Take Command of Your Online Brand

“Reputation, reputation, reputation. Oh, I have lost my reputation! I have lost the immortal part of myself and what remains is bestial. My reputation, Iago, my reputation!” (Cassio)  Othello Act II, Scene 3

According to WebpageFX, a digital marketing and SEO company headquartered in Harrisburg, PA, about 25% of a company’s market value is directly based on its reputation.  Along with word-of-mouth reviews, which are indisputably powerful but nevertheless comparatively limited, a company’s reputation is significantly impacted through online sources.  Management of your organization’s online reputation, which is part of your brand, is a must-do.

The online reputation starts with the look and content of the company website and also encompasses reviewing sites such as Yelp, Angie’s List and Trip Advisor and the array of social media platforms from Snapchat to Facebook.  If you throw in content marketing campaigns that are distributed through email marketing, I wonder if the 25% impact figure is generous enough?

WebpageFX also reports that organization leaders now take online reputation management very seriously and 15% of organizations have followed through on an online reputation management strategy and 87% agree that managing online reputation risks is even more important than managing strategic risks.  Think about it—strategic risks are potentially costly, but when paid and unpaid haters flood the comments section of an influential site, the hapless company that perhaps has done no real harm can be shoved into the abyss.

Online attackers spew a shocking amount of vitriol and their diatribes seem to have a million-year half-life.  Blackmail can be involved as well.  I’ve personally witnessed the strong-arming of the General Manager of a lovely B & B by –are you ready for this?– a retired police officer who faked a problem in his guest room, refused to be placated by what most would accept as fair settlement for the “inconvenience” and threatened to ruin the business with bad Trip Advisor and Yelp reviews if his request for a free two- night stay (worth $450) was not granted.  Rumor has it that he’s played the game to the detriment of several small guest houses across the country.  A shoot-out at the OK Corral might be easier to win.

WebpageFX data showed that 91% of consumers search businesses online.  When I’ve gone to meet new clients, in particular someone who has been referred to me and whom I’ve not met,  they frequently mention that they’ve read this blog and viewed my website.  80% of consumers (presumably B2B and B2C) changed their mind about doing business with a company and 67% will not buy from a company that has received from one to three negative reviews.

Regarding social media sites, participation on the various social media platforms is a given for most Freelance consultants, business owners and corporate and not-for-profit leaders. The extent of your B2B client’s social media engagement as regards their external labor force along with your time and inclination, will determine which social media platforms that you’ll use. Maybe you’ll use one or two platforms, plus publish long-form content sent out as an ongoing email marketing campaign.

Just because you don’t use every available social media platform doesn’t mean that you should ignore those that you don’t use. To the contrary, claim all business listings and social media platform addresses, so that a competitor or imposter cannot assume your identity.  Start with your website. Your business name should belong to you alone. Protect your business and buy when possible your business domain name in the .biz and .net formats.  if there is a name that is similar to your company name and it becomes available, buy it and save yourself the potential for headaches down the road. Ensure that an imposter cannot claim your name and make sport of you, bear false witness, or commit other devious acts.

On your preferred social media platforms, maintain a reasonably active and consistent presence as you bring value to your readers.  Post content that will benefit your organization’s reputation and sales revenues.  WordPress allows posting to LinkedIn and my 100 or so connections expect to hear from me every Tuesday.

Finally, if you should receive any negative feedback online, respond quickly and diplomatically. Demonstrate that you regret the mishap and you intend to make amends.  As you publicly clean up the mess, you may win a few customers who like the fact that you’re human and you care.

Thanks for reading,

Kim

IMG_0015    Tall Ships Parade in Boston Harbor June 16, 2017

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Best Practices Basics

When small entities do business, they (we) must try harder. Developing and maintaining a sterling reputation that creates a trusted brand that generates good word-of-mouth and referrals is how we succeed in business. Delivering excellent products and services every time is a must, but there are additional factors that play important roles. Instituting the quality control procedures collectively known as “Best Practices” as the basis of our operations protocols is the smart thing to do.

Because it is much easier to retain a current client than to find an new one, you may want to incorporate these “Best Practices” into your organization.

Keep your word

Credibility counts and that means you keep your word. If you are unable to meet a milestone or some other commitment, speak up as early as possible so that an alternative plan can be created and enacted. If you are transparent about potential roadblocks and obstacles, your forthrightful behavior will be appreciated and respected.  In sum, under-promise and over-deliver.

