Hiring a Reputation Management Company?
Over 85% of executives place reputational risks as a top management priority over other strategic risks.
Warren Buffett, one of the world’s most brilliant investors, says that it takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. Your customers and other people you work with take your reputation seriously.
Even if it’s untrue, people will still pay significant attention to what others say about you and your business. Thus, you need to shape what others say about you online to guard your name and business.
If you’re looking to hire a reputation management company, here’s a look at seven valuable tips that can point you to the right firm.
What’s Online Reputation Management?
Here is a truth you must grapple with — people are talking about you out there.
Whether it’s about you (what you can call your personal brand) or your business, people pay attention to what is said about you. Online reputation management (ORM) is the art of taking charge and shaping these online conversations about your brand.
Running a business today is vastly different from a reputational standpoint due to the advent of the internet. Before the internet, all you needed to do was focus on selling your products or services.
You served your customers and kept going. Nowadays, billions of people with access to the internet can erode the reputation you’ve built up over many years in five minutes. All they need to do is tweet or publish a post that garners attention.
That’s made regular interactions with customers online a vital part of brand strategy.
The Need for Transparency
With the world becoming a global village thanks to the internet, you face a greater need for transparency now more than ever. When you think about transparency, you have to look outside the box.
The internet has made one type of transparency mission-critical to survival. Every business now needs to take customer feedback and criticism positively. Reacting badly to criticism online is self-defeating.
What does transparency mean, though? It can include:
- Asking for feedback from employees and customers
- Giving workers room to talk about your products and services publicly
- Developing one-on-one communication channels to help customers and employees deal with problems
- Addressing criticism publicly instead of hiding it (which is one of the biggest ORM mistakes to avoid)
Since most small-to-medium firms don’t invest significantly in communicating with their clients, ORM falls by the wayside. However, if you’re to control your online perception, you need to invest in an online reputation management firm.
Insider Tips to Help You Hire the Right Reputation Management Company
Getting a handle on your online reputation is easier said than done. One of the more challenging bits of ORM is knowing which reputation management companies to trust. Here are some valuable tips to point you in the right direction.
1. Gauge Their Experience
Here’s the thing — an ORM firm can’t help you achieve results they have never had. As such, the level of experience a potential ORM service provider has is critical to you meeting your goals.
Look at the track record the ORM service provider has in delivering services to clients similar to you and at your operational scale. Does it inspire confidence or apprehension?
Zoom in on the senior team’s depth of experience in ORM as that’s an indicator of the firm’s management quality. A good management team will deliver excellent results and vice versa.
Part of an ORM service provider’s duty is to handle the legal end of things. For many companies, that means working hand-in-hand with top-level legal firms. Spy out the candidate’s legal partners to determine if they are above board.
Ask for case studies to see first-hand results for past clients. Even if you have to sign a non-disclosure agreement for it, a case study gives you better insight into how the ORM service provider operates.
2. Ascertain the Firm Exists
Too often, customers have retained an ORM service provider’s services, trusting that they are a firm with several top tier associates. When clients realize later on that it’s a one-person band, it becomes frustrating.
Before you sign any agreement with the ORM service provider, you need to visit their physical premises. Don’t fall prey to firms that nudge you to conduct your entire relationship on email.
If you are working with an ORM service provider from another part of the world, ensure you speak to key staffers who’ll handle your account. Through several phone calls, you can gauge whether you can work with their personnel or not.
Dig deep into online searches to run the names of those who will handle your account. You’ll quickly find out if they are ghost workers or real employees with a track record you can assess.
3. What’s the Reputation Manager’s Authority?
No ORM service provider lacking authority can help you grow your authority in the market. If they can’t do it for themselves, what makes you think they have the skill to deliver on your behalf?
A wise and experienced ORM service provider will work to position themselves as an authoritative thought leader online. Hence, you have an accurate way to gauge how well the candidate firm you want to hire knows their stuff.
Are there any in-depth thought pieces on reputation management the company has published? Do others comment on and/or link to these pieces in a way that reflects they have learned from the reputation manager?
Social media also helps you weigh the ORM service provider’s authority. Specifically, the way the candidate firm interacts with social media users is the indicator you should look for.
How an ORM service provider responds to feedback and criticism is a valuable predictor pointing to the level of service you can expect.
4. Dig Into How the Reputation Manager Operates
There are tons of ORM service providers out there who use unethical tactics to serve you. The problem is those corrupt reputation management practices will sink your ship.
If you’re dealing with an agency whose work is above board, they will have no issue showing you how they work. Any hesitation in showing you how they plan to manage your reputation should be a red flag.
Make sure you ask for a work plan, content that serves as an example of what they plan to use, and a case study on a client similar to you. That places you on much better footing to judge their approach.
5. Peruse the Fine Print
Even if your other checks on the ORM service provider pan out, you shouldn’t sign the contract without understanding the fine print. That’s because the pressure to get rid of unwanted online content can blind you to red flags in the fine print.
For example, some ORM service providers will bury the right to review any content before uploading it in the fine print. If you don’t have the right to assess such material first, you lose a vital control aspect.
Another common clause hidden in the fine print is the privacy and ownership of all content developed and published on your behalf. You need to sign a contract that gives you full rights — no ifs, ands, or buts.
In case of late payment or other issues, an ORM service provider that owns the content developed and published on your behalf will pull it down. That takes you back to square one.
The language of the contract also matters as it reflects the promises the ORM service provider makes. If it’s laden with confusing jargon and you can’t figure out what the firm promises, that may be a sign of obfuscation.
6. Avoid False Promises
Speaking of promises, you need to steer clear of ORM service providers that make unsubstantiated promises. Some firms will capitalize on your pressing desire to eliminate unwanted content online and offer more than they can deliver.
As with many things in life, there are no guarantees with ORM. A transparent firm will provide realistic deliverables they can ship but still remind you there are golden guarantees.
Such an ORM service provider will also be upfront about the timeframe to help you manage your expectations. No ORM can alter your reputation overnight, and any firm promising that is selling you smoke and mirrors.
7. The Pricing Structure Should Be Accommodating
Reputable ORM service providers structure their pricing to accommodate a wide range of clients. Every client has unique ORM needs, and there’s no standard pricing structure for that.
Look for an ORM service provider offering a tiered pricing system allowing low-cost entry. Why? You want to give a periodic trial and see if you can work with the firm without being locked in.
With that said, you shouldn’t default to looking for the cheapest option. Low prices don’t mean value. You’d rather request a trial period to gauge if the service makes the pricing reasonable.
Never be pressured to pay for ORM services you’re not convinced can serve your unique reputational needs.
Your Reputation Is Your Treasure — Guard It
Very few people need convincing on the value of a stellar reputation, especially now that the world is a global village. Hiring a reputation management company to shape your perception online is a go-to move for many businesses. Take the time to learn what makes for a good ORM provider so you can hire the right partner and avoid wasting your investment or, worse yet, being scammed.
Online Reputation Guru is a team of experts versed in turning online reputational negatives into positives. Talk to us today to help analyze and create an effective plan to shape your perception online positively.