The foundation of a good public relations campaign is reputation management, and it’s important now. As the COVID-19 pandemic drags on, we’re all concerned about protecting health. But the shutdown also threatens brand health, and not only due to lost business. Our new all-digital workstyle can impact brand and personal reputation, and not always in a good way.
COVID shutdown raises reputation risks
Office employees have been thrust into remote work, and many are using personal devices for business communications. We’re all spending far more time online than we were before, and it’s easy to be lax about digital security, social media activity, and communications with colleagues in virtual meetings. On top of that, racial justice protests have swept the country, and the political and cultural climate seems fraught. On social platforms, people are being cancelled over “cancel culture” discussions that aren’t even very clear. Here’s how to protect your brand’s reputation and thrive even during the COVID era.
Update your digital footprint
What comes up when you google your brand – or even your own name? Make sure personal and business sites are optimized and up-to-date. They should reflect awareness of recent events and the changes in how we live and work. It’s important now to be present on key social media platforms, and to post proactively. If it’s too overwhelming to make an impact everywhere, select the two or three most relevant ones and set goals for reach and engagement.
Ramp up that digital security
Security attacks and scams increase during times of crisis, and the coronavirus shutdown has encouraged phishing and identity theft scams by bad actors. A rogue tweet or comment by an imposter is exceedingly rare, but it can be an expensive nightmare to repair the damage. Now is an excellent time to review and tighten digital security protocols with the help of an IT team. For those in professions with access to sensitive information, like risk management, legal services, and accounting, the biggest risk is probably careless use of a personal device for client business. That’s why all devices must be secure and security measures clearly communicated and enforced.
Know SEO basics
You don’t need to hire an SEO expert, but it helps to grasp the basics. For most, it comes down to an optimized website and production of fresh, high-quality content. Include keywords that people searching for your expertise will use, bu only in a natural way. For instance 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.”
Content, content, and more content
The most challenging part of building a digital reputation for many is content production, because it’s time-consuming and your quarterly editorial calendar may be scrapped when something happens….like a terrible new coronavirus that shuts down businesses. But Google rewards fresh, relevant content. Weekly posts about issues, and insights relevant to clients, customers, prospective employees, and peers is the single most powerful way to build a reputation in sync with business or professional goals.
Don’t get cancelled
Now is the time to ramp up digital and social content, yes. But it’s also important to review your brand’s social media policy, update guidelines on social content, and examine your own social posts. It’s helpful to be sensitive and think about those outside your own bubble, whatever that may be. Early on I tweeted something negative about working from home. I was quickly reminded by a stranger on Twitter that I was lucky to still have work. True enough.
Finally, bear in mind virtually no digital communication is private. Internal office emails will be shared, deleted posts can be screenshot and saved, and you may not always be muted on that Zoom when you think you are.
Of course, it’s an ideal time to network with colleagues or prospects, because no one is traveling and nearly everyone is more open to it than before. Join professional online communities, and engage. 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.
Link your brand with ideas
My grandmother used to say that small people talk about other people, but big people talk about ideas. This is true in public relations and reputation as well. Aligning your brand or name with a central idea, mission, or brand differentiator is the most authentic way to build a reputation online. It should appear in your LinkedIn profile, on your website, your Twitter profile, and be frequently mentioned in business content and earned media.
Know when to apologize
Someone criticizes you or your brand on social media. An unfair review of your business appears online and is shared. 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 or personal brand.