What Is Reputation Management: A Comprehensive Guide

What is reputation management? Protecting the most valuable asset to an organization that is often overlooked and taken for granted — reputation. Reputation management is so integral to a brand’s bottom line that 87% of consumers will reverse a purchase decision if there are reputation issues at play.

So why aren’t more organizations prioritizing reputational management? Only 40% of communication professionals express a willingness to protect their company’s reputation online. Protecting and promoting a brand’s reputation is a tall order — it’s a never-ending process that requires an evolving strategy that is unique to the organization’s mission and vision.

As a reputation management agency, Communications Strategy Group (CSG®) employs expert tactics to protect clients’ reputations — both proactively and reactively. Whether you’re a small business or a global company seeking reputational management, the first step is understanding what it is and how it works.

What Is Reputation Management?

Brand reputation management is the ever-evolving process of influencing how and what consumers think of a brand, monitoring public perception and the subsequent strategy involved to improve your brand’s image. Reputational management strikes a careful balance between proactive efforts and reactive strategies when internal or external forces cause crisis communication.

A positive brand reputation inspires customer loyalty and builds brand affinity, a significant driver of revenue and growth. A negative reputation, on the other hand, can be damaging to sales and customer retention, but also provides valuable insights into consumer needs and can lead to transformational organizational changes.

Thanks to the profound power of the internet and social media, reputation management exists under two spheres: online and offline reputation management. Online reputation management focuses on the management of product and service search results within the digital space, such as the suggested links on your Google search. While offline reputation management shapes an organization’s or brand’s public perception outside the digital sphere, such as social responsibility and media visibility.

What Does a Reputation Management Strategy Include?

Every organization will have to manage a crisis at some point — it’s inevitable and certain. What’s uncertain is what the crisis will look like and when it will occur. That’s why CSG’s team of brand reputation experts develops comprehensive reputation management and crisis communication strategies that cover everything from identifying the people who need to be on the crisis team to frameworks for proactive and reactive scenarios.

Crisis communications and reputation management are from-the-ground-up initiatives that should reflect the unique nuances of your brand’s leadership, strengths and audience. A reputation management strategy includes a rubric for what to say and do, who should say it and who the target audience is to make the most unexpected PR crises smoother to navigate.

Proactive Reputational Management

Advance planning is critical both for crisis contingencies and for managing your online and offline reputation as a business. CSG utilizes a 4D Framework designed to comprehensively map your company, leadership and environment. Armed with that knowledge, our team develops a plan that addresses any current and potential challenges and accounts for potential future conditions ranging from natural disaster responses to negative reviews and employee or product issues.

Reactive Reputational Management

For those situations where time is of the essence and no plan is yet in place, CSG employs CLEAR, a model designed to facilitate a thoughtful response to unforeseen situations. Ultimately, the CLEAR model helps organizations promote preparedness in times that can lead to rash communications and mistakes that compound problems. CLEAR creates space and a template for key players to assess the situation, assign roles and take appropriate and timely action.

Internal Reputational Management

When the crisis starts internally, the scenario often boils down to “someone did something wrong” or “somebody perceived you did something wrong.” These situations may include:

  • Business or product issues
  • Personnel/employee actions
  • Service
  • Organizational/management

External Reputational Management

External crises often involve the actions and outcomes of “outside forces that require an internal response.” This category of crisis is exceptionally broad and may incorporate the press, partners and even Mother Nature. These situations may include:

  • Regulatory issues
  • Customer or client actions
  • Legal actions against the company
  • Partner actions
  • Natural disasters
  • Whistleblowing
  • Bad press
  • Social media backlash

General Reputational Management 

General reputation management includes smaller tasks that are nonetheless worth due attention and thought in any reputation management plan, including:

  • Fielding everyday customer complaints on social media
  • Responding to online reviews
  • Managing conversations on social channels and escalating those appropriately and as necessary
  • Keeping your online presence accurate and up-to-date

What are the Benefits of Reputation Management?

Establishes Trust and Community

Consumers and stakeholders prefer and support brands that they trust. A successful reputation management strategy that promotes your organization’s strengths and is transparent in the face of negativity, boosts brand affinity and bolsters consumer trust.

Increases Brand Awareness and Identity

When customers share reviews via search engines and social media platforms, your brand is exposed to a larger audience. Re-sharing positive testimonials and reviews across your brand’s digital accounts is a great way to further promote brand awareness.

Boosts Brand Image

​​An effective online reputation management strategy rebuilds brand image in the wake of negative information sharing. Monitoring responses and public sentiment about your organization or brand can contribute to a positive brand image.

Improves Customer Loyalty

Increasing customer retention and attracting new customers are two huge benefits of reputation management.

Increases Profitability

Trusted brands are also profitable brands. In a digital world where 69% of shoppers consult reviews before purchasing online, businesses with the most positive reviews attract more prospective customers.

