New Reputation Management Research + How to Use It (2024)

Reputation management is the process of monitoring, maintaining, and improving an individual’s or company’s reputation through strategic communication and public relations. As Harvard Business Review notes, “Firms with strong positive reputations attract better people. They are perceived as providing more value, which often allows them to charge a premium. Their customers are more loyal and buy broader ranges of products and services.”

For local businesses, reputation management is crucial because so much business today comes from online reviews and word-of-mouth. Over 95% of consumers read online reviews before visiting or purchasing from a local business. Negative reviews and feedback can quickly sink a small business if no strategy exists to improve reputation.

This article will dive into key insights from academic research on reputation management and how local businesses can apply these findings. The main questions addressed include:

  • What are the core components of an effective reputation management strategy based on scientific research?
  • How can local businesses leverage these studies to boost their brand image?
  • What emerging tools and best practices are revealed by scholarly research on managing online reputation?

By leveraging empirical findings on reputation management, local businesses can gain an advantage in promoting their brand, engaging customers, and responding to feedback.

The Impact of Online Reviews

Research shows that online reviews have an enormous impact on consumer perceptions and buying decisions. According to BrightLocal, over 97% of customers read online reviews for local businesses, and 88% trust these reviews as much as personal recommendations Positive reviews can drive sales and growth for local businesses. However, negative reviews can severely damage a business’s reputation and bottom line. One study found that a 1-star increase in a restaurant’s Yelp rating leads to a 5-9% increase in revenue. Local business owners must closely monitor online reviews and proactively manage their reputation by promoting positive reviews and mitigating negative ones.

Proactively Managing Online Presence

Research shows that being proactive is crucial for effective reputation management. Studies emphasize the need for businesses to actively monitor their online presence and listen for brand signals across the social web.

According to one study, “proactive reputation management involves preemptive steps to build and safeguard your brand’s reputation before any issues emerge. It focuses on monitoring online content, social media conversations, reviews, and other mentions to get ahead of potential problems.” 

Another report highlights that “proactive online reputation building is all about taking control of that narrative and actively managing how you are portrayed online. It means listening for brand signals and getting ahead of issues before they balloon.” 

Local businesses should be vigilant about monitoring review sites, social media, and other online platforms where their brand is mentioned. By listening proactively, they can identify reputation threats early and respond appropriately.

Dealing with Negative Feedback

Negative reviews and feedback can seriously damage a business’s reputation if left unaddressed. However, research shows that responding professionally and empathetically to criticisms presents an opportunity to resolve issues, offer apologies, and change perceptions. The key is to validate the customer’s concerns without being defensive.

Studies emphasize taking responsibility for mistakes mentioned in negative feedback. This builds trust and reassures the customer they are heard. Thoughtful responses also provide valuable insights to improve products or services going forward.

Experts advise responding to each negative review individually and in a timely manner. Template responses come across as insincere. Personalized replies tailored to the specific concerns show customers their feedback is valued. The goal is to turn detractors into advocates by handling criticism professionally.

Encouraging Positive Reviews

Research shows that providing financial incentives like coupons or discounts can elicit more positive reviews from customers. Offering a small reward in exchange for reviews leads to a 35% increase in feedback received. The key is making the incentive valuable enough to motivate customers, but not so large as to seem like a bribe for a 5-star rating.

Studies also emphasize the importance of soliciting reviews immediately after a positive customer interaction. Catching customers when satisfaction is highest increases the likelihood of getting enthusiastic, detailed reviews. Simple review requests via email or SMS right after a purchase can yield a high response rate.

Overall, research shows that strategic review generation tactics allow businesses to proactively take charge of their online reputation rather than passively waiting for reviews to trickle in.

Social Media and Thought Leadership

Academic research finds that thought leadership content boosts credibility and trust. Studies show that consistently sharing valuable insights, perspectives, and expertise on social media establishes a brand as an authority and go-to source in their industry. By positioning employees and executives as subject matter experts, businesses can shape the narrative around their brand in a positive way.

Being active on social media not only expands reach but also reinforces expertise. Posting regular thought leadership content on platforms like LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram provides social proof of a brand’s knowledge. Research indicates that thought leadership builds trust and credibility precisely because it demonstrates a depth of understanding without explicitly promoting products or services. The goal is to provide value to followers through valuable insights rather than sales pitches.

Aligning Reputation with Brand Identity

Research shows that a key component of reputation management is ensuring alignment with the core brand identity and values. Brand alignment establishes credibility and enhances a company’s reputation by presenting a consistent image across channels. Studies emphasize that reputation strategy should closely match the overall brand mission and messaging.

Local businesses can boost their reputation by ensuring their branding and external communications align with internal values. Consistent brand alignment helps customers quickly recognize and become familiar with local brands. It also demonstrates that the business authentically lives up to its promises. By making reputation management part of their broader brand strategy, local companies can shape their narrative and stand out in competitive markets.

Leveraging Reputation Monitoring Tools

Studies have analyzed the usefulness of online dashboard tools to track brand mentions across the web. Software like Reputology can identify online reputation threats and opportunities by aggregating reviews and social media conversations from various sites into one dashboard. According to research, these tools allow businesses to monitor their reputation in real time and get alerts when important issues emerge.

Online reputation monitoring tools like Google Alerts also make it easy to set up notifications for brand name mentions. Local businesses can leverage these platforms to keep a pulse on what customers and media outlets are saying about their company. The data and insights provided can inform reputation management strategies and content creation.

Studies emphasize that proactive monitoring is key for identifying potential reputation problems early before they spiral out of control. Businesses that regularly check their online dashboard metrics can respond promptly to emerging opportunities and threats.

Reputation Management for Crisis Response

Reputation threats can emerge suddenly, and research shows that businesses must be prepared to respond rapidly. According to crisis communication experts, “Respond promptly and candidly” when faced with a reputation crisis. 

Having a crisis communication plan in place is vital so businesses can get ahead of negative stories and guide the narrative as much as possible.

Studies emphasize that transparency, accountability and message consistency are key when managing reputation during a crisis. Businesses should harness social media to share real-time updates, correct misinformation, and demonstrate responsiveness to public concerns.

Research shows that a well-planned crisis PR strategy can significantly mitigate reputation damage if a business is prepared to respond rapidly and thoughtfully.

Conclusion

In conclusion, reputation management research provides invaluable insights that local businesses can leverage to boost their brand image and build trust with customers. The key takeaways include:

  • Proactively monitor online reviews and social media mentions through tools like reputation dashboards.
  • Respond professionally to any negative feedback and feedback loops.
  • Incentivize happy customers to leave positive reviews on sites like Google, Facebook, and Yelp.
  • Tell your brand story across media channels through thought leadership content.
  • Align your reputation and branding with core values and community engagement.

By putting these science-backed reputation management best practices into action, local businesses can gain a distinct competitive advantage. A strong online reputation signals trust and credibility to consumers in a crowded marketplace. The research clearly shows how strategically managing your reputation impacts consumer behavior and the bottom line. Local brands that fail to leverage these insights will struggle to connect with customers in a meaningful way. Companies that embrace reputation management research will prosper and separate themselves from the competition.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Ian Kirby has been working in digital marketing for over 15 years. Having worked both with and for digital marketing agencies and in-house with multiple companies, he has a specific interest and expertise in online reputation management, online reviews, and the implementation of business systems. Ian’s writing, videos, and interviews have garnered millions of reads, views, and listens.

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