If you start to eat healthy during a heart attack, you certainly wouldn’t save your life. On the same note, if you wait until your company’s crisis is over, maximum reputation damage has occurred. For this reason, the importance of being proactive with crisis management can’t be underestimated.

According to Tony Wright, an online expert of reputation management, the time to enhance a company’s reputation is before a crisis happens. A company should consider improving their online visibility and reputation as a part of an overall, ongoing marketing plan.

You should be careful not to underestimate the impact of online comments on the Internet on your company’s reputation.

There are reasons people complain online:

• 31% of people who complain online want to feel they are a member of a community.
• 28% are looking for recognition from their peers.
Since users of the Internet put a great deal of trust in social networks, they listen to and believe online complaints are accurate:
• 90% of users trust the online recommendations that are made by people they know.
• 70% of users trust online opinions of people they have never met and are totally unknown to them.

Six Steps to Craft a Proactive Media Relations Plan to Save Your Reputation

STEPS OF REPUTATION MANAGEMENT

These steps create a proactive plan for crisis management, but they can also make up a plan for implementing strategies to create buzz for positive news of your brand.

Step 1 — Know where the conversations about your brand could be occurring:

• Social Media such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or Instagram
• Online Reviews
• SERP
• Blogs
• Message Boards
• Hate Websites
• Social Bookmarking Sites
• Location Based Sites such as Gowalla or Foursquare

Knowing where the conversations about your brand could occur is only a starting point. You also need to monitor the consumer generated content (CGC) of these conversations with one of the great, available tools such as radian6 or trackur that can minimize the work required to monitor your brand conversations. However, one tool capable of effectively monitoring all the channels does not exist.

Step 2 – Strategy of Proactive Review

• Do not expect your online reviews to be perfect. They most likely will not be perfect and also should not be perfect.

• Your goal for your online reviews should be a ratio of 70% positive and 30% neutral or negative.

• Since a tool to effectively monitor your online reviews does not exist, you should monitor them manually.

• It is most important to avoid airing your dirty laundry, you should deal with negative reviews only offline whenever possible.

Step 3 – Strategies for Getting Positive Reviews

• One way to get positive reviews is to simply ask your satisfied customers for reviews.

• Recognize the landscape of your review and attempt to shape reviews to affect the Search Engine Results Page (SERPS). You should create a subdomain of the domain that includes information on how someone can leave a positive review.

• Employees looking to the future should know how to generate positive reviews.

Step 4 — Identify Influencers

• Identify influencers, individuals that influence potential buyers. Tailor your marketing activities around them. Good tools can be purchased to identify the influencers of your potential buyers.

• Keep in mind the fact that identification of influencers is an ongoing process.

• Establish ongoing relationships with the influencers of your potential buyers.

Step 5 – Use Outreach Marketing Strategies to:

• Get people to talk about your brand. Consumers don’t want to hear you talk about your brand.

• Make sure the audience you are communicating with is a relevant audience of your product. You should talk to the right people at the right time.

• Communicate one on one using a variety of digital channels such as Facebook, Google+, Pinterest, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

• Identify your brand’s niche and reach out to prospective customers for products of that niche.

• Outreach with personalization to create trust and receive genuine reportage.

• Offer something for valuable word of mouth reviews of your product or service.

• Know when your network talks about your brand and what the reaction of their audience is.

• Produce infographics, how-to or content that can be easily shared by your network contacts.

• Ask your network for feedback about your brand. They will gladly share the information.

• Say “thank you” for feedback by sending free things in order to keep your brand on their minds.

• Elicit product reviews when your brand develops something new. You should send it to your network to be reviewed.

• Gather research on industry trends and share the results with your network.

Step 6 – Have a Plan for Your Brand

• Decide who should be involved in the creation of your plan.

• Brainstorm worst case scenarios such as ethics, financial losses or physical disaster.

• What will be the specific role of employees and vendors? It is important they understand their role in any crisis.

• Evaluate the crisis by taking a look at the impact and reach of the crisis on revenue. If it bothers the CEO, perhaps you should wait for him or her to request this.

• Continue monitoring to evaluate the success of the reputation management plan.