7 PR Tips For Digital Reputation Management

One foundation of a good public relations campaign is reputation management. Whether for a brand or an individual, most good PR people spend their time helping internal or external clients create a positive perception among key audiences or building a specific kind of reputation in the marketplace.

The growth of social and digital media, of course, presents both challenges and opportunities for reputation management. Digital content like customer reviews, blog posts, or social updates can help tell a story about professional expertise or insights. Conversely, the absence of a digital footprint can raise questions about career achievements or professional standing. It pays to stand out — but in a positive way.

The good news is there are tenets of reputation management that apply both professional and personal branding. Here’s how any professional can borrow PR expertise to build the reputation they want to convey to prospects, peers, and employers.

Maximize your digital footprint

You can’t manage everything on the web, but there’s plenty that is under your own control, and the first step is to optimize all the pages you own. Create personal and business sites that you manage where possible – on all search and social platforms. Make sure you own the domains for your name, and keep your information updated. Be present on key social media platforms, and post proactively. If it’s too overwhelming to make an impact on every platform, select the three most relevant ones and commit an hour a day to posting and responding to professional commentary. LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook are likely to be the most useful for digital reputation-building, and all are well optimized by Google.

Understand SEO basics

You don’t need to hire an SEO agency or be a search expert to take advantage of SEO principles, but it helps to grasp the basics. For most professionals, it comes down to an optimized web presence, regular production of fresh, relevant, high-quality content, and judicious use of relevant keywords. The first step is the creation of a website or page including the very terms and keywords that people searching for your expertise will use. It’s helpful to think like someone looking for your particular expertise; for example, our website emphasizes phrases like “top New York PR agency” and “best technology PR” instead of less searchable copy like “our clients love us.”  The most challenging piece for most professionals is content production, because it’s time-consuming, and it may not make a difference for several months. But Google rewards fresh, relevant content, so it pays to invest time in blogging, social updates, and comments on professional community sites. 

Don’t post or email anything you wouldn’t want made public

This includes social media, where an impulsive post or joke gone wrong can have real consequences…. just ask Justine Sacco. New college grads and others entering the labor market have started to understand this, but unfortunate mistakes happen. It may be a tougher lesson for more established professionals, possibly because they have a false sense of security about presumably private communications like email. The point is, almost no digital communication is really private.

Cultivate advocates

Networking, both on and offline, is key to building a resilient reputation for professionalism or for a specific type of expertise. Become a member of professional online communities; be known for your insights, collegiality, or responsiveness. Be generous with your time, ideas, and feedback. Participation in a professional community will offer a payback in search ranking support, reputation enhancement, and new relationships.

Be a thought leader

My grandmother used to say, small people talk about other people, big people talk about ideas. Okay, the advice is a little shopworn, and not everyone can or wants to be an industry thought leader. But aligning your name and/or company to a central idea, mission, or unique aspect of your identity is a simple and authentic way to build your reputation both on and offline. It should appear in your LinkedIn profile, on your website, your Twitter bio, and be frequently mentioned in the content you create.

Tell your story

The best way to do this is by blogging. Yes, it’s a serious commitment of time and ideas and shouldn’t be undertaken lightly, because an out-of-date blog sends a bad message. But weekly posts about the problems, issues, and insights relevant to clients, customers, prospective employers, and potential employees is the single most powerful way to build a reputation in sync with professional goals. If a regular blog is too much, consider becoming a contributor of guest posts to the most well-read blogs or publications in your industry.

Learn how to apologize

Someone criticizes you on social media, or a negative review of your business is posted. Don’t overreact, but do respond – with professionalism. If there’s a legitimate gripe, accept responsibility, apologize, and take steps to correct the situation. It’s amazing how humanizing a humble response to criticism can be for a business brand.

The 7 "New" Rules Of Digital PR

Do you work in digital PR? If you work in public relations at all, the answer is yes. The difference between digital PR and “traditional” PR is fuzzy, yet worth examining, because it has transformed our profession in so many ways. And with change come challenges.

