Brand reputation management can be a tricky thing. Not because it’s hard to approach—it isn’t—but because it’s often misunderstood by most health care brands.

Let’s start with what brand reputation management is not.

Managing your brand’s reputation isn’t just completing maintenance on all of your local listings to ensure accuracy. It isn’t just making sure physicians have a four-star rating and higher. It especially isn’t blocking upset social users and deleting unfavorable comments.

So what is it then, you ask? Here’s how I see it.

I see brand reputation management as an opportunity. An opportunity to methodically, and with precision, help shape the tone of conversations surrounding your brand. An opportunity to be a proactive part of the conversation instead of just reacting to potential negativity. And more importantly, it allows you the opportunity to be human in a sea of brands.

Why should brands care about reputation management?

  • It’s easier to maintain a good reputation than reverse a bad one.
    Although crisis planning can be fun, going through an actual crisis is not.
  • It can improve your brand’s visibility.
    You can build advocates, which is especially important in our society that relies heavily on the recommendations of others and where search engines rule the world.
  • It can gain trust.
    Positive interactions online are rarely just for the two (or three, or four) involved. The potential is very high for hundreds of other eyes to see that interaction as well. Make sure it’s a good one.
  • Let your customers know you care.
    Not only are you trying to garner positive interactions, but this is an opportunity to show empathy and understanding—two things we all crave and expect, especially when we’re upset.
  • Improve your [digital] communication.
    The majority of customers are highly engaged online. If they aren’t engaged, they’re at least lurking and you can count on them seeing you!
  • The conversations are happening whether you want them to or not.
    People are talking about your brand. They’re talking about the physicians, staff, and employees they may encounter at every turn in the non-digital world. Turning a blind eye doesn’t help resolve what could be an easily addressable issue.

And ultimately, you should care because of our current, digital landscape. In the ever-changing, fast-paced, connected and algorithm-dependent world we live in, a brand’s reputation can be cemented in an instant.

There isn’t a perfect way to approach maintaining your brand’s reputation. By simply being aware and doing anything (short of deleting comments left and right), you’re already ahead of the majority of other health care brands.

Here are 7 tips to help keep a positive brand reputation:

1. Be well-respected.

Trust can be lost so quickly. It’s harder to regain trust than to retain it. Take the good old china plate analogy. If you break a plate once, it’s likely easier to put back together because it’s been broken into just a few pieces. But if you break that plate over and over it becomes much harder to put those pieces back together. And even if you do get it back together, the more shattered it is, the harder it will be to put it back even in the same way. This is true of all brands, regardless of your industry, but it’s especially so important among health care brands.

2. Be transparent and honest …

… Even when you screw up. Transparency is one of the main factors that can affect trust and reputation toward your brand. Be honest and considerate. Establishing a one-to-one communication channel allows for more opportunity to show transparency and provides an opportunity to ask for feedback.

3. Monitor what people are saying about your brand and, if needed, your physicians.

Not only does this allow you to address issues in real time, but with access to sophisticated data, it allows you to inform campaigns and progress toward meeting your communication goals.

There are a lot of tools out there to monitor conversations; the one we prefer is Brandwatch.  A few others with different price points (and slightly less sophistication) are Simply Measured, TalkWalker Alerts, and good old Google Alerts.  

A note on these for Facebook. Facebook has recently restricted its API making it more difficult for a lot of these tools to pick up conversations (especially private ones) on the platform, but you can still be made aware of those that are happening on your page itself. Ensure you’re getting alerted of those conversations.

4. Set up local listings and monitor feedback.

Make sure your local listings are claimed. Oftentimes these are set up automatically for physicians and hospitals. Claim those. There are tools, such as Moz Local, you can use to scan all listings for your business so you can more easily discover, manage, and monitor these outposts.

You can often set up alerts so that you and your team are made aware of reviews—both negative, positive, and everything in between. Respond to them all.

If it’s negative, open the conversation and use empathy to do so. If it’s positive, thank them and encourage/ask them to leave you a review on some of the other review sites you’re working to build out.

5. Be human.

Respond on time and with empathy and understanding. Responding to compliments and praise is probably the easiest thing you can do, but trying to respond to negative comments can be somewhat laborious.

Create a response protocol to formalize when you respond, who responds, how many times you’ll engage, and when to work toward getting the conversation offline.

6. Understand your critics.

Lean into legitimate conversations. This is an opportunity to learn from your critics, identify legitimate issues and even inform improvements as a brand.

Digital marketing guru and author of Hug Your Haters, Jay Baer has a great perspective on this approach and I’d highly recommend the read.

Ultimately, do not let ignoring, deleting, or blocking be your first approach. Period.

7. Never allow illegitimate attackers to detract you.

Negative feedback and criticism are all a part of being in business—and having a point of view! Having people who only post false information to degrade your brand? That’s a different story. This is the time and place to defuse the situation, get it offline, and honestly, to blog. But do it with caution.

So there you go! These are just a few of our recommendations and approaches that we use. Ultimately, just listen to your customers, be empathetic and transparent, and be human.

What’s your approach? How are you and your team tackling this opportunity of reputation management? Drop a line (or several) in the comments below and let’s discuss!