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A graph of stars set against a purple background. Giving something a 5-star review is an indication of quality and can boost a businesses reputation, which is why this image is being used for a blog on How a Business Can Create and Maintain a Good Reputation

Business Reputation Management: How to Create and Maintain a Good Reputation

TJ Kiely

Feb 27, 2024

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Creating a good reputation requires careful effort, sometimes taking months or even years to establish. On the other hand, a business’s reputation can also be demolished in an instant, and it’s a long road to rebuilding.

The best offense for your reputation is a good defense. Being proactive in shaping consumer perceptions and responding to events that could damage your reputation is critical to your success.

What does it take to add reputation management to your marketing strategy? More importantly, how do you keep your reputation sparkly and shiny? Here’s your all-access guide to online reputation management for the long term.

Table of Contents:

What Does Reputation Mean?

Let’s start with the basics: what is reputation?

In general terms, reputation is the collective beliefs or opinions people share about something. It could be a movie, a painting, or the state of the world.

Reputation management is often both a goal and a component of CSR strategies.

What Does Business Reputation Mean?

The reputation definition business leaders need to know is roughly the same: it’s the widespread opinion someone has of your company as a whole. This opinion tends to skew black or white: a company is either reputable or not, for example.

For the sake of this guide, we’re going to focus on the brand reputation definition angle.

Brand Reputation Definition

Brand reputation is defined as the image, based on experience, that an individual or an organization has among other actors regarding a certain brand.

Reputation today represents an equivalent for traditional terms such as honor or virtue. For companies with valuable brands, reputation is an important intangible asset, as it influences the individual's ability to cooperate.

Why a Good Reputation Matters for a Business

Why is reputation important for any business? It sounds obvious that a good reputation matters, but its role can’t be stressed enough. Simply put, a business is only as good as its reputation. This applies to global brands as well as local businesses, and everything in between.

Consumers are increasingly informed about the companies they do business with. In fact, 85% of consumers research brands and products online before making a buying decision. And 86% would pay more for services from a company if they had a better reputation than a cheaper competitor.

What’s more, a company’s digital presence is not like a business card or brochure. It’s a dynamic, evolving, multi-channel entity. Some of those channels you control, like your website and blog. But for others, like Google Reviews, Yelp!, and other review sites, influencer content, and media mentions, your customers are in the driver’s seat.

User-generated content plays a heavy role in your reputation development because people are more likely to trust it compared to company-sponsored marketing.

Interestingly, 76% of companies believe they are better than average when it comes to reputation. That sounds an overly optimistic bell and illustrates companies likely still have some work to do. If you aren’t in the above-average category, then it’s time to raise the bar on what an “average” reputation can do!

What Shapes a Brand's Reputation?

An illustration of customer reviews on a desktop computer

We’ve covered common questions like “What is reputation?” and “Why is reputation important?”, but brands also need to know the factors that help to shape their online presence.

Reputations go beyond positive reviews or negative reviews, though these do play a role. You can build a strong brand image based on the following details:

  • Visual cues. Company name, logo, and all of the imagery related to your visual identity reinforce a consistent brand name.
  • Mission, vision, value proposition, or philosophy. The guiding light of a company’s internal culture, these elements have a ripple effect when it comes to corporate reputation.
  • Behavior of members within the organization. What people are saying or writing is key. Articles, word of mouth, news, social media, and online reviews.
  • The success and positioning of the business. A spot on the Fortune 500 list will contribute to a positive reputation, for example.
  • Corporate communications. People can only form opinions on what they know, so make sure you share all the positive things your company is doing.

You have more control over your company’s reputation than you might realize. 

Business Reputations are Earned – and Managed

A cartoon drawing of a person leaving a 4-star customer review next to a gaint cell phone

When you first start your company, you don’t have much of a reputation to speak of. So where do reputations come from?

We see two sides of this coin.

  1. Actively pursuing a business reputation
    The first is the reputation your business is actively pursuing. For example, if you’re trying to build a positive reputation, then you might invest in a brand management strategy, media relations, and a reputation management solution.
    Reputation PR can help you promote the image of your company you want others to have. Then, reputation management tools like the Meltwater Suite for PR professionals utilize brand tracking to help you measure your reputation across channels and see how it evolves over time using media monitoring technology (More on this in a moment, but you can already check out the best online reputation management software on the market).
  2. Earned reputation through people interacting with you
    The second side of the coin is other people: your customers, prospects, and the general public. Every time someone interacts with your company, you’re building your business reputation.
    These interactions don’t stop with transactions and customer service. When someone reads a news article, blog post, or social media post from you, they’re interacting with your brand. Other peoples' content, such as positive or negative reviews, also influences your online reputation.

With both sides of the coin, your business reputation is earned. It comes from the opinions people form when they interact with you as well as from the work you put into it.