In some ways PR hasn’t changed that much. We still prize earned media stories that appear in brand-name media outlets. We’ve always worked to create content for brands, and we still do.
But like the frog in the gradually heating water, the media and technology environment has accelerated, forcing us to adapt. Some of that evolution is obvious. The targets of our efforts are likely to be digital media outlets with high domain authority – from The New York Times to Mashable. And because search visibility is critical for just about any brand, from business software to a new wine site, we work hard to get quality links in the stories generated through our efforts.

Then there’s the content explosion. The unofficial kickoff of the digital PR industry goes back to late 2011 and early 2012, when Google’s Panda and Penguin algorithm updates turned the SEO category upside down. The updates rewarded quality content and penalized spammy SEO tricks that had propelled dubious websites to page one of the search rankings. Subsequent updates treated brand mentions, even without links, as if they were links, rewarding good PR work with higher search rankings.

Digital technology has transformed public relations

Yet the “new” digital PR has gradually had an impact on the skills, tools, and challenges of our profession. Here’s how we can make the most of it.

Mastering new tools. Press releases still have their place, but in today’s digital environment we may choose to break news through Facebook Live, or with a tweet that links to a fuller announcement. Rather than the full-blown press conference of yore (where breaking news could derail plans and quash media attendance), it usually makes more sense to share news through an exclusive arrangement with a single digital journalist. Journalist contacts still matter, and influencer currency is more important than ever. But where we once used a blunt instrument, we now can use more refined ways of getting the job done.

Understanding SEO. Any PR person who doesn’t understand analytics, or at least the basics of SEO, will find themselves working at a serious disadvantage in today’s digital environment. A course in Google Analytics or a partnership with a search expert is a worthy investment. At the same time, SEO has become more PR-oriented, and that trend needs to continue, driven by PR professionals. Building links great, but if no one notices your content, the effort is wasted.

Building new skills. Digital PR practitioners have had to step up and learn new skills. Look at content; it used to mean a high-quality bylined article or op-ed, or maybe an upbeat blog post. Today we’re challenged to use digital storytelling techniques where visual impact is even more important than persuasive writing. This can mean digital video, creative Instagram posts, and inbound marketing techniques.

Embracing a new content model. Time was, PR focused primarily on earned media, which still has a hallowed place as a outcome of a quality PR campaign. Then social media blurred the lines between paid and earned media, and “owned” or branded content expanded as companies plunged into executive blogging and invested in content to promote executive thought leadership. Today many agencies offer creative services for distributing content, and most have adopted the PESO model, for Paid, Earned, Shared, and Owned content that work together to drive brand visibility and consumer engagement.

Collaborating with digital influencers. Next to content, nothing has changed PR more than the rise of the digital influencer. What we’re seeing is a move from name-brand celebrities to lesser-known figures who can offer authentic engagement without breaking the bank.  One important wrinkle is the rise of the micro-influencer. Micro-influencer campaigns involve individuals who have fewer than 100,000 followers, but who can offer a less commercial and more meaningful relationship with fans and followers. Although micro-influencer programs have their detractors, they‘re popular because they’re designed for visual platforms like Instagram and are scaleable at nearly any budget.

Adopting a customer focus. Tools and skills are one things, but the most important shift for PR professionals may be one of mindset. In the past, our efforts were media-focused. Everything we did had to get through the screen of a journalist and his editor. More recently, we need to think like the end-user, whether a consumer or a business. We’re responsible for creating shareable content that engages users and requires new storytelling skills.

Committing to outcomes as well as outputs. Today, everything is measurable and measured. PR floated for too long in a kind of nether world – we urged clients to take it on faith that earned media would move the  needle, or we promised brand reach as measure in impressions…but very little beyond. Today, the good news is that there are easier methods and a new mindset for evaluating PR outcomes. Our focus as professionals can be on quantifiable changes in SEO, web traffic, brand engagement, and ultimately on the one metric that’s familiar to any marketer – improving business outcomes.