The pandemic has changed the way we shop, with an increasing number of us spending a larger proportion of our earnings online. Amazon’s pandemic financials exemplify this – increasing net income in the third quarter of 2020 to $6.3bn, up from $2.1bn for the third quarter last year. In short, for thousands of online businesses, the pattern has been the same.
We practically live our entire lives online nowadays. Because of this, a business’s online reputation has become even more important in today’s digital dominated age. This is why it’s more important than ever before to ensure we are incorporating online PR in our reputation management.
According to Forbes, 90%of consumers read online reviews before purchasing an item, while 74% say that positive reviews make them trust a business more. Online reputation matters, particularly now during the current crisis, when more of us are spending even more money online.
The truth is, traditional PR strategists were extremely slow to adapt to the changes occurring with the way consumers research companies. This has led to a market opportunity for savvy digital marketers that have a limited background in public relations. This has led to many proclaiming themselves to be experts in “online reputation management” which is also referred to as “ORM.” This ultimately led to a brand new industry being formed with brand new companies like VelSEOity being launched in 2016.
As the traditional PR companies maintained a steady focus on the offline industry and distributing press releases, ORM companies looked to fill the gap in the market by operating behind the scenes to improve the online reputation for their respective clients. They did this by positively altering the search engine results by decreasing the visibility of negative search results. This included poor reviews found online and even bad online press.
While some of the companies operating in this industry do have high morals and ethical standards, a lot of the companies you will find do not necessarily adhere to the standard set forth by the PRSA’s Code of Ethics. This made it subsequently risky for the reputations of their clients. After all, operating in a ‘grey area’ is very similar to the “black hat” firms in the Search Engine Optimization (SEO) industry. These companies typically try to lure their clients with promises of instant results rather than putting in the groundwork necessary to get to the root of the actual reputation problem they are experiencing.
Some of the different examples of these “black hat” techniques include:
– Creating fake reviews on various review sites to decrease the visibility of negative reviews
– Buying backlinks which directly violates Google’s terms of service
– Buying mentions with payments made under the table
– Creating Wikipedia pages for clients goes against the TOS of Wikipedia
– Posting known to be false information
As different ethical PR companies have begun to understand the intricacies of Online Reputation Management, more of them are bringing a much more positive approach to maintaining business’ reputations online. This includes taking a much more comprehensive and long term approach that is sustainable.
The best way to approach ORM includes:
– Consulting directly with the client to remedy the core problems leading to their poor reputation
– Developing a comprehensive plan that helps lead to changes in the core business principles that customers are complaining about
– Responding to all negative and even positive reviews or mentions online
– Identifying customers with a positive experience through Net Promoter Score surveys to incentivize them to share their experience online
– Getting positive PR by telling your side of the story