How a crisis affects your online reputation
If you’re reading this article about reputation recovery, there’s a good chance your company just emerged from a crisis. Now, it’s time to assess the damage.
Although the media storm has ended, your search results are most likely littered with negative media coverage. Whether it’s an unfavorable story about factory conditions, product recalls, or your executive team, a negative search result can stick to the first page of Google for years unless you take action.
Don’t underestimate the problem, either. A damaged reputation affects customers’ buying decisions, dismantles lucrative business partnerships, erodes shareholder trust, and drives away qualified job applicants.
A reputation crisis impacts your entire business. However, it affects the leadership and the brand itself, differently.
The spotlight on a CEO is brightest during and after a company crisis. Stakeholders expect swift decisions and effective solutions. Moreover, the media will judge a chief executive on their actions as well as their post-crisis response. These factors can dramatically shape a CEO’s reputation by flooding his or her search results with negative content.
Here are just a few of the ways a reputational crisis impacts chief executive officers:
- Damaged credibility as a business leader
- Fewer career advancement opportunities
- Reduced compensation packages
- Misrepresented legacy
- Destabilized relationships with business partners and key stakeholders
- Embarrassment to friends and family
Reputation recovery is more than just getting something removed from Google. It’s about setting the record straight about your accomplishments. The first page of your search results is your digital resume, but there’s limited space in the SERPs to tell your story. So, the content on page one needs to be your best.
Read our case study to see how we helped a Fortune 500 CEO restore reputation issues in Google search.
As the public face of a company, the CEO’s reputation can also make or break a company’s reputation. In fact, according to an independently commissioned study conducted by Terakeet, Nearly three-quarters (74%) of respondents believe their customers moderately to considerably tie their perception of a brand to their perception of its executives.
While it’s true that a CEO’s reputation can sink an otherwise positive brand, there are many other sources of a potential reputation crisis. Consider Starbucks. A flawed customer service policy and the decision of a single employee thrust racial biasing into the public eye.
Boycotts and backlash from the general public lead the company to close its doors for racial bias training, costing them tens of millions of dollars.
Beyond management missteps, there are countless ways a company can have its reputation damaged, including:
- Unfavorable stories about working conditions
- Product recalls
- Negative employee reviews on sites like Glassdoor (we show you how you can remove those here)
- 1-star reviews from customers on review sites like Yelp
- Biased comparison websites that target your business
- Improperly handling the COVID-19 pandemic
- Social media blunders
Some of these negative results may not seem like a crisis. However, we frequently get calls from executives who aren’t able to hire top talent, close deals, or improve margins due to a reputation crisis.
5 reputation recovery steps to take after a crisis
Now that you understand the wide-ranging impact of a crisis, let’s talk about how to rebuild company reputation so you can recover and move forward.
It’s worth noting that online reputation repair requires a nuanced understanding of several disciplines. In fact, attempting to fix your own reputation can actually do more harm than good. Additionally, the bandwidth and time investment extends far beyond what most businesses are able to allocate internally. Partnering with a highly-qualified online reputation management company allows you to focus on your business rather than restoring your image.
Although each specific situation is unique, these are the 5 main steps to consider when recovering from reputation issues.
1. Assess reputation damage
It may seem obvious, but the first step is to assess the scope of reputational damage. It’s vital to look beyond page one and map your entire search landscape. Negative content that’s lurking deep in Google may seem insignificant. But, it could leap to page one with the right SEO signals.
Ask yourself several questions to determine the risk: What type of content is ranking? How many different search results are there? Which departments are being impacted, and how? It may be helpful to build a reputational risk assessment matrix to evaluate the potential damage.
2. Set realistic goals
It’s understandable that most people want to resolve a reputation crisis immediately. Unfortunately, despite some outlandish claims from questionable firms, that’s not how the reputation recovery process works.
Due to the volume of content available online about highly visible brands and executives, rebuilding reputation takes time. For example, we need to publish topically-relevant content to rebalance and shift the narrative in Google’s index. Then, we use SEO to reposition preferred content at the top of your search results.
Consider the following when you set goals to track the success of your program:
- How many pieces of content will you need to produce?
- Do you need to build and optimize additional websites?
- How many links will you need to build?
- Do you need to establish and maintain an active social media presence?
- How authoritative is the negative content, and how many URLs need to be repositioned?
Asking questions is a great way to set reasonable expectations as you work to restore your reputation. It also helps to determine scale, because you can assign more resources to tackle the issue more quickly.
3. Craft a reputation recovery roadmap
Online reputation management is a huge life because it requires expertise in SEO, public relations, crisis management, analytics, and content creation. Depending on what you’re up against, your recovery strategy will include multiple tactics, including:
- Publish branded thought leadership content
- Optimize and manage social media profiles
- Establish an online review program across several platforms
- Optimize your primary domain
- Create microsites
- Launch or expand blog content
- Execute targeted public relations campaigns
- And more
SEO analysts, project managers, content developers, and PR specialists all need to work together to deliver top-quality, lasting results.
4. Publish positive content to shift the narrative
Believe it or not, ORM isn’t so much about pushing down negative results as much as it is about boosting positive content. A 2019 study by Moz found that Only 7 percent of people surveyed said that they look beyond the first page of Google. This means that your best shot at truly recovering your reputation lies in promoting positive, brand-endearing content to rank well in the SERPs.
The reason is actually twofold. On one hand, you need enough preferred content to push the bad stuff down. But you also need to flood Google’s index with fresh content to dilute the density of the negative topic. As a result, search engines will begin to favor the new narrative.
5. Deploy tactical SEO to suppress negative results
There are still a lot of misconceptions floating around about what SEO can and can’t do. Unfortunately, it’s nearly impossible to completely remove negative news articles from Google. There are various methods you can try. But, these requests are rarely honored. Furthermore, if you’re not careful, you can put yourself in a worse position than when you started.
The only true way to fix your online reputation for the long term is to suppress negative search engine results through ORM.
Crisis recovery takes time — get started now
Reputation crisis recovery takes time to execute properly, and permanently. It also requires a tremendous amount of resources and experience to discreetly deliver lasting results.
We don’t use quick, temporary fixes to recover your reputation. Our team works diligently to identify, create, and promote preferred content in your branded search results. We also assess your reputational risk and we help you prepare and defend against future reputation damaging events. We won’t leave your online reputation to chance. Contact us today to get started.
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.