Brian Patterson ORM ExpertBrian Patterson is a widely-known Online Reputation Management Consultant, Author and Speaker. He is also the co-founder of GoFishDigital, a Washington DC-based Online Branding Firm. Brian has helped individuals and firms protect their brand reputation and also resolve complex ORM issues.

In this post, Brian answers 10 interesting ORM questions. Here we go…

Can you tell us your definition of ORM?

So the simple definition is “Online Reputation Management”. To dive into more detail, to me it means how your total brand is reflected online. What ranks in the search results for branded terms? How are your online reviews? What is the sentiment of the social mentions of your brand? How do you look on Wikipedia? All of these things, and more, impact a person and/or company’s online reputation. As such, the online reputation needs to be managed and continually improved.

What are the common ORM mistakes committed by companies?

I think the biggest is considering ORM far too late. We talk to a lot of companies that are in the middle of a crisis and need our help. Of course we devise strategies and help solve the issue, but by being pro-active before you ever have a problem, you can often minimize damage should any issues arrise. As Benjamin Franklin said, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”.

Is it advisable for a company to launch an offensive or just neutralize attacks should be the way out when attacked by competitors online?

It really depends on the issue, how long the issue will be in the news cycle, and the actual validity of the issue. If the crisis actually isn’t valid, it often does make sense for a company to be offensive and get the truth out there. In cases where the issue is true, it depends on how long it will stay in the news cycle and how lasting the damage will be. If it is a short term issue, it may make sense for a company to strategically not acknowledge it. However, for large issues, it does make sense for the company to have a say. Either way, in the background, ORM should be taking place to ensure a clean reputation long-term, even if it will be negative in the short-term.

If you are asked to recommend a great ORM tool, which one would that be and why?

ORM is different than SEO in that there are far less tools. If you would have asked me about SEO, I could have given you an endless list. However, with ORM, we’ve had to build our own for specific use cases. We built a Wikipedia edit monitor to watch our clients pages for updates. We built this complaint search tool to quickly find complaints about a company across the plethora of complaint sites. We built a tool that tracks the search results for brand terms (all 10 pages of search results) on a weekly basis so we can see how positive and negative content move up and down. We built a tool to monitor Yelp reviews and the Yelp filter. Unfortunately my favorite ORM tools are home grown, but you can use IFTTT to create some intersting ORM tools for yourself.

DIY ORM vs ORM process handled by professionals – what are the key differences?

The key difference is experience. There are a lot of resources out there, including our own, to get you started in the right direction. However, it can take a while to really get a good plan figured out and executed on, and someone just starting out will make mistakes along the way. If you are in a crisis and/or there is an ORM issue that could have a dramatic impact on your business, it makes sense to work with a professional.

Can you briefly explain the ORM process followed at your company, GoFishDigital?

Each issues is unique, so while we have a general workflow and a toolkit of strategies, every project ends up looking a little bit different. We start by really understanding the issue and how it has impacted the person/brand online. We spend a lot of time early to really understand the lay of the land in detail. Once we have that knowledge, we work together as a team to figure out which strategies make the most sense for solving the problem and how we’ll monitor, track, and report on that. Then, we roll up our sleeves and get to work.

Can you let us know one ORM tactic that is effective but less popular or underused?

I would say a tactic that is underused, but is very helpful, is to be very proactive in creating positive content, that you control, around your brand. For example, create a Crunchbase page and fill it in with as much detail as possible. Contact one of your vendors and ask if you can write a profile about your company to post on their website (about how you use their tools – here is an example we did with one of our vendors). Build strong social presensces on each channel. These are all things that help you build a ‘wall’ of content that can help prevent anything negative from ranking for your brand name. If you do this early, before there is negative content, it takes away a lot of the stress that comes with negative content ranking highly for your brand name.

What’s your take on paid reviews ( written by bloggers ) ? Are they really effective?

They are effective, but you just have to be careful. There are strict guidelines around FCC requirements for authors disclosing that they are being paid for a review. If that is done, and this is an ORM issue, you might get called out. If you go this route, just proceed with caution and follow the regulations.

How do you deal with negative Google instant suggestions like scams, fraud etc.? Is there a way to make these suggestions disappear?

This used to be something we did a lot of, particularly because ‘ripoff’ and ‘scam’ were a lot more prevelant in Autocomplete. It was almost solely based on search volume, so if we increased search volume through microtask networks, we could change the