Attracts and Retains Good Employees

Reputational management doesn’t just target consumers. Organizations with established professional staff are foundations for a successful workforce. Talented and ambitious job seekers want to work at trusted, transparent organizations.

Improves Rankings on Search Engines

Positive online buzz and organic conversation about your organization are key to boosting web traffic and driving conversions.

Helps You Stand Out from the Competition

In today’s competitive market, the way people perceive your brand online has a direct and significant impact on your sales, revenue and overall brand engagement.

Generates Free Advertising

Successful reputation management attracts positive recommendations for other people who will likely search for your organization online, enhancing your marketing efforts.

Creates Invaluable Business Insights

Online reputation management analytics can reveal a treasure trove of business insights — from which products and services are most popular to what consumers are searching for. They can also reveal improvements and changes that can help you achieve your goals faster.

How to Create Your Brand’s Communications Strategy

Whether you plan to spearhead your own reputational management or outsource out to an expert, there are two key principles to master: monitoring and responding. Monitoring focuses on understanding what consumers, influencers and competitors are saying about your brand, while responding aims to develop and improve positive brand identity. Here are five key components to every successful brand’s reputation management strategy.

1. Monitor Your Reputation

The first step requires identifying everywhere that people are talking about your brand and monitoring those conversations. From social media and forums to review sites, news platforms and blogs, digital monitoring of your brand’s presence is the first step to understanding how the public perceives your organization.

2. Create a Response Plan

Once you have a thorough understanding of what is being said about your organization, it’s time to take action. Based on your monitoring information, you should now determine how responses will be composed and who will send them. Depending on your organization’s situation, you will need to consider who will monitor comments and reviews, who will decide which comments require a response and the position the organization will take regarding potential issues or questions.

Once you have answers to all of these questions, a formal response plan can be created and sent to every necessary employee so that everyone is on the page — from everyday business as usual to the unexpected crisis. A response plan should be distributed throughout the organization, similar to brand guides.

3. Approach Negative Comments with Care

As tempting as might be, bad comments, false claims and negative press can’t be ignored in today’s digital transcript. In fact, tackling them head-on and with a level head can minimize a bad situation, promote transparency and show other consumers how your organization handles conflict. Here are three tips for responding to negative comments:

  • Be quick: the sooner your organization is able to respond to a negative situation, the more profound the effect and eventual result will be.
  • Look for lessons: your organization’s product or service is only as good as people think it is. When people share ways that you can improve, take note.
  • Go private when needed: while it’s ideal to keep positive interactions public, sometimes it’s best to transition disgruntled customers to a private channel. In this case, ask for a phone number or email address to handle the matter one-on-one and privately.

4. Highlight the Positives

It can be easy to focus on avoiding and minimizing negative feedback, but it’s critical to also amplify your brand’s positive feedback. From responding to positive comments and creating organic content to adding testimonials to your website and strengthening your social media strategy, don’t forget to highlight what your organization is doing right — and often.

5. Measure and Analyze Results

Whether your primary goal is to protect your brand’s reputation or improve it, both can be tracked and measured to ensure your tactics are working. Monitoring tools, review site scores and social media sentiment analysis are great ways to review progress and adjust strategies accordingly.

FAQs About Reputation Management

Why is reputation management important?

The most valuable asset is your brand’s reputation. Successful reputational management requires a fine balance between proactive tactics and reactive responses. That’s why it’s so important to invest in protecting your brand’s image and have plans ready to deploy when and if a crisis occurs.

What is an example of reputation management?

Reputation management examples include strategies for handling negative public reviews and social media posts, creating communication plans for future crises, and monitoring your brand’s digital presence for negative feedback and inaccurate information.

How do I protect my company’s reputation?

There are a variety of ways to protect your company’s reputation. First, create a communication plan for a crisis, including a detailed process that employees can follow. It’s also important to have a formal policy about public posts — from your brand’s social media channels to what employees can post personally.

Is reputation management part of marketing?

Yes, reputation management is a vital component of an organization’s overall marketing efforts. From embedding reviews and testimonials on your website and monitoring your digital footprint for inaccurate information to reacting to poor press and bad reviews, there are a variety of marketing brand tactics to manage reputation.

How do I fix my online reputation?

To fix a damaged online reputation, it’s important to have a thorough system in place to monitor online reviews and address them accordingly. Reputation management is 24/7, so consider teaming up with a marketing partner who can help you reach your goals.

Let Us Protect Your Company’s Reputation

What is reputation management? It’s an evolving strategy that both shields your organization against reputation damage and promotes ongoing brand image. If you’re searching for an expert partner that can take your business to the next level, contact us today. As a business reputation management agency, CSG can help your organization achieve its reputation management goals — from protecting brand image and amplifying strengths to enhancing your reputation and preparing for inevitable crises.