breach in security can do extensive damage to your customers’ trust in your brand. If a hacker compromises your customer data, it can lead to a tarnished image and reduced sales. This in turn translates to damaged stock prices and investor relations.
One of the most infamous data breaches in recent years was the Experian data breach in 2013. Experian, one of the world’s largest data brokers, was attacked by hackers. The personal information of at least 15 million people was compromised. The company’s reputation was badly damaged—and it did not help that Experian suffered another major data breach in 2020.
Failure to Comply With Federal or Local Regulations & Lawsuits Affecting Your Business
Failure to follow industry and government regulations can land your company in legal hot water. It can also affect how you handle data and how much your customers trust your ability to respect their privacy. And not complying with health and safety regulations poses a threat to your employees and potential customers.
The way companies use customer data has become a hot-button issue in recent years, and not complying with the latest regulations can expose your company to severe public backlash.
One has to look no further than the Cambridge Analytica data scandal, in which the data firm used improperly obtained Facebook user data to construct voter profiles for the 2016 Trump campaign. Facebook’s users lost a great deal of trust in Facebook and its parent company, Meta—and that trust has never fully recovered.
Viral Customer Complaint & Poor Customer Service
When customers are dissatisfied, they have the power to vent their frustrations in very public ways. Whether it is a music video on YouTube complaining about an airline breaking your guitar, or simply a tweet about a poor customer service experience, you never know when a customer complaint will go viral.
Customer service teams should be prepared to respond to complaints efficiently and compassionately across various social channels before they grow into a public matter. Resolving issues can include issuing refunds, waiving fees, and taking other appropriate measures to set things right. After all, eating the cost of a product or ticket is much better than dealing with the financial loss a viral complaint can cause.
Toxic Organizational Culture & Improper Handling of Employee Layoffs
The public does not take kindly to callous managers and toxic workplaces. HyperSocial CEO Braden Wallake learned this fact when he posted a photo of himself crying on LinkedIn after laying off employees. Wallake’s post went viral because LinkedIn users saw his statement as insensitive and self-indulgent. Instead of apologizing and making the post about the employees who were affected, he spoke about himself and the hardships CEOs face during tough economic times.
While it can be tough to predict the public’s reaction to every step you take, businesses should foster a culture that prioritizes employee well-being, authenticity, and transparency.
How Are Corporate Reputations Affected By the Communication of Managers & Public Statements?
Corporate reputations are greatly affected by communication professionals and public statements. When these statements do not appear human or transparent, the public can easily lose trust in your brand.
The spokesperson you choose can make or break your brand’s reputation, especially during times of upheaval or crisis. A poor communications professional might appear insincere or even seem that they are concealing the truth. An effective spokesperson, on the other hand, can convey your position with clarity and authenticity.
The right spokespeople should be relatable and helpful. Instead of dodging hard questions, they should be prepared to provide truthful answers. Your audience should be able to trust that the spokesperson—and by extension, your company—is working in their best interests.
Beyond communications professionals, every communication your brand makes should follow these guidelines. Whether it be in your annual reports, quarterly financial statements, or other public documents, try to avoid a haphazard or thoughtless approach that could expose flaws in your operations.
Papa Johns Statement
In one infamous recent incident, Papa John’s founder John Schnatter used a racial slur on a conference call with his company’s marketing agency in 2018. Ironically, the purpose of the call was to strategize ways for Schnatter to avoid PR incidents. He had recently come under fire for his comments on NFL players kneeling in protest against racism and police brutality.
The incident immediately leaked and provoked public outrage, and Schnatter resigned a few months later.
Even though the company’s other leaders tried to distance the brand from their problematic founder, Papa John’s experienced lower sales and a major reputational hit due to the incident. When company executives and prominent spokespeople make offensive or inappropriate statements, the whole company will suffer as a result.
Keys to a Successful Corporate Reputation Management Process
Building a business is about more than increasing sales and scaling your workforce. A successful business must have a positive reputation to build trust and establish authority in its industry, which is why a corporate reputation management strategy is crucial.
What Makes A Successful Brand Reputation Management Strategy?
Building an effective reputation management strategy for your brand requires the following key factors:
The most well-respected brands are quick to address concerns and respond to consumer questions.
And when you receive criticism, do not respond defensively. Instead, apologize and suggest a solution to make things right. Or if the post is from a troll or a customer with an irrational complaint, a skilled social media manager can use self-deprecating humor, lighthearted refutation of false claims, or jokes to diffuse the situation.
Highly Ranked on Google
Remember, your online reputation is essentially the same as your overall reputation. Using SEO tactics to increase your site’s domain authority and rank on the first page of Google Search results can increase your trustworthiness and name recognition with consumers.
