Your brand’s online reputation may speak for itself, but that doesn’t mean the narrative is out of your control. With the right data, you can continuously refine your company’s public perception. From social media to news networks; all big and small brand mentions drive brand reputation, which makes reputation management strategy an absolute must-have in a digital-driven world.

Whether it’s a botched NFT launch or a spokesperson who’s in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons, there’s an increasing array of events that can impact your brand reputation at a moment’s notice. Combine that with social, which has the power to fan the flames or turn down the heat, and you get a new era of communications concerns and opportunities.

Navigating this new terrain requires an updated toolkit that takes social insights and puts them to work. Fuel your strategy with listening, competitor and review data to shape how your audience views your brand.

Here’s how to get it done.

What is brand reputation management?

Brand reputation management is the process of monitoring and influencing the public perception of your brand.

Reputation takes years to build and minutes to lose. Even small hiccups can impact how an audience feels about your brand for years to come. Brand reputation management gives communications professionals the information they need to stay in control of their brand’s narrative.

In the past, smaller companies didn’t usually have to concern themselves with creating a comprehensive brand reputation management strategy. Now, word of mouth can travel in the blink of an eye. Unforeseen events can put local businesses at the center of national conversations.

Because of this, companies of all sizes need brand reputation management strategies designed to address issues big and small.

The 3 pillars of brand reputation management

Social revolutionized the importance of brand reputation. Thankfully, it also revolutionized the art of brand reputation management. There are three sources of social insights that can act as the pillars of your strategy: listening, competitor and review data. These pillars support your strategy with real-time insights, so you can quickly identify what’s working and what’s not.

Listening data

Social media is the world’s largest focus group. With social listening, marketers can tap into the social conversations that surround their brands, industries and audience.

Think of it this way: Your mentions are only a small slice of the feedback, concerns and praise that your audience shares across social. With social listening, you get the full pie. These insights can support your brand reputation management strategy in a few ways. First, they can illuminate opportunities. For example, your social listening insights could help you identify and act on long-standing requests from your customers.

This data also provides a major risk prevention benefit. By accessing the full spectrum of conversations that surround your brand, you eliminate blind spots that can become quickly problematic if left unattended.

With Sprout’s social listening tool, you can tap into the conversations around your brand to make sure you’re increasing your share of voice in a relevant and positive way. Use it to track dips and spikes in brand sentiment to better understand what’s happening and why.

a screenshot of the Sentiment Summary Report available in Sprout's Social Listening tool.

Competitor data

Ninety percent of marketers agree social data helps them stay ahead of the competition. Insights from social can reveal the strength of a competing brand’s customer loyalty and weaknesses in their offerings.

A chart showing the top 5 ways social data informs marketers understanding of their competitors. When it comes to competitor insights, social data reveals the strength of a competing brand’s customer loyalty as well as the strengths and weaknesses of their offerings.

If listening data demystifies where you stand with your audience, then competitor data demystifies where you stand within your industry.

Your competitors’ social profiles are rife with information that can be used to create benchmarks for your brand reputation management strategy. Conducting routine social media competitive analyses can illuminate opportunities to exceed industry standards, helping you get a leg up on your rivals.

Once you’ve nailed the basics of competitor reporting, you can use your social listening tool to strengthen your analysis with share of voice data. Share of voice quantifies your brand visibility by assessing how well you’re dominating conversations within your industry.

A screenshot of Sprout's Share of Voice Report, available in Competitor Listening Topics.

Review data

Online reviews are a challenging beast to tackle. People turn to review sites to leave feedback on products, services, experiences at specific locations, employer culture—the list goes on.

A screenshot of a Google review for City Lit Bookstore.

From Yelp to Glassdoor and beyond, there are several review channels for marketers to keep up with. While it can take some work, the insights are too valuable to leave on the table. Reviews give you direct feedback on what customers love and what needs to be improved, straight from your customers themselves.

A gif of Sprout Social's review management tool.

To speed up your time-to-insights, use your social media management app to manage incoming reviews and centralizing them into a single platform. From there, you can quickly sort through positive and negative reviews to identify the patterns that will eventually inform your brand reputation management strategy.

How to create a brand reputation management strategy in 5 steps

Your brand reputation doesn’t live in a marketing vacuum. Every department of your business can impact customer satisfaction, which can improve or damage the public’s perception of your brand.

