With the advent of social media and review websites as major sources of consumer education and communication, modern companies must use every tool at their disposal to remain competitive and keep their organization in the public eye. Companies must be mindful not only of what their brick-and-mortar customers say about their products and services, but also their online customers as well.

Fortunately, there are a few steps you can take to ensure that your company is putting its best foot forward on all fronts:

Have a plan and clear policies in place

It’s often said that the best defense is a good offense. Having clear policies about what your company’s brand and image should be is a proven way of ensuring that all public communication about your company remains on-brand and consistent. Have a formal social media policy in place for your employees covering what they can and can’t post publicly about their work and proprietary information about your company, as well as the behavior you expect from them on social media and in public.

Make these expectations an integral and active part of your company’s corporate culture, and consider creating an internal role within your company (or adding the duties to an existing role) to monitor employee accounts for compliance.

Monitor what customers are saying about you

You can use many software tools to automate the monitoring of online mentions about your brand and products on both social media and review websites. However, simply keeping an eye on mentions isn’t enough—think of these reviews and comments as free feedback. The positive reviews will tell you what your company is doing right, while the negative ones will show you areas of opportunities for improvement.

Actively responding to reviews your customers leave on review websites allows you to build goodwill, as well as rectify any true complaints. Responding to social media mentions about your company is an important part of maintaining an on-brand social media presence, and lets you meet any potential problems and complaints head-on in real time.

Actively solicit reviews from happy customers

But it isn’t enough to passively keep an eye out for mentions of your company online or in real life. This puts your reputation management efforts in reactionary mode, always at the mercy of what customers are inspired to say about you. Instead, consider making soliciting reviews an important part of your company’s image management efforts. A good strategy is to ask customers to contact you directly if they have a problem or complaint, and to leave a review on high-profile review websites if they’re completely satisfied.

For example, if your company does business online, you can include requests for public reviews in any email your system sends out during or after an online transaction. If your business has only a brick-and-mortar presence, you can hang up physical signs in your store that list hashtags you’d like customers to use when talking about your company on social media, as well as links to review websites, encouraging them to please rate you.

Ensure that your business is compliant

Ensuring that your company is in full compliance with all state, municipal and federal tax, trademark and copyright regulations is a proven way to circumvent any potential legal issues or challenges that may arise from anyone’s claim to your company’s intellectual property. Consult with a trademark attorney before launching a new product line or service to ensure there are no conflicts with existing businesses, and check in with your local and state business boards to make sure that your business has fully registered all the required paperwork.

When it comes to protecting your business image, you can’t be too prepared. By proactively taking charge of your company’s reputation, you can ensure that you’re never caught by surprise, and that you’re the one that’s in control.

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Jeremy Sutter

Jeremy Sutter

Jeremy Sutter is a freelance writer and former mobile marketing manager at Adobe.

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