Effective Monitoring Strategy
Stay aware of what the public is saying about you. Use social listening tools to keep track of whenever your brand is mentioned online so that you can respond to any feedback—both positive and negative.
Transparency & Public Trust
Make a habit of openly discussing your products and services, answering questions clearly, and not trying to hide negative feedback. Perhaps counterintuitively, customers trust you more when they can see that you are not afraid to be fallible in public. If you appear too polished, you seem inauthentic (or that you have something to hide).
Work to gain public trust by interacting with customers online and in real life. Provide free, valuable resources—whether it be on your blog or another media channel. This content demonstrates your expertise in your niche and builds a relationship of trust with your customers.
Growth From Mistakes
When you receive criticism, do not stop at a kind reply. Putting out fires one by one may avoid a PR disaster, but if you do not learn from these mistakes, you hinder your own potential for growth and improvement.
Really listen to critiques and find ways to refine or improve your processes to avoid those mistakes in the future.
Strong Stance Against Bad-Faith Attacks
Not all criticism will be in good faith. Have a system in place to recognize and respond to defamatory statements, threats, and lies about your brand. When necessary, you may need to take legal action against harassers and defamers.
Effective Reputation Management Team
Especially if your corporation has a large online presence, it may be difficult to manage your reputation on your own. ORM professionals can help you implement an effective reputation management strategy that protects your bottom line and grows with you.
Why is Reputation Key to Business Success?
In today’s extremely online world, your reputation is directly related to your online presence and digital footprint. Everything from negative reviews to social mentions to media articles can shape and influence consumers’ opinions of you.
Customers rely heavily on online reviews before making a purchase. Investors take your reputation into account before deciding to invest. Without an effective reputation management strategy and process, a few negative incidents can quickly snowball into a full-blown crisis that does very real damage to your reputation and bottom line.
For further reading, we recommend checking out our comprehensive guide explaining reputation crisis management and this article breaking down effective reputation repair strategies.
How to Choose a Corporate Reputation Management Company
It is important to know what to look for when deciding on a corporate reputation management service. The right company for you is not only reputable, but understands your brand’s message, needs, history, and goals.
What Do Corporate Reputation Management Companies Do?
Reputation management services for companies provide a mix of services and techniques to protect your brand’s digital footprint and public perception. A few common services include:
- PR services like press releases, media relations, and speech writing.
- Social media management to create posts and interact with users in a way that aligns with your culture and brand goals.
- Web design to create a website that aligns with your branding and desired image.
- Content marketing and SEO to help your site rank higher in search results.
- Wikipedia page management to create content that reflects your desired brand image.
- Online business review management for responding to positive and negative feedback.
- Competitor monitoring to see how your online mentions, social activity, reviews, and website ranking compares to others in your industry.
- Reputation and digital risk monitoring to alert you of any problematic online mentions.
- Content removal and suppression services to either take down or push those results off of the first page of search results.
How Do You Choose a Corporate Reputation Management Company?
Unfortunately, not all reputation management companies are equally effective or trustworthy. Some promise quick results for their clients, then use “black-hat” methods that could do your organization more harm than good.
We recommend starting your search by asking for referrals from business partners, friends, and family. You can also do a Google search for highly-rated services in your area or industry. Then, look for the following signs of an effective ORM service:
- Proven track record of success. Can they provide you with testimonials and/or success stories from previous clients?
- A detailed strategy. Are they willing to provide you with a detailed action plan (including a timeline and budget) before you sign a contract?
- A positive reputation. Do they have good reviews on review sites like Google, Yelp, and TrustAdvisor? What is their online reputation like on social media, search engines, and the Better Business Bureau?
- Realistic promises. Are they laying out a realistic timeline that does not promise to solve every issue immediately?
- Good personal connection. After meeting with the team remotely or in person, do you get the sense that you will get along well and work well with each other?
- Honesty and transparency. Does the ORM service clearly lay out details of what it would be like to work together, from the costs to the timeline and specific services?
Make sure to read our resource answering ‘Why is a good reputation important for business?’
How Much Do Corporate Reputation Management Services Cost?
The cost of online reputation management services can vary depending on your business and specific needs. Some subscription reputation management services cost anywhere from $500 to $50,000 per month.
For example, Minc Law charges a flat fee starting at $2,500 for the removal of negative and damaging posts from specific websites. But our clients may pay more depending on how many websites are involved, how difficult it is to remove the content, and other factors. Further, we offer custom ORM and reputation monitoring packages at various price points.
Although online reputation management can be costly, it is often more affordable to be proactive than to wait for a major PR crisis that severely impacts your customer base, shareholder confidence, and bottom line.
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Oct 4, 2021
If you would like to get started with corporate reputation management services, reach out to schedule your initial no-obligation consultation by calling us at (216) 373-7706, speaking with a Chat representative, or filling out our online contact form.