When users of a consumer software vendor’s product took to the company website to complain about a recent update, they did something unique. They got the software developer to visit the forum for a question and answer session that lasted for an entire week, covering everything from why the UI had changed from previous versions, to why certain features were added or removed.
In the end, not everyone was satisfied, but a few product evangelists came out on social media to talk about the success of that question and answer session.
When critics of your brand can launch viral campaigns alleging misdoing by your company, you need effective reputation management that can respond quickly to pressure. Public relations has become more than just a one-way speaker; you must now formulate a comprehensive strategy that looks at how your brand interacts with its audience and ways to increase that engagement.
Studies from top ORM companies like Brand.com suggest that the content you write directly impacts your search engine standing. Longer content that cites published research from high quality sources tends to score higher in Google’s recent updates. Blog posts that are more than 1,000 words and contain references and links to obscure research data perform well and are considered “high quality” by search engines.
You should not write to the search engine, but include some cues for it to understand what you’re doing. Include keywords in the title, and feature a headline if it’s applicable to what you’re writing about.
Catch All Feedback
The most difficult aspect of reputation management is mastering the ability to actually find the feedback that is having the most impact on your business. For mega brands like Macy’s or Wal-Mart, the community feedback is immediately apparent. Of course, most businesses are managed by just a few people, with mid-sized businesses containing less than 250 employees. That’s why you need to automate as much of the information-gathering process as possible.
You can set alerts through Google or Mention (sweet iPhone/iPad app, just search for it) to have some of this information delivered to you, but it helps if you establish your brand in places where your customers hang out. Some nuts are tougher to crack than others, but giving customers a place like your Facebook page to convey feedback helps connect you with your customers AND do an easier job listening than if they have nowhere to post their thoughts.
Craft a Strong Message
Reflect on what you already know about your audience. Look closely at the metrics you have and plan ways to gather more information about them. Can you add a simple yes or no question to your email submission form that would tell you something useful about your customers? The smallest changes, requiring minimal effort from the user, can help you craft better messaging.
Asking simple questions like “Are you in debt,” or “Do You Own a Home” or “Are you married?” may tell you valuable information about the customers you are dealing with. It also doesn’t require them to do more than check a box.
Warning: Be sure to slowly collect feedback. Virtually nobody is going to fill out a 15 minute survey for you. One or two questions at a time is plenty.
Measure Your Efforts
You should be measuring every element of your marketing efforts. From the moment the customer enters your site, you should know where they came from, the kind of browsers they are using, and form a rough idea of their demographics. Google’s Analytics deliver some of this information to you, including real-time data about who is clicking which links. You can also create events to track more difficult to quantify actions, like clicking play on a video.
Public relations, by definition, also measures your interactions with the public via social media. Measure the rise and fall of your Twitter and Facebook followers to pinpoint specific types of content your audience responded to. Just having a Facebook page means nothing if you can’t measure or explain its impact on your business.