Although you can’t tell people how to think about your brand, you can proactively manage your reputation to help tilt the scales in your favor using a reputation management strategy.

Tip: Learn everything about online reputation repair if you need to fix it.

Line graph and circle graph.

What is Reputation Management?

Just like any other form of management, reputation management includes planning, building, maintaining, nurturing and controlling an organization's or brand's reputation with all relevant stakeholders.

To do so, you need a good reputation management strategy in place.

This process can either take place in the digital or the real world. When going digital, it is important to have an online reputation management strategy in place.

Why is Reputation Management Important?

The longer you’re in business, the more your brand image will “fine-tune,” with or without your help. The most successful companies are those that take an active say in how people think and feel about the brand. That’s where reputation management can prove valuable.

According to a 2005 study by Rosa Chun, senior lecturer at Manchester Business School, it’s unusual to find an internal reputation management department that’s directly responsible for managing corporate reputations. Instead, it’s often a shared effort. Marketing and communications handle the external perceptions, while human resources manage internal culture.

Creating, curating, and maintaining a positive reputation for a corporation is no easy task, but one of the most important facets of human psychology is to be consistent. Research by Roger Martin of the Rotman School of Management has shown that a customer’s loyalty to a company or brand relies more on familiarity than organic “trust.”

Customers love to do what feels comfortable, so companies that are quick to change their identity in the face of a PR disaster may be more likely to lose customers in the long run. For example, they might create lots of positive content to make any negative content matter less. The better approach is often a slow and steady one, focused on rebuilding trust through multiple channels.

Benefits of a Reputation Manager

Reputation gauge.

Many companies even outsource their reputation management to firms that specialize in this field. Reputation managers or reputation management companies as a whole provide reputation protection across your entire business. With the help of digital tools, such as social listeningaudience sentiment analysis, reputation monitoring, and media monitoring, a business reputation management service tracks how people view your company.

This allows companies to know where their brand image stands at all times and take quick action against fake news, negative reviews or comments, and brand-damaging press.

Let’s explore some of the benefits of outsourcing brand reputation management:

Access to Sophisticated, Purpose-Built Tools

Brand management firms like Meltwater for clients. This gives smaller companies a huge advantage over purchasing or building their own suite of tools, both of which can be costly. It’s turnkey reputation building that starts on Day 1.

Tip: Check out The Best Online Reputation Management Services & Software 2022.

Build Comprehensive Credibility

Your online reputation is an amalgamate of moving parts, including:

  • Online reviews
  • Social media mentions
  • Guest blogs and reviews
  • Media coverage
  • Backlinks

This isn’t a comprehensive list. Each of these can be broken down into subcategories, like the various platforms that make up the social media landscape.

In other words, it’s hard to track and monitor all the places where your reputation can grow (or flounder). When you have dedicated resources working on your reputation on your behalf, you gain comprehensive coverage across all channels. There’s less risk of a mention or comment destroying in a moment what took you years to earn.

Get Responsive, Around-the-Clock Corporate Reputation Management

The numbers are alarming:

The list could go on. Somewhere in the mix could be people talking about your brand.

Having an outsourced reputation management company allows you to keep tabs on your brand image at all times. Discover potential threats among your target customers quickly and snuff them out before they can spread like wildfire.

Check Out These Simple Good Reputation Tips

A person leaving a positive review.

Building a good reputation isn’t rocket science, but it does take some attention to detail. That’s because some of the simplest things can often be overlooked. So, let’s look at some low-hanging fruits that can help your large company or small business quickly and easily reach new heights:

Make Timely Follow-Up and Follow-Through Habits

Whenever you say you’ll do something, actually do it. This may sound obvious but think about this. How many times did you have a banker tell you he’d send you something, an assistant say he’ll pick something up, or a vendor promise he’d call you back, and they didn’t?

In these cases, you have to follow up yourself, and they lose credibility.

Now, think of a moment when someone said they’d do something and actually delivered. Didn’t that make you feel great? You probably thought highly of that person or business.

When a person has this habit, it stands out –you see them as dependable and reliable individuals, trusting them completely. You’d probably give someone like that a strong recommendation, for instance. Do your best to be that person, and teach your people to be that person, too.

Help People Reach Their Own Goals

Your reputation goes beyond caring for yourself and your own interests. Have a mindset of helping others.

For example, should a friend’s child be in college and interested in learning about the business world, offer to talk to them for a while, answer their questions and give tips. Should you know an individual in sales and learn that they’re looking for a deal, see if you can help them by making a good introduction. 

Make Others Look Good

For companies trying to create a positive brand reputation, your actions speak louder than your words. For earning consumer trust, words from other customers can sometimes speak louder than a company’s actions. Consumers trust other consumers to guide the way when it comes to choosing companies to do business with.

That’s why earning credibility from the customers and companies around you can help to boost your reputation. You can do this when you step up to make others look good – they’re likely to return the favor.

For instance, if a business associate refers you to a certain company as a client, make sure that as a thank you, you manage to make them look great somehow. Give kudos when they’re due, and even when they’re unexpected. When you make the people around you look good, your reputation will grow in a positive direction.

Over Deliver and Under Promise

Never make promises or guarantees you aren’t 110% sure you can’t uphold. This opens the door to reputational risk and is hard to bounce back from.

Likewise, never settle for doing the bare minimum. If improving your reputation is your goal, you can earn more “brownie points” by going above and beyond, even if it’s only a little more than what’s expected.

For example, if someone asks for a reference, offer them three. If you promise to save someone 10 percent, save them 15%. Should you say you’ll follow up in 24 hours, do it in 12. Send hand-written thank-you notes. A small gesture that shows you care can go a long way and do wonders for your reputation.

Improve Your Reputation on Paper

We tend to think of reputations as being based on actions (and they are). But your reputation also has an appearance, and that extends to how you look on paper.

Present your business in the most professional manner possible. For example, choose a company office in a central location, invest in a quality website and a well-curated social media presence, and ensure any material relating to the business is expertly done. It’s the small details that help to create the best impression of your company.

People in a meeting room shaking hands

Present Yourself the Way You Want to Be Seen

Speaking of visual presentation, we can’t overvalue the first impression. Your customers, potential leads, shareholders, and even prospective employees are judging you before you open your mouth to speak.

Dress your company for the environment you want to be in. If you want to be seen as a luxury company, then your company colors, logo, visual designs, and even your workplace should be “dressed” to match. If you want people to view you as one that cares about social culture, then you should promote the charities, programs, and initiatives that demonstrate your commitment to social issues.

Always Be Aware of Your Body Language

Every person in your company plays a role in shaping your brand reputation. How they conduct themselves says a lot about your culture, values, and the brand image you want to project.

Give your employees a Body Language 101 crash course. For example, if you have employees in customer-facing roles, remind them to stand up straight to make them look more confident. Nod your head when looking to show agreement, lean into the person you’re talking to at times, and smile on occasion.

Career development company MindTools offers some great tips on using body language to present a stronger image.

Be Consistent

Show your company’s positive qualities across all of your marketing and touchpoints. Your employees should do the same – even when they’re having a bad day. If they’re friendly and bubbly in a certain setting but rude or cold in another, your brand’s reputation will suffer. People have a tendency to share negative experiences a lot more readily than they share positive ones – and this sort of thing spreads quickly.

Authenticity is key to remaining consistent. When you’re true to your brand image, you don’t have to work to be authentic. It comes naturally, which means consistency will also come naturally.

Being inconsistent in the image you project will never lead to a good reputation. People will see different versions of your company and won’t know which one to trust.

Act with Integrity

Integrity is what you do when you think no one is looking. But with the proliferation of social media and content, it’s a good idea to assume that someone is always looking.

Act with integrity in all things. Particularly in the business world, even a small assumed act of selfishness, greed, or jealousy can have a serious negative impact, showcasing a lack of integrity – even if you think you have others’ best interests in mind.

Case in the point: the fight for a $15 minimum wage that has companies across the country split on the best path forward. Many companies are being called out for allegedly not paying their employees a living wage, earning a company negative publicity amid a critical and ongoing worker shortage.

A good example of demonstrating brand integrity is to get ahead of recall notices. Take control of the situation before the media and the public do it for you. Make it clear how consumers can receive refunds and provide helpful information to identify affected products.

This tip also applies to your professional reputation. If you would not buy what you’re selling, do not sell it. If you know that you won’t be able to get back to someone, don’t promise you’ll do it. Professionals’ reputations are often associated with the reputations of the companies they work for, so consider each to be a reflection of the other.

Group of volunteers.

Get Engaged in the Communities You Support

A community might be as small as an office or as large as the whole city. Your brand’s engagement should be aligned with its goals and values. Being engaged means giving your time and resource, getting to know people, and being generally available to them. This breaks down corporate barriers and humanizes your brand, allowing people to get to know the people behind your logo and products.

Be Likable

People do business with people, not brands or companies. Having likable people on your team can make a huge impact on your personal reputation. With a high “like” factor, your team can better smooth over issues with customers and foster positive relationships.

Make a valiant effort to smile more. Approach people you don’t know. Offer handshakes and wish congratulations. Small things can make you a lot more likeable – just make sure that you’re not fake – never falsify who you are just so people like you.

Curating and Maintaining a Positive Reputation

The digital era has invited a whole new way of showing ourselves to the world, one that's rife with complications for individuals and businesses alike. When you're doing business with someone in another state or on the other side of the globe, sometimes your reputation is all you have. It's in your best interest to curate a positive reputation and make it the best it can be.

Want to learn more about how Meltwater's media monitoring suite can help you track, measure, and manage your online reputation? Get in touch today!