Your 2020 guide to Online Reputation Management

Mitchelle Carvalho
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Mitchelle Carvalho, CEO of CogMat

Business developer and a creative person at heart, Mitchelle Carvalho, CEO of CogMat pens down a column that aptly articulates Online Reputation Management

"Mitchelle, see this device you got dad, it doesn't seem to work and it's only been a week, why don't you do that Tooter thing you do and complain to the company. Don't call or pass me the customer care number, okay your Tootering is faster or else I will shout at them on their Facebook page, they respond quickly.

It's not Tooter amma, it's Twitter. And yes, I will do it for you."

This pretty much sums up conversations with my mother on how she'd like to return, appreciate or complain about stuff she buys from brands both online and offline.

Even if we don't realize it, every time we engage with a brand or its parties on a social media platform, whether it's to appreciate, rant, complain or threaten, we're being a part of the brand's ORM story.

Online Reputation Management, or ORM as some of us call it, is the art of creating an effective line of communication for a brand, online. In a bid to do so, brands stay connected with customers, have an in-depth understanding of how they are perceived and can take corrective action to change the narrative in their favor.

Online Reputation Management has seen a sea-change with respect to new tools, response management and cross-brand appreciation in the last decade. However, at the onset of 2020, we need to revisit how we manage our brand's reputation online.

Here's a list of a few things to consider:

1. Always address the positives: This must always feature as a priority for every brand. All the hard work and toil brands put in to make the customer experience better deserve rewards and what better reward than a genuine "thank you" from customers. These posts of appreciation must not only be responded to as soon as possible but they must be highlighted for others to see from time to time. This also serves as a great encouragement to the teams that work tirelessly to ensure their brands have top-notch customer experience.

2. Respond with two important virtues: Empathy and Kindness: We know the basic understanding of ORM is to deal with a ton of complaints some of which may spiral into rants. However, as a brand, try and keep your focus on empathizing with the customer, understanding their predicament and resolving their issues with kindness. The internet often times may not be a kind space, therefore interacting with folks using empathy and kindness, even if they choose not to, goes a long way in establishing your brand's image and footprint online.

3. Invest in a good ORM tool, but invest in better people: We've seen a multitude of ORM tools that help large as well as mid-sized organizations listen, monitor and analyze brand sentiment online. Each tool comes with its own framework and advantages across platforms and geographies. These tools are extremely efficient and present data that makes response management an easy affair.

However, even though the use of such ORM tools are the order of the day, do not ignore the power of a good team that manages such tools and, thereby, your entire ORM exercise. Whether, it's internal or an agency, invest in people who come with the right mix of subject-matter expertise, emotional intelligence and platform understanding to handle your brand's reputation management activities. Sometimes, split-second decisions on crucial responses are best handled by human minds than bots.

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4. Don't feed the trolls: Online Trolls by definition are people who start quarrels or arguments online with an intention of creating discord and almost never want a solution to the said problem. Taking on trolls and shutting them down can be pretty satisfactory as individuals, I will be honest here.

However, as a brand, indulging a troll should never feature on your list of priorities. Customers who have genuine grievances to address will provide specifics of people or experiences they've had with your brand and it is imperative to respond to them. However, those ranting without any specifics and responding in loops to your queries are most likely looking to create trouble. It is ideal to shut them down by sharing a simple 'rules-of-the-house' and end with "if you are seeking a solution to the said problem, kindly drop us an email on our official communication channel." 

5. Set-up a Crisis Management Unit: A team comprising both agency and client team members must be every brand's default for online crisis management in 2020. Set up an active messenger group with all members and alert each other at the time of crisis. Mock-up of process flow and possible scenarios must be played out every quarter to create a state of preparedness in the eventuality of a crises. Create a list of FAQs for support teams to handle every other query in the interim. Involve Public Relations and Legal teams, if need be.

Every brand has its own personality, and the way it deals with positive and negative sentiment needs to be structured basis the brand's larger objectives and its personality. Let these points serve as a starting point while devising the strategy for ORM for your brand in the coming year.

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