What is a corporate reputation?
Corporate reputation is best defined as the collective sentiment surrounding a company. It’s an amalgamation of stakeholder opinions, public perception, past actions, word of mouth, and published content that, ultimately, labels a business as “good” or “bad.”
Based on that widely-accepted definition, it might seem like there’s little a company can do to control their corporate image. Unfortunately, that misconception is probably why 69% of SEO decision makers are not actively trying to suppress negative search results, according to an independent study.
Although corporate reputation appears to be a rudderless ship adrift at sea, with the right tools, strategies and partnerships, companies can build strong sails to escape a reputational maelstrom.
What influences corporate reputation?
There are several well-known drivers of a positive corporate image, for example:
- Quality products or services
- Competitive pricing
- Exceptional customer service
- Championing corporate social responsibility (CSR)
- Taking care of your employees
- Nurturing a healthy and positive work environment
- CEO reputation
Yet, even when businesses invest in those areas, they fail to promote their efforts through effective reputation marketing.
Having a great product at a great price, or fostering a fantastic work culture won’t matter if that narrative doesn’t surface in your search engine results. In fact, a good corporate reputation can be damaged by a single negative news article in your Google search results.
What’s more, negative online content can have serious real-world business consequences.
Importance of corporate reputation
Your online reputation touches virtually every aspect of your business, and it directly affects your company’s market value. Let’s look at some of the areas that are hardest hit by reputation issues.
Hiring and retention
A Harvard Business Review study in 2016 found that having a bad reputation costs businesses at least 10% more per new hire. In other words, you’ll need to pay more in employee wages to hire the same people as your competitors. And sometimes that isn’t even enough. In fact, 69 percent of job seekers said they would simply refuse an offer from a company with reputation issues.
What’s more, with the advent of employee review sites like LinkedIn and Glassdoor, it’s easier than ever for your star employees to see how your business stacks up against the competition. If competitors have a good reputation and their search results are packed with positivity, you could lose key talent. Remember, the grass always looks greener on the other side of the fence.
When it comes to talent management, negative Glassdoor reviews and unfavorable search results can cost you in the form of higher salaries, additional training, costly employee turnovers and inexperienced staff, resulting in poor business performance.
External stakeholder groups
Large corporations rely on external stakeholders like private investment firms to fuel their growth. In turn, key stakeholders expect increased financial performance that will result in higher stock prices boosting their ROI.
It’s a symbiotic relationship in which one hand washes the other. However, this delicate balance can be thrown out of whack by a tarnished company reputation. As sales and stock prices plummet and profitability fades away, investors will begin to question your corporate governance. Before long, they’ll pull their investments and move on to more lucrative growth opportunities.
The same goes for strategic partnerships with other businesses and celebrity endorsements. If you don’t make a concerted effort to improve the issue, others will begin to distance themselves from your company.
Customer retention and lead generation
Customers expect to have a great experience if they spend money with you. And if they don’t, they need to trust that you’ll make it right. In fact, peace of mind is what transforms a one-time purchase into a lifetime customer.
Furthermore, if trust is this important for simple transactions, imagine how much it impacts industries like financial services, insurance, or B2B lead generation where customers spend hundreds of thousands of dollars. It’s not just about lead gen. Loyal customers could depart if they sense that your business is on the decline.
Trust is critically dependent upon a positive corporate reputation. Negative reviews or complaints clogging up the first page of your brand’s search results drive away qualified, conversion-ready leads.
How to build a good corporate reputation
Company stakeholders erroneously think their businesses have a good corporate reputation if their search results are free of negativity. Unfortunately, that exposes brands to significant reputational risk. A strong reputation actually means building a digital fortress around your search landscape that’s capable of holding back the floodwaters of bad press.
In order to construct your fortress, you need to do extensive reputation research and map out a sophisticated strategy to shore up your weak points.
Own multiple web properties to control your narrative
Owning one website for your business is a great first step, but you’ll need more than that to gain brand equity in the SERP. The more web properties you control, the more real estate you can occupy in the search landscape. It’s not just about protecting your brand, either. You’ll also be better equipped to keep competitors out of your branded search results,
Craft a strong, engaging social media presence
Social media is the mainstay of customer communications. People will turn to your corporate Facebook page to learn about product updates far more often than they would send a letter to your P.O. box. So, it is crucial to maintain an active presence across multiple social media platforms. This also allows you to handle customer complaints before they boil over into a crisis.
Publish and optimize content
Identify all of your branded keywords and create engaging content around them. Need to rank for reviews of your products or services? How about competitor comparisons? Remember, someone is going to write about those things, so you may as well control the narrative.
Write your content with SEO strategy in mind, but don’t be robotic. Stuffing keywords into a 500-word blog post won’t fool Google, and you’ll sink to the bottom of the search results.
Reputation marketing is all about putting your best foot forward so key stakeholders discover an accurate and favorable brand story in your search engine results.
Assess reputation risk and prepare for crises
We cannot predict the future. Viral news cycles happen quickly and can cause devastating financial damage to brands.
However, you can assess your company’s reputational risk and develop a strategy to manage a crisis. At a minimum, you should have a thorough public relations (PR) plan at the ready including a designated spokesperson.
Issue timely, topical press releases
Press releases and other corporate communications are an excellent way to let the general public know about positive company news. Think beyond sales pitches and new product releases, though. You should also talk about philanthropy and corporate social responsibility. The media loves stories about brands that care, and so do your customers!
But don’t just pump out stories without a clear strategy. Learn how to write a press release from a reputation management expert. With the right optimization, you’ll get much more visibility out of each one, while reducing the risk of inadvertently causing more reputation issues.
Manage your CEO’s reputation
A survey done by Weber Shandwick estimated that 44% of a company’s market value is attributable to the chief executive officer’s reputation. And there are countless real-world examples to back that data up. Read our post about CEO reputation management for specific examples and best practices.
Corporate reputation management takes time – start today
Corporate reputation management takes a team of experts and a proven process powered by the right technology to achieve lasting results. Even large companies simply don’t have the dedicated resources or expertise to effectively tackle this gargantuan, ever-evolving task.
That’s why some of the most admired companies, including private investment firms managing multi-billion dollar portfolios, hire us to repair their reputations.
Fortunately, business leaders are beginning to recognize reputation as an incredibly valuable intangible asset. They understand that it gives them a competitive advantage and allows them to capture market share. More importantly, strategic management of brand image reduces risk.
However, not all reputation management companies operate with integrity. We never use cheap, temporary tactics that could hurt your business in the long run. We use expertise, experience, and a diligent, hand-tailored ORM approach that fits your brand’s needs.
Contact us to protect your corporate image where it’s most vulnerable — in Google.
Reputation Management Resources
How to Choose the Best ORM Services and Companies
Everything you need to know to choose the best ORM firm.
How to Suppress Negative Search Results in Google
Find out how to bury negative search results in Google
CEO Reputation Management Guide
Find out how CEO reputation impacts corporate reputation.