Knowing how to manage your company’s online presence has never been so important – here are some tips on how

When a prospective customer does a search online for your company, what do they find? Is there a negative HSE news item, or a bad product review on the number two listing for your name? Or, is there a press release telling the story of your recent round of public sector contract wins? Worse still, are you nowhere to be seen for your own company name? 

Online reputation management, or ORM as it is becoming known, is the practice of consistent research and analysis of your business or industry reputation as it represented by the content across all types of online media. If you don’t control your brand and listen to what is said about your company and your products or services, then someone else can. Many major construction industry contracts are awarded following a process of online due diligence. This is often how companies are found to invite to tender. Also don’t forget that many of your existing client base will quite often use Google to find your website just to phone you! 

Why manage it?

There are now also more opportunities than ever before to quickly rank negative results. Many companies get into trouble because an employee speaks on the companies behalf without proper authorisation. Your employees can easily use social media to say or do something that reflects badly on your company and your reputation. We strongly recommend that you develop a social media policy that clearly explains what your employees can and can’t do online. A policy will also ensure that all members of staff know what they can and cannot do when it comes to social media and mentioning the company. The media landscape has changed so dramatically with the internet, social media and web 2.0, and what comes with this new media is a lot more opportunity to get bad press. So we need to cover our bases.

Monitoring your online reputation

As you grow your online presence, you will find there is more and more to keep track of. You should monitor what is being said about you on social networks, blogs and Twitter. On Twitter you can set up searches in your Tweetdeck or Hootsuite accounts for your company name and also for your username. You can also use RSS Feeds and feed services to monitor the buzz.

Fixing problems

So how about managing any negative content? Well the trick here is to assess the problem and then decide if you can deal with it directly. In most circumstances you can and should respond to enquiries or criticism and be open and honest. You need to already be in the online space where your customers are in order to respond, participate and engage with them. That way if a problem occurs, you will already be a trusted and recognisable voice with credibility. 

Get all over Google

Advances in search technology now mean that more recent content and different forms of content are more likely to appear in that much coveted page one of the search results. We are no longer competing against our competitors’ web pages, we are competing against all different types of online content. It is now possible to dominate page one of Google with several different types of PR content. Google Caffeine lets more recent content feature higher in the search rankings. This will have a greater affect over the next 12 months. Google now blends its search results to show different forms of content and video and images often feature higher than many web pages for the terms.

Optimise your PR content

All PR and marketing communications pieces such as articles and press releases through to videoclips, podcasts and case studies should be created, optimised and shared online. Any marketing professional will find a blog the most useful tool in the online marketing toolkit. With a blog you can self publish. You can quickly reach the page one space on Google if you know how to optimise your content. You can feed your content by RSS to subscribers, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn Groups, TCN and other networks. You only need to publish it once in one place, your blog.

Integrate with other marketing activity

Whether it’s your blog, your Facebook fan page, your Twitter biography, your Linkedin company page or your press release footer, all your online communications should mirror your other communications including offline and traditional forms of marcomms.  Remember that online reputation management should not be a standalone activity and consistency across other marketing channels is fundamental.

Kirstie Colledge is managing director of Online Construction PR Agency SMPR - Simply Marcomms and a committee member of CIMCIG, the Chartered Institute of Marketing’s Construction Industry Group.