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What Is Online Reputation Management (ORM)?

First impressions last. Gain more control over your brand's narrative by getting ahead of issues and monitoring mentions online.

Every brand wants to make a good impression online, but having a standout website or social media presence isn’t enough.

These days, everyone has an opinion on just about everything, and customers are savvy enough to know when a brand is being genuine, and when it’s hiding an ugly truth.

If your business is hit by a negative review or unfavorable media attention, it can feel like the end of the road.

But turning around perceptions of your brand is possible, especially when you have safeguards to limit the damage and deal with problems before they occur.

Managing your brand’s reputation online isn’t a once-and-done process, but investing in it as soon as possible can save you plenty of future headaches.

What Is Online Reputation Management?

The key focus of online reputation management, or ORM, is to create a positive perception of a brand or business.

Every activity a brand takes part in should be monitored and managed to help shape the opinions of existing and future customers, ultimately making the business appear reliable and trustworthy.

The Connection Between ORM And SEO

We all know that customers are increasingly turning to search engines as they research new products to buy or services to invest in.

So ensuring that, when your brand is searched, the best and most positive results are the ones that show up first is an essential part of any ORM strategy.

What appears in those top searches heavily influences how people think about your brand.

That’s why you need to be in control of those results as much as possible, and take ownership of what message is being shown to your audience.

ORM is a multi-channel approach to prevent and resolve any issues that could damage your brand’s reputation.

Factors That Contribute To ORM

While the mix that each business uses to maintain its online reputation will differ, ORM should involve a combination of the following:

  • Owned media – Employee and customer stories, user-generated content (UGC), reviews, webinars, and brand-created content.
  • Paid media – Sponsored social posts, lead generation, affiliate programs, and native advertising.
  • Earned media – Media relations, influencer marketing, and PR.
  • Shared media – Community service and partnerships, co-branding campaigns, and organic social media posts.

Why Is Online Reputation Management Important?

Although reputation management should be part of an ongoing approach to building a healthy brand online, many companies don’t act until the damage has already been done.

Changing The Narrative

Recovering your online reputation is incredibly challenging.

A bad experience with your business can not only put a single customer off from returning to your brand again, but if they choose to leave a negative review on Google, Facebook, or elsewhere, you could quickly see sales dropping.

When you’re not actively monitoring your brand mentions and reviews circulating online about your company, you could quickly miss out on an opportunity to change the narrative before long-lasting negative perceptions take hold.

A 2022 report by Khoros found that 83% of customers say they feel more loyal to brands that respond to and resolve their complaints.

So, not only can swift action prevent turning off new customers, but you may even be able to retain unhappy existing customers too.

Understanding Your Customers

If you don’t have a finger on the pulse of chatter about your brand online, you could be spending thousands of dollars on new marketing campaigns that will fall flat at the first hurdle because you didn’t deal with bigger issues sooner.

Messaging could be in stark contrast to issues being raised by customers, coming across as insensitive and possibly insulting, rather than making the positive impact you were hoping for.

Getting Ahead Of Issues

Remember, your online reputation lasts forever.

Countless businesses and individuals have learned this the hard way.

Remember the viral interview with then-BP CEO, Tony Hayward, days after the tragedy that saw 11 deaths after the explosion on Deepwater Horizon? His statement of, “I just want my life back” did not land well, when actual loss of life had occurred.

A mountain of backlash quickly swept over the BP online properties, going so far as former President Barack Obama saying that he “wishes he could fire him.”

Without online reputation management, you can quickly end up in a lose-lose situation.

With proactive measures, though, you can keep control of your brand’s story in search results and plan ahead for any possible problems.

Screenshot from Google, December 2022

How Is Online Reputation Management Different From PR?

While the phrases “reputation management” and “public relations” are often used interchangeably, what they actually involve are very different.

Both can be used effectively as part of your brand’s overarching only strategy, but it’s important to understand the differences before investing in one or both options.

Where ORM is solely focused on the needs of the brand and maintaining a positive image online, PR plays a more mutually beneficial role between a brand and other organizations, particularly the media.

PR efforts can and should aim to improve the reputation of a brand in the eyes of the public.

But typically, the goal is to provide information about something more specific, like a new product or service.

Like other forms of advertising, PR is another direct marketing channel that brands can use to increase their visibility, both on and offline.

Although ORM and PR can work independently of each other, pairing both will help a business cover behind-the-scenes brand building (ORM) and public-facing marketing (PR).

When your brand faces negativity online, even with a solid ORM program in place, PR can also be used to roll out important updates or comments via the media to help address the problem.

Social Media Marketing And Online Reputation Management

Online reviews are almost impossible for brands to control, and nowhere is that clearer than on social media.

Yes, dominating the search engine results pages (SERPs) with positive stories about your brand is a crucial part of ORM.

But so, too, is effectively managing and responding to comments elsewhere online.

Staying active and engaged in social conversations about your brand is essential.

There is plenty of software out there to help you stay on top of this, including tools like Mention, BrandWatch, Sprout Social, and BuzzSumo.

Many of these offer sentiment analysis functionality, where you can easily keep tabs on whether your mentions are skewing more positively or negatively.

You can also monitor branded hashtags, mentions, or any direct tagging of your brand across multiple platforms.

With extensive monitoring in place, you’ll be able to respond quickly to any comments you see come in, and refer these individuals to the right internal sources to get any issues resolved as fast as possible.

In Conclusion

Conversation around your brand is happening all the time, whether you know about it or not.

Online reputation management is one of the best ways to stay on top of this and ensure that whatever is being said accurately reflects the company image you’re looking to build and maintain.

A strategic ORM program can make a significant difference when it comes to attracting new customers to your business – and retaining existing ones.

Make a good impression and take back control of your brand’s story online.

More resources: 

Featured Image: Black Salmon/Shutterstock

VIP CONTRIBUTOR Rachel Vandernick Founder & Lead Consultant at The Vander Group

Rachel Vandernick is a growth and performance marketing consultant and founder of The Vander Group. She specializes in helping consumer-facing ...

What Is Online Reputation Management (ORM)?

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