To stay in control of your brand’s narrative, you need a brand reputation management strategy that supports proactive responses to cross-functional risks and opportunities. Here are the five steps you need to take to get it done:

Step 1: Assess your current brand reputation

You may think you know your brand’s strengths and weaknesses, but you can’t know for sure unless you dig into your audience data.

This process isn’t as straightforward as other reporting processes. Consumers have a lot of options when it comes to leaving feedback. Social may be the top choice, but that doesn’t mean you should discount your other sources.

Two circle charts showing the top ways customers prefer to share feedback or complaints. Social media is the top channel for both.

Once you’ve analyzed your listening, competitor and review data, supplement your findings with information from the following sources:

  • Inbound social messages: What kind of comments and DMs do you receive across social? Work with your social team to understand the ratios between questions, complaints and praise.
  • Customer feedback: How does your company go about soliciting customer feedback? Review common feedback from net promoter score (NPS) surveys, brand surveys, customer advisory boards and other market research endeavors.
  • Help center data: How does your company manage service or product complaints? If you’re using customer care software, ask your support team about recent customer service reports.

As you dig through the data, create a list of brand reputation risks and opportunities to inform your strategic goals down the line.

Step 2: Loop in stakeholders

Brand reputation management isn’t a one-person job. Every department has some influence on customer satisfaction. To pull off meaningful change, you need to collaborate with other brands.

Review your list of risks and opportunities to identify which colleagues need to be involved in developing your reputation management strategy. This might include experts in public relations, investor relations, customer care, sales, etc. Think about who manages the workflows responsible for fielding points of praise and complaints. Once you’ve decided on some key players, it’s time to host a kickoff meeting.

Use this time to share and discuss the findings from your initial brand audit. You should walk away from this meeting with clear next steps for your brand reputation management strategy. 

Step 3: Establish a monitoring routine

When it comes to brand reputation management, things can change at the drop of a hat. To keep up with consumer sentiment, you need to routinely monitor your reputation and analyze the conversations happening around your brand.

How often you review your brand reputation KPIs depends on your industry and current events. If things feel pretty stable, setting aside some time each week should be fine. However, if current events are shaking up your industry, you may want to start each day with a quick check-in to make sure you’re not missing anything.

Step 4: Create a crisis response plan

A crisis plan outlines how your business will respond in the wake of an unforeseen event.

Crises come in many forms, so it’s impossible to be 100% prepared for anything. Still, knowing who is responsible for what in the event of a crisis can help your business respond quickly, which reduces the potential for long-term reputational damage.

Here are some common types of crises to keep in mind when creating your plan:

  • Product issues and customer criticism: Whether it’s a launch that doesn’t go as planned or a surge of negative reviews, you have to be prepared.
  • Employee or branch errors: Your crisis plan should account for how you respond to customer complaints that identify an individual employee or location.
  • Site or platform outages: Outages leave your customers in the dark. A response plan that makes use of all available communication channels (social, email, etc.) can help inspire confidence as your team works to fix the issue.
  • Global events, crises and tragedies: As you may have heard, these are unprecedented times. Audiences expect brands to respond to current events promptly and tastefully.

Depending on your business and industry, there may be a higher likelihood of some crises than others. Review the risks you came up with while auditing your brand reputation to create an escalation management strategy and notify key players so they know what’s expected of them.

Step 5: Act on opportunities for improvement

Remember: Brand reputation management isn’t just risk management. If you’re not using your brand’s strengths to your advantage, you’re missing out on major opportunities.

If your audience is responding particularly well to something, use that information to inform new campaigns and content types. For example:

  • If you keep getting rave reviews on a product or service, use those testimonials in a user-generated content
  • If a cultural moment is taking off with your audience, create a Listening Topic around it to figure out how to best join the conversation.
  • If your competitors are getting flack online, share that intel with your sales team so they can double down on what gives your brand an edge.

As you narrow in on what works for your brand and audience, distribute these insights across your team. That will empower more colleagues to act as brand reputation guardians.

Brand reputation management is an org-wide responsibility

Every employee stands to benefit from your company’s positive brand reputation. A great reputation can shorten sales cycles, reduce time-to-hire and keep your customers coming back to the name they trust.

The secret to getting everyone on board with your brand reputation management strategy is to make sure they know what’s in it for them. Use this social listening insights deck template to share information on the risks, opportunities and action items that will get your colleagues closer to their goals.