Be honest

Be truthful in every aspect of your business dealings. Avoid any and every temptation to misrepresent or exaggerate your expertise, qualifications, experience or ability to keep to a timetable or perform within a certain budget.

Follow-up

If half of life is showing up, then the other half is surely follow-up. If a client or prospect asks a question, follow-up with the answer. If someone makes a referral for you, or you promise to make the referral for a friend or colleague, then reach out (I did that today for a client and sent his contact info to a VIP who asked to check out his work).

Admit and correct mistakes

Sometimes we drop the ball. It’s embarrassing and frustrating, but one must own up. Attempting to blame others is not cool (even if it is someone else’s fault). Never attempt to ignore or cover up your organization’s involvement in something that went wrong. Instead, take responsibility, apologize and do whatever is possible to make amends and learn from the experience.

Arrive on time

Prior meetings can run long and you may be unable to leave. Traffic or public transportation can be in gridlock. The alarm may not go off.  If it appears that you will be late for a client meeting, make contact ASAP and estimate your arrival time.

In general, if you are one who is consistently late, take steps to allow yourself more time. Punctuality is a reflection of your brand and your organization’s ability to deliver. If parking is usually a challenge at your destination or if the weather is bad,  leave 30 minutes early and give yourself some wiggle room. Arriving early is always acceptable.

Say thank you

Saying thank you to those who do business with you is great for relationship building. On every invoice, I thank the client for being a client. At December holiday time, I send cards to current and lapsed clients. I’ve taken clients to coffee and lunch. I thank visitors to this blog for reading my posts. Showing appreciation is always appreciated.

Thanks for reading,

Kim

 

Online Reputation Management

Shakespeare, in Act 2 of his circa 1603 play Othello, said it best: Reputation, reputation, reputation.  It is the original personal brand and one of the defining realities of our lives.  As a Freelance consultant, reputation governs the projects offered to us and therefore, our income and the kind of life we’re able to live.  It pays,  in more ways than one, to cultivate a peerless reputation and guard it vigorously.

In the internet age  that is especially so, in both the personal and professional spheres.  Mistakes and mischaracterizations made in digital formats are extremely difficult to dodge, ignore, deny, or correct.  One’s online reputation is the ultimate flypaper.  Take steps to ensure that what sticks to your name is all good.

Images

Along with Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, Instagram and Pinterest are the sites where images of you are most likely to be posted,  by yourself and others.  When cameras are around,  meaning whenever anyone has a cell phone,  which is about 24/7,  make sure that your behavior represents you and your brand well.

There’s nothing wrong with being photographed in an obviously casual gathering—just make sure that you (or others) are not in the midst of activities that could be misconstrued and reflect poorly on you sometime in the future.  If you regularly appear in photos that you know or suspect will be posted to social media sites, counteract with a photo of your own that shows you at work, paid or volunteer. Balance your accounts, so to speak,  and show that there is more to you than non-stop partying.

Content

Create and regularly post original content that makes you look smart, professional and successful.  On your LinkedIn account, announce when you will attend a symposium,  serve on a panel,  teach a course or workshop,  or have recently earned a professional certification or advanced degree.  If you’ve presented a webinar,  request the replay and turn it into a podcast for your website and YouTube.  If you write a newsletter or blog,  link to your website and LinkedIn.  If you’re on Twitter or Instagram,  produce streams of high-quality feed and images that convey the competencies and values that you want to be known for.

Twitter, Instagram and Facebook can feature glimpses into your personal life as well and it could all be for the good,  as long as you are strategic about what is revealed. Your volunteer work is always a safe bet.  Training for a marathon or even a fun and casual volleyball or softball league would be excellent.  Your parent’s wedding anniversary party would make another good personal aspect to include in your online narrative.  Be aware that narrative is the operative word.  Create the story that you want to be told, in a manner that makes you look wonderful.

Search

About every three months,  search your name and your company name in engines such as Bing,  Google and Yahoo and see what comes up in the first 50 listings.  Are you happy with what you see?  Try keywords related to your business along with your city and check your professional reach in a more profound way.

If you find that your business has been reviewed in an excessively negative and inaccurate way,  contact the reviewing site and request that the offending post be removed.  If customers have offered criticism that just may be constructive, address the matter.  Apologize and offer your side of the story.  Make amends if possible.  By doing so,  you’ll add to your credibility and customer service reputation.

It’s been reported that 70% of US employment recruiters have rejected potential job candidates when something about them that was considered unsavory appeared on social media.  Freelancers should assume that prospective clients will do the same.  Maintaining and monitoring your online reputation has never been more important.

Thanks for reading,

Kim