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Ever wish you could just make online attacks go away permanently? Brook Zimmatore is no stranger to boardrooms ripe with tension from an online reputation hit.
As CEO of Massive PR, Zimmatore oversees a team of 36 professionals that provide online reputation management to mid to large companies, including Fortune 500.
A person, group or competitor who wants to damage your online reputation can easily exploit your image using the hundreds of free publication platforms. A thirty-second video on Youtube, or the misconstruing of your words on a blog post or news website to even going as far as creating hate sites around the brand can result in thousands, if not millions of dollars in damage to a company’s wallet.
To discover how to handle some of the common issues regarding online reputation management, I interviewed Brook Zimmatore.
Fahad Mohammed: In this internet day and age companies seem to have full external visibility. Corporate privacy is almost a non-existent concept; How do you suggest companies protect their online reputation?
Brook Zimmatore: Yes, we all want to protect our internal dealings from being broadcasted online but the first mindset should be that anything done in the workplace, with consumers, vendors and partners can all eventually wind up online. If you think with this, you can implement the necessary policies internally to avoid the majority of online reputation attacks.
Fahad Mohammed: Massive PR deals with banks, airlines, tech companies and many others. What do you first suggest these companies do to be proactive in online reputation management?
Brook Zimmatore: As the veil between corporate activities and online reputation becomes thinner and thinner the first thing we suggest is to fully dominate your “online real estate” with the pre-decided brand position you want the public to see. It’s really quite simple:
- Define for yourself what your public image should be. Never waiver from this.
- Build a story around this image and push it everywhere using every available domain, media resource, publication and social platform.
- Be consistent.
- Before you put out a public message, be considerate of what people can experience.
- Never lie or deceive. Stay honest in all communication as violating this will be the biggest reputation destroyer.
- Hold a tight line on all external communications, customer support and revenue channels.
- The most volatile upsets occur in billing deception. Keep your deliverables and invoicing transparent and clean.
Fahad Mohammed: What are common misconceptions about managing your reputation online?
Brook Zimmatore: The most common misconceptions in online reputation management is that you will never have a problem in the first place. Keeping your head low and stay off the radar. Google has proven time and time again that the dirt always seeps its way on to the internet. So, the policies of online reputation management are simply:
- The “nothing bad will ever happen to me” attitude is a path to reputation hell. If you don’t control the online narrative someone else will.
- Using cheap or quick reputation management tricks won’t work. Trying to suppress defamation or bad reviews with cheap publications of no value will never work in the long run. You must use legitimate platforms or media services and provide value to internet users for a strong online presence.
- Reputation management is cheap compared to the damage being prevented. Most online reputation management issues can be solved by your own marketing teams or vendor. Search, “best websites for DIY reputation management” and you will find hundreds of free resources to start fortifying your online brand.
Fahad Mohammed: The common saying “Any publicity is good publicity,” How much validity is there to that statement?
Brook Zimmatore: This statement holds true, based on many analytics reports from expert PR’s.
It may seem that public humiliation, bad press, howling bloggers or journalists would hurt your business. For small businesses, it can take its toll and if there is a lack of persistence owners can usually cave, but not from revenue loss––from giving up. The truth is, online attacks are viewed 50x bigger by you than anyone else. But, of course they would, it is a direct attack on you and it can get very personal. But the overriding rule of PR is that it works on name impressions, the number of mentions, the amount of times you hear a brand’s name. You have to see it to believe it. Look at Uber. The company has had endless growth going from a 42B valuation in 2015 to a 68B valuation in 2017, despite endless media smears and attacks.
Fahad Mohammed: Which brands do you find are doing a good job of managing their online reputation?
Brook Zimmatore: There are thousands of amazing brands who effortlessly control their online reputation. Off the top of my head, I would say Lego, Wendy’s, Hallmark and American Express have great online reputation management models which should be studied and followed by any company, large or small.
A quick analysis shows that they always respond to consumers via every communication channel. They flood the internet with constant news on themselves (controlling the narrative as per above). We see humor and wit on their social media platforms and company blogs – people want to be entertained and it creates a “feel good” sensation associated with the brand name.
And most importantly, these brands maintain high integrity of services.
Fahad Mohammed: Are there any final words you would like to share with our readers?
Brook Zimmatore: Online reputation management cases always have two sides. Our clients always have to discipline themselves to look at their responsibility behind any online attack. Where there is smoke there is fire. A good company with strong integrity will implement the necessary changes to avoid continued online reputation damage. Massive PR’s programs will include proactive measures to make these changes, whether it be in communication, technology or training and we have seen hundreds of great company leaders take this to heart and use these attacks as an opportunity to improve.