Online Reputation Management (ORM) is a crucial function to any big business. Heck, even smaller businesses can benefit from putting plans in place to manage risk and prevent a PR nightmare. It’s the careful science of gaining ethical control over how your business is portrayed in the digital media.

It pays off to take it into account and make sure you’ve got some modicum of hands-on input in how your brand lives, online. Your reputation online can create a make-or-break situation for the survival of your brand.

Scandal isn’t always handled well

We’ve already seen a number of brand-damaging scandals over the course of the last year –  many of which were handled poorly with shaky-at-best crisis management plans and communications.

Now, just to be clear, managing your reputation doesn’t mean hiding misconduct, operating unethically or tricking the masses. In the case of major scandals, negative public sentiment is justified at times. However, if we assume you’re in the clear in terms of brand behaviour, sentiment and values, you can still fall prey to criticism online.

On a more positive note…

Managing your business’s reputation is valuable for you and your clients. It can help bring you together with new consumers, position a helpful service in the right way or instill trust in your existing clients. If you’re doing the hard work of running an ethical business that offers value, that needs to be communicated online. This encompasses a broad spectrum of your digital marketing efforts. It can also lead to higher revenues and greater credibility.

So now that we’ve covered how important it is, why do consumers hate brands that ignore it?

It’s simple really:

A company that cares about its reputation, cares about its work and its customers

And if this educated assumption is anything to go by, the impact of reputation management should be a core component of any online strategy.

This is just one of the major milestones that can be achieved through indirectly managing your reputation online but why do consumers hate brands that don’t do more?

Here’s what we know for sure…


  • Customers have high expectations. According to research by Salesforce, customers have much higher expectations of brands than they did in the past.

    “…customers expect constant availability, with three-quarters of respondents indicating that having a salesperson available when they need one is either absolutely critical or very important”.
  • Consumers are somewhat easily influenced. If a consumer is already part of a fandom or following, they will trust the word of celebrities and online personalities. This can present a challenge in terms of how those public figures view your brand.

    In the event of a scandal, online commentary becomes them versus you – so your relationships should extend beyond the general consumer or target market to the public figures they revere. In the event of public commentary, reach out to these influencers to give them an accurate account of events.
  • In a world of distrust, consumers want to feel like brands are on their side. Researchers are referring to 2018 as the year of the “trust crash”. Millennials, in particular, are showing notable despondency in sentiment to fake news and even NGOs and charity organisations.

And yet, in this world of distrust, “64% of consumers trust search engine results” to validate rumours or get information (Reputation X).

So what does this mean for marketers and reputation managers?


  1. We need to provide an accurate account of events. Resist the urge to always paint your brand in the most favourable light possible.

    Aim for accuracy and honesty. In many instances this will actually improve the reputation of your brand instead of hinder it. Building trust is a valuable way to help manage the perception of your brand and to instill confidence.

  2. We need to be accountable for any wrongdoings and make amends accordingly. If your brand is involved in a scandal or there is a negative sentiment about it online, actively address each complaint.

    Make sure that you are able to be accountable, within reason, and make an effort to make amends by offering a compensation of services, replacements or support – where appropriate.

  3. We need to manage our reputation online by meeting the needs of our consumers, responding to their queries, concerns and positive sentiments. Good service, relationship building and reputation management goes beyond simply being accountable. It’s important to also acknowledge positive sentiment and connect with consumers who are fans. Reward their behaviour, respond to what they have to say, return their engagement.

  4. We need to carefully monitor data to help us ascertain where people are speaking about us and what they are saying. This will help you to react accordingly. You can use media monitoring software to help you ascertain exactly what people are saying about your brand.

    View specific examples, gauge sentiment and see primary locations. This will help you to start understanding your audience better and to meet their needs accordingly. 


  5. We need risk and crisis PR plans in place to help mitigate any potential disasters. Prevent disaster by anticipating the downfalls of actions. Set up response plans and processes for negative events.

  6. Maintain ongoing discussions online to pick up on possible hazards and risks before they spiral out of control. You need to stay part of the conversation to understand the landscape.

All told, we know that online reputation management is crucial in the digital sphere. So, making it a priority makes sense. Use the tools you have at your disposal and your in-depth knowledge of your consumer base to delight them and meet their needs. Gain control over how you present your brand in the media and pay attention to ORM.