Reputation Management – Saving your Good Image

08. 02. 2017

“There is no such thing as bad advertisement” – What may have been true in times long gone doesn’t apply to the internet age anymore. Not only does the web grant each single user a much greater coverage and outreach it also never forgets.

Back in the days an unsatisfied customer would have aired her displeasure by telling friends and family about the unpleasant service or the bad quality of a product. Days later the whole issue would have been forgotten for good.

Whenever a company had gotten bad press it surely had to go through tough time and had to manage a lot of backlash, but sooner or later the accusing article would have been lost in the news archives and vanished from the collective memory.

With some luck the company name would even have stuck to some people’s minds and over the time have left a fuzzy somewhat unseizable yet neutral image, which brings us back to the opening statement.

These days a single user can already do some heavy damage to a company’s reputation. A negative review is easily written and may in the worst case start an actual shitstorm when amplified through the echo chambers of social media.


Basically there are two possible scenarios:

Short-term Escalation

A short-term escalation is usually started within social media channels by a negative posting or comment that gets a certain amount of attention. When reverberated by enough other users such a posting can quickly become a self-sustaining shitstorm.

To put an end to such a phenomenon you should always plan ahead and develop a common strategy which is then briefed to all social media personnel.
The precise setup of such a strategy always depends on the accusations brought forward by the community.

Are the accusations justified? Did you, as a company, really do something wrong? Is there anything you could change? Or the accusation actually unjustified and plucked out of thin air or even targeted attacks a competitor?

Long-term Damage

On the other hand there are scenarios that can deal long term damage to a brand’s reputation. Among these there are negative reviews on popular platform of damaging content on external websites that pops up when doing specific searches for a company’s brand.

While posting and comments on social media lose reach over time, reviews on network sites stay permanently visible. That’s why active community and review management is the key to a good online reputation, no matter if on Google MyBusiness, Yelp or Facebook. That means thanking your customers for positive reviews while also responding to negative ones.

Here as well, you should always ask yourself whether the accusations are justified or not before engaging with users. An answer should always be crafted depending on these findings. In any case it’s good advice to use a de-escalating strategy.

When dealing with unjustified accusations always keep calm and friendly and try to prove the “troll’s” arguments wrong by providing objective evidence.
In the case that there are justified arguments an apology and a “peace offer” is definitely the most productive strategy. If facing negative reviews on a regular basis you should of course also ask yourself whether there really IS something going wrong with your business.

Negative Entries in Google Search Results

Another scenario, apart from negative reviews which can at least be easily responded to, are negative results on Google searches.
They can be aftereffects of short-termed shitstorm. For example media articles about the shitstorm that keep ranking on top positions even long after the actual event has passed.

But there are also cases of targeted reputational damaging by competitors or disappointed former employees.
Often there is no way to directly respond on the website itself. Even an action for injunction may be impossible sometimes, when there is no imprint or webmaster available or articles are published on free to use platform via fake profiles.

The Best Place to Hide a Dead Body is Page Two of Google

In such a case you have two options. On the one hand within the European Union you can file a request under Google’s “Right to be Forgotten” policy and try to have the hazardous website removed from search results. The second option is trying to push the entry to page 2 of the search results through active online reputation management.

Hereby you are trying to replace the negative entry by optimizing your own and others’ positive resources and place them above it in Google’s result pages until the damaging article disappears from page one.

Note that online reputation management is not necessarily limited to crisis resolution. Ideally it should be a part of every online strategy, especially of ones of bigger companies, which should also include plans for potential crisis. Just like with all SEO tactics online reputation management need some warm-up time until unfolding its effects.