Grand Cayman, Jun 29, 2021 (Issuewire.com) – Financial service and investment management companies are built on trust. It’s a very simple exchange: Investors trust these businesses with their money in the hope that they will be able to make that money grow. When these businesses ignore attacks on their reputations from online sources or dither in addressing them, they put that trust at risk.
Because they are directly entrusted to handle investor’s money, finance, and investment companies’ brands are in an acutely precarious position. A financial service firm can spend its advertising and marketing budget on endless advertisements building trust in their brand, but all that can be undercut by a single page of bad results on Google Search.
Hits to other companies’ reputations can be damaging, certainly, but a financial firm that loses its customers’ trust can be seen as careless, greedy, or worse. The financial industry already has trouble avoiding this, so it is imperative that reputational risk be taken seriously.
Protecting a company’s digital reputation in an increasingly online world should be priority number one.
The Importance of Digital Reputation Management
While there is some overlap with Public Relations (PR), as a field Digital Reputation Management focuses on a company’s overall online presence. PR focuses on communicating the company’s message or in very simple terms putting good news out there, while Reputation Management examines, monitors, and influences online opinion, such as reviews, paid content, and search engine optimization (SEO).
The biggest factors (among many) influencing your online reputation are:
- Social Media: Companies must demonstrate a genuine, positive presence through their various social profiles, while also continuously monitoring social chatter about their brand.
- SEO: The ranking of a business on internet search results (mostly Google Search) is a reflection of its reputation. The vast majority of clicks happen on the top hits of the first page, so negative news or links here can sink a company.
- Online Reviews: This is often where companies fail to detect dangers to their reputations. A spate of negative reviews, or one particularly bad review or experience that goes viral, can counteract years of expensive advertising and PR efforts. Teams should be monitoring everything from major reviews and social sites, all the way down to individual blogs.
Google SEO and Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) deserve special attention, as they often hold a company’s fate in their hands. Due to Google’s domination of searches, a single negative news story, even in a sea of positive ones, can lead potential customers to form a bad impression of a business. Determined, focused efforts must be made by reputation management teams to keep search results as a positive asset for companies.
Reputation management is important company-wide and should be integrated into all outward-facing departments. If you deal with the public, you should be aware of digital reputation policies. The big risk companies face, especially large ones, is one hand not knowing what the other is doing. In the past employees would be told to avoid doing anything that might end up as a negative headline in the newspaper. In today’s highly digitized world it is significantly more complicated than passing the so-called “New York Times” test. Companies now need to commit time and resources to monitor and curating their digital reputation.
Inconsistent policies lead to broken promises, which the public can jump on. This is how viral negativity begins.
Reputations and Repairs
The negativity surrounding a brand can linger online almost indefinitely. Aggregator sites can give new life to critical or slanderous content long after the initial crisis has passed. And because the social platforms themselves are not the creators of damaging content, just the facilitators, they are only willing to remove it under specific circumstances. Digital reputation teams can also reach out to platforms directly, but this method is seldom successful.
Because of this, any company seeking to address, respond to, take down, or remove negative content about them faces an uphill battle. But there are effective ways to address damaging content. The most important of which is to put what you already have to good use.
The most obvious and organic reputational asset is a company’s website. The seeming obviousness of this fact is undercut by how many companies ignore it. A website with fresh, substantive content can be used to push negative search results off of Google Search’s front page.
A website with a clear architecture will delineate subpages with their own new content, which can be better read by Google Search, leading to even more influence on related search results pages. Meta tags, sitemaps, and descriptions can help optimize organic search results.
Additionally, a company can acquire other non-organic reputation management assets. These include:
- Managed Assets: Social media profiles and the content they provide.
- Influential Assets: The information provided by legitimized information aggregators such as Wikipedia.
- Earned Assets: Positive news articles in more traditionally published media and industry-specific blogs. (This can overlap with PR.)
- Paid Assets: The most traditional. Sometimes the most direct way to push down negative search results is to buy an ad on Google search pages.
The best way to protect your digital reputation is to do things right in the first place. Don’t fake it. On social media platforms, companies must create authentic social media profiles, not just sock puppets that continuously spout marketing language. (Algorithms are getting better and better at detecting fakery.)
Reputation management teams must publish interesting stories, address criticisms and reviews, respond to messages, solve problems, and much more. Companies must realize that protecting their digital reputation is not a one-time effort, it is an ongoing process requiring continuous monitoring.
The world of digital reputation management is growing more vast and complicated every year. For every negative item on Google Search that a company can push to the second page of search results, there may be unfounded resentment building on Glassdoor or Avvo, there are negative reviews on Yelp, there are threads indulging pure speculation on Reddit that need a clarifying response directly from the company, and so on.
The best move for many businesses may be to ask for help. Outside consultants specializing in digital reputation management and repair may be the best choice for a company looking to take control of its brand’s online profile. Such consultants can objectively review a company’s position from an external perspective and have the experience and know-how to protect companies from the dangers of an online world that are growing larger and more.
Richard Ellison, CFA, CAIA
This article was originally published by IssueWire. Read the original article here.
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