The ultimate guide to reputation management

Oh no — you’ve found some incorrect, and possibly damaging, content about your organization online. Or the trolls have come out to play, and today it’s your organization that’s serving as the playground. How can you stop it? Enter reputation management: The process of controlling what shows up when someone searches you online.


In our ultimate guide, we’ll show you why reputation management is important, how you can diagnose your rep online, and what you can do to improve it.


Why reputation management is important

We can take this as both a given and part of our intuitive nature as humans: People make decisions and assumptions about companies, organizations, and people based on what they see online. When was the last time you applied for a job without Googling or GlassDoor-ing it? Can you remember the last time you had a first date that didn’t involve some light social media stalking? Or, for that matter, the last restaurant you booked without checking their Yelp reviews?


You may be thinking, “Reputation management is for the private sector, but we’re a nonprofit with a vision based on positive change.” Even though nonprofits have a reputation for being highly trusted, they also need to maintain this reputation in a digital world rife with impersonation, scandal, and permanent online records.


Think of it this way: Companies run on sales in exchange for products and services. Nonprofits rely on donations in exchange for honest and impactful work. In order to keep driving awareness and donations, you need to ensure your organization is viewed online (and off) as both effective and honorable.


How to diagnose your reputation online


Google Yourself

To get an idea of what’s most readily available, do a simple Google. Open an Incognito or Private browser in order to see what would come up in search for someone who has never been to your site before. (If you search in your regular browser, Google will tailor the results to what they think you will click, which is probably all positive and all from your domain.)


Do any potentially damaging articles come up? Are there any headlines from your own site that could be misconstrued? Take note of anything unsavory, and edit or delete whatever you have control over. Note that you only need to focus on the first page of search as 95% of traffic from Google comes from those first 10 positions.


Use SEO tools to get a better idea of your presence in search

Get a clearer picture of how people search for your organization, and what content shows up, with SEO tools like Google Search Console or Moz.


Look at the search queries in Search Console: Are people coming to your site from any iffy or deeply irrelevant searches? Look at the keywords in Moz: Are you ranking for anything that you don’t want to be ranking for?


Edit or delete anything you have control over, and take note of anything posted by external sources for when you build out a content marketing plan to fix it. (More on that in a bit.)


Audit your social media accounts

If you have time (or an intern), conduct a social media audit. Go through all your old posts and images to ensure that everything is up to par. Take note of anything that is inappropriate or less than flattering and delete it.


Next, search your organization’s name on Twitter and Facebook: Are people mentioning anything scandalous or fundamentally incorrect? You may need to create a resource or a press release to respond if the posts are current. Consider creating or purchasing a social listening tool to understand how people are talking about you so you can get ahead of these conversations.


Check GlassDoor and Yelp

How are employees, interviewees, and program participants rating your organization? Potential donors, hires, and participants will check to make sure they are supporting or joining a happy and functional team.


Take note of any critical, but not unfounded, feedback —  it could be valuable for the growth of your team. No matter the platform, if there is constructive feedback it can actually be beneficial to address the criticism and show how you have already worked to address it, or how you are in the process of fixing the issue.


For anything libelous or unfounded, consider reporting it to be removed. Then, encourage team members to add positive reviews on GlassDoor and happy clients to add onto Yelp (only if they want to, of course).

How to fix your reputation online

Now that you’ve identified any search terms or social posts that may be harmful to your reputation, now you can move forward with the actual reputation management.


For search: Content marketing

If something about your organization has come up high in search engine results that you want to disappear, you can devise a content marketing strategy to create content that will index for those queries and, hopefully, overtake the offending content.


Edit or rewrite the articles from your site to replace them with new, accurate, content. Create new content to rank higher in search than the sites posting articles you’d rather not see (remember, most people don’t go beyond the first page of search). Keep a keen eye on Moz, Search Console, and Google (in Incognito mode!) to make sure you continue to rank on top of the articles.


For social: Create a crisis plan

Even though you can delete any potentially damaging social posts on your own platforms, you can’t wipe them out entirely. People might have screenshots or just really good memories.


Remember how we said to take note of anything inappropriate or less than flattering? Now you know what could be brought up down the road and you can write up your response ahead of time.


On our Using the Whole Whale podcast, Dr. James Beacham, particle physicist with the ATLAS Experiment at the Large Hadron Collider at CERN, discusses how his organization addressed concerns that the Large Hadron Collider was going to cause global destruction. While that sounds hysterical, there was a logical base, and CERN found it to be worth addressing. In outlining the safety precautions they had taken, they also regained control of their narrative.


Draft a statement with a calm mind and publish it the moment any kind of Tweetstorm emerges to nip it in the bud (modifying the language around the specific elements as needed). Acknowledge the mistake or outdated thinking, apologize, then outline how you have changed and are moving forward. Address the issue in the medium it occurs — meaning that if you’re called out for an insensitive Tweet, publish your statement on Twitter. If it occurs via email, send out an email.


For the trolls: When to respond and when to ignore

Sometimes people are just plain rude, and you can use our guide to dealing with haters on social media to… well… deal with that.


Basically, if people are being hateful, we recommend hiding the Facebook comments or ignoring the tweets.


But what about people disseminating incorrect information? Unfortunately, #FakeNews is a thing, but instead of letting it persist, you can use that misinformed post as a learning opportunity. Consider commenting or responding to “myth-bust” inaccurate facts — chances are, if that person bought into the fallacy, other users have as well.


For example, when Greater Than AIDS posts about PrEP, the daily pill for people who do not have HIV who want added protection, they often receive misinformed comments about the price or effectiveness. They take those comments as an opportunity to direct users to key, accurate resources on their site.


For the future: Learn from mistakes and move on

If you are at fault for an unsavory post or mistake, what next? First, be transparent and upfront about the mistake, and immediately apologize. Then, outline how you will work to avoid that mistake in the future, or how you have already taken steps to improve. After that, the best you can do is move on. Don’t take risks on social media for a while, and implement a tighter quality assurance process. Continue doing great work and publishing content to push the mistake down people’s feeds.


Know when to bring in professional help

Sometimes, your crisis communications plan or some drafts of stock responses to Tweets, Facebook posts, and Instagram comments is all you need to manage your reputation online. In other instances, you’ll want to have a pro come in. There are PR firms dedicated to crisis management, including nonprofit crisis management, which can take on many forms — check out, for example, Epic PR’s work with the American Counseling Association.

To learn more about content marketing and social media, check out our Whole Whale University courses.