How to Improve a Personal Brand That Has Taken a Reputation Management Hit
If you care about your personal brand, you’re probably aware of how you’re perceived online. This awareness is key to reputation management.
If you search your name, and unfavorable news or comments about you appear in the top search results, it’s time to clean up your online personal brand.
Reputation management is essential if you want to deepen your relationship with your clients and followers, while also building longevity in the marketplace and with your community.
Negative hits to a personal brand can pop up in a variety of ways:
- Angry social media comments
- Websites intended to damage one’s character
- Blog posts
- Online review site posts targeting the business owner
- Gossip sites
- Having the same name as a notorious person
- News articles
Maybe you’ve actually done some questionable things in the past, and you’re looking to revamp your image and polish it for online searchers. Or maybe you’re just unlucky enough to have a similar name or business name to a nefarious character.
Like it or not, how you’re depicted online can influence potential clients and business partners. Here’s how to take control of your personal brand reputation management when it’s less than stellar online.
1. Audit and Monitor
First, examine how you’re portrayed and where you need to make improvements.
A Google search is a great place to start.
Search your full name and business name, and comb through several pages of search results to see if any negative messaging comes up.
Also, look at sites and platforms where you have a presence, to see what others are saying about you and your brand. These could include social media sites like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter as well as online review sites like Yelp.
You can even set up listening streams on social media management platforms like Hootsuite, to stay up-to-date on the digital chatter about you and your brand. Identify on which social media platforms your target audience is congregating (so that you can optimize your listening streams and point your attention in the right digital direction).
Set up Google Alerts for your name and other keywords associated with your personal brand, like your business name. This way you can see news as soon as it pops up and deal with it sooner, so it doesn’t rack up page views and climb into higher results.
It may also be a good idea to conduct a background check on yourself. If someone has stolen your identity and wreaked havoc to it, that could result in a mess of negative online search results.
Remember: reputation management is about consistently keeping your eye on these different domains as a way of staying ahead of the security and cultural trends directly impacting thought leaders and personal brands.
2. Try to Correct Mistakes
If you read something that is untrue and posted about you online, contact the site’s webmaster to point out the discrepancy. Explain your side of what’s being covered. Ask if they’d be willing to remove the article, or edit it to include a note about your input.
If you’ve attempted to contact the webmaster a couple times and haven’t heard back, post a comment on the story truthfully explaining your side. You might be able to engage people who reacted to the story and will at least be able to share your side.
If you’re dealing with untrue comments on a social network site like Facebook or Twitter, report dishonest, abusive or offensive commentary directly on the post or through the website.
Reputation management sometimes requires us to jump into the ring and join the conversation.
3. Respond to Complaints
On social media sites or review sites where users attack your business (which is a reflection of your personal brand), take control by responding to reviewers.
Before moving forward, though, make sure you can tell the difference between the critics and haters. Here’s how to parse this out, and strategically communicate with people once you have that clarity!
A Corra study of 2,000 review site reviewers found 48.7 percent of customers who leave negative feedback do so because they want the company to be more upfront or honest about fees or policies, while 38.9 percent of customers leave negative feedback because they want an apology from the company.
As the business owner, you can enhance your personal brand by acknowledging the complaints of customers and working toward a resolution.
Ask to take the conversation offline. Demonstrate to the person the steps you’re taking to ensure the issue doesn’t happen again.
Showing an interest in customer feedback may result in the person editing the review to talk about the great way you handled the situation, or may result in the person removing the review altogether.
Directly communicating with people can deepen your relationship with your community and their perception of your brand.
Reputation management is aligned with demonstrations of courage, and the willingness to connect and be publicly vulnerable in these types of situations.
4. Be Proactive (the long game strategy for reputation management)
If some negative messaging that’s out there about you or your brand does, in fact, hold validity, you can take steps to push down that news when people search for you.
Claim Profiles on High-Profile Websites
Get on social media sites. Add your business to review sites. Claim memberships on sites that enable you to create your own page, like SlideShare or Medium.
Having a presence on popular sites like these may mean that those pages show up higher than search results of bad news about your personal brand.
Secure Your Domain Name
If your first-name-last-name-together.com is available as a domain, buy it now. (And get tips for building your own personal brand website.) Even if you choose to do nothing with your domain, you prevent someone else from using your branded url to create negative content.
You could always redirect your name’s url to a site you use, like LinkedIn, in the meantime before you work on your website.
Creating content for reputable websites is a great way to get more positive search results.
Reach out to clients and businesses you admire, and offer to write a guest blog for them in exchange for a byline. Your name will be associated with the high-quality content you create, and you get another positive search result.
You can also create a blog on your own website (integrating video into your strategy for a high access point with your community), and create content regularly with a byline.
The key is for your content to be helpful and relevant to your target audience. Don’t get dinged by search results by keyword-stuffing or slapping up a blog that isn’t useful.
Amplify your blog content through social media and/or paid media like Google Ads for ultimate reputation management.
Get Better Coverage
If your personal brand today is up to amazing things, get influencers, journalists and bloggers to take note. Write up a press release covering your latest accomplishment or what you’re working on. Connect with content creators on Twitter. Send personal emails to writers through their websites. Show off your press release, and pitch a unique angle for covering what you’re up to with how it will benefit their specific audience.
Also, look for opportunities to share your expertise and personal brand in person with the public. If you’re filmed doing something, ask for the raw video, and upload it to YouTube with an optimized headline and description. Seek out ways to promote your personal brand offline that can help you online, like:
- Be a guest speaker at networking events
- Give a presentation at an idea-sharing event, like Ignite or TEDx
- Make yourself available to journalists to provide expert quotes for newspaper articles and in on-camera interviews
As you rack up press mentions, link back to those on your personal website, social media accounts, or on your LinkedIn page.
Share the press you receive, so that you continue to be sought out for more positive press coverage opportunities.
Document and Share Positive Feedback from Your Community
Are you busy making a positive impact on people’s lives and businesses? One way to proactively compete with the negative messaging is to strategically share your clients’ and community’s stories of transformation and success (that you were apart of!)
Gather testimonials from the people whose lives you positively impacted (in written, audio or video form), and share the message across your digital and social media platforms. Do so with consistency, integrating testimonials into your overall brand messaging.
Your positive impact, and giving it a platform on which it can be heard and seen, is vital to reputation management. This is all about celebrating your clients, building brand awareness and playing the long game of reputation management.
5. Face the Problem Head-On
If you have a website, you are a publisher. That means, like anyone else on the web who can write out their horrible opinion about your personal brand, you also have the means to share your side of the story. You may want to take this route if the negative issue is a prominent part of your brand story today.
When a business fails to apologize for an incident that warrants an apology, that can take a toll on relationships with stakeholders and customers.
The same is true for an individual – if that person has done something wrong, ignoring it in the hopes it will go away will only damage a personal brand.
You can face the controversy head-on by:
- Writing a blog post. Address the negative piece of news, and explain what happened and the progress you’ve made.
- Film a video. Talk directly to an audience about whatever piece of news is floating out there, and give your take.
- Pitch a new story. If the negative news is in a still-running publication, contact the current staff to give them an update of where you’re at and explain why they should consider covering you now. Express that you will be honest and transparent about what happened in the past when you’re giving an interview.
Everyone makes mistakes. The public may be more apt to forgive you when you actually admit you did something wrong. According to the Association for Psychological Science, the most effective apologies include:
- An explanation
- Acknowledgement of responsibility
- Offer to fix things
- Commitment to doing better
- Request for forgiveness
If you want to repair your personal brand and engage reputation management at an impactful level, sometimes the best way to do that is to address a negative issue head-on and work towards moving forward in a positive way, publicly.
Keep It Positive Moving Forward
Once you’ve taken steps to correct what is already out there about your personal brand, regularly check in on your personal brand sentiment online.
Google Alerts are great to have, but you should also manually search yourself on Google and on social media every few weeks to see news you may have missed.
Be direct, be honest and be respectful when dealing with negative commenters.
Use content marketing to create more positive content about your personal brand. That content will hopefully be what people see more prominently as it’s shared online.
Since search results and search engine algorithms are constantly changing, online reputation management is an ongoing process.
Not only that, but it’s essential for your personal brand – the longevity of your message, the depth of your impact, the quality of your relationship with your community.
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