The internet is a blessing and a curse for businesses. A brand’s reputation is vulnerable to waves of user-generated content that didn’t exist before the web. Blogs and review websites may be flooded with customer experience stories that are misleading, inaccurate and damaging.
Today, articles are curated in Google’s infinite index and linked to in web pages and social media sites. Consumers can find these articles with just a few keystrokes.
However, by pairing a strong content and Online Reputation Management (ORM) strategy, marketers can ethically protect and repair their online reputation. These three key pieces of content play a crucial role in establishing credibility and trust with online audiences.
1. Create microsites for crisis control
While social media and blogs are typically used to grow a business’s online presence, businesses are also exploring the use of microsites, a small domain with a few highly targeted pages.
These tiny websites aren’t just for reputation management; they’re also fantastic tools for controlling a crisis. They allow crisis-related content to be moved off a brand’s main website where it won’t distract existing customers. Additionally, microsites provide companies with a single platform to keep their messaging consistent during a public relations emergency.
Tips for writing crisis communication content for a microsite:
- Clearly state the issue
- Be transparent
- Address frequently asked questions (FAQs)
- Provide up-to-date information about the actions being taken
- Offer separate contact information for the press and public
Here’s an example of a microsite published by Johnson & Johnson to address negative press linking the talc in baby powder to cancer. The microsite contains scientific studies and information to repeal the press on talc. It’s also designed in an easy-to-read format with eye-catching stats, perfect for the general consumer.
While this news story is not recent, consumers may conduct searches related to the safety of talcum and baby powder. For the query “baby powder and cancer,” Johnson & Johnson’s microsite is not displayed in the first few pages of Google search engine results, however, there is an ad leading to the microsite – a great example of how content can be used to manage product and brand reputations.
2. Branded articles: Earned and paid media strategies
Following a crisis, damaging stories could potentially haunt your search landscape for years because Google associates topics when they consistently occur together.
Therefore, publishing a high volume of content related to a positive subject will eventually overpower the unwanted connection. While this is a massive simplification of how reputation management works, it is the underlying foundation of most strategies.
Branded articles can be broken down into two main categories: earned and paid media. While both strategies are completely dependent upon high-quality content, they have different goals.
Earned media placements are generally acquired through press releases, journalist pitches and organic amplification of paid content. While earned media has many benefits, a reputation management strategy focuses on two primary goals:
- Secure placements on authoritative publications that may rank for branded searches
- Earn trusted backlinks to positive content you want to rank for your brand’s name
Since most media outlets will naturally want to write about your crisis, you’ll need to have a compelling pitch with an amazing headline to convince them to write about something else.
On the other hand, publishers like chasing hot topics, so if your brand is trending, they may be more willing to write about your company. For example, Starbucks recently used earned media tactics to switch the online narrative from racial discrimination to straws and stand-alone bakeries.
Tips for writing a reputation management press release:
- Make your headline memorable (don’t forget to include your brand name)
- Share the most important information first
- Keep it short and simple
- Include links to positive content you want ranking for branded Google searches
- Provide quotes from authoritative individuals within the company
Paid content includes MAT releases, sponsored content and advertorials. Unlike earned media, paid content is consumer-focused and tends to minimize brand mentions. Additionally, links contained within these articles usually don’t provide SEO value because they have been purchased. However, you should still include them in case other publications pick up the story naturally.
Paid media has two primary reputation management goals:
- Increase positive brand mentions to offset negative press
- Potentially earn organic media placements if the story is read by journalists or influential bloggers
While sponsored content tends to downplay brand mentions, it is imperative that every article contains your brand’s name somewhere in the body. Incorporating your company’s name into the title is ideal, but often very difficult with paid media.
Tips for writing paid media content:
- Educate readers
- Build brand trust by including your name alongside positive content
- Don’t sell your brand
- Cite your sources (including your brand!)
3. Infographics for positive image search content
Articles aren’t the only type of content that can improve a business’s online reputation. Google may include an image carousel in your branded search results if enough visual content exists.
Although it may be harmful to brands whose reputation problem is being caused by a viral meme, it offers opportunities for others seeking to fill above-the-fold search real estate with content you’ve created. An infographic strategy should focus on the following:
- Encourage Google to include an image carousel by creating branded images
- Earn backlinks from reputable websites to infographics hosted on your domain
Your initial strategy will depend on whether or not Google is already displaying an image carousel for your branded search results. If so, you’ll only need to create a handful of images that you want ranking in the existing carousel. Your public relations team and SEOs will need to promote those graphics on trusted websites, earning backlinks to the original content on your site.
If Google is not yet including a carousel, focus on creating engaging images. Managing a Pinterest account is critical because it provides you with a repository for visual content – and Pinterest tends to rank well in image carousels.
Tips for creating ORM infographics:
- Choose one topic and stick with it
- Make it simple, digestible and not too long (less than 10,000 pixels)
- Include unique data that tells a story (don’t just throw in random statistics)
- Brand the graphic with your logo and website
- Post the graphic to your website and encourage others to use it with proper citation
Infographics are like visualized articles, so they should be structured the same way. Start with a thesis, offer supporting facts, and summarize the conclusion you want viewers to draw.
Consider breaking up your graphic into smaller cards. Doing so could increase social shares as well as your chances of breaking into Google’s image carousel.
Online reputation management repairs
These are just a few ways content is used by reputation management firms to build, protect and repair online reputations. When brands invest in developing and promoting positive content, negative articles are less likely to dominate your search profile and damage your image. Visit ReputationManagement.com to learn more.
Jonas Sickler has been developing and deploying marketing campaigns for nearly two decades. He has a wealth of experience connecting multinational brands with influencers across social media, websites and blogs. Jonas is also an expert in crisis management and online reputation repair. Find him on Twitter.
Editor’s note: This post was originally published in August, 2018 and has been updated for comprehensiveness and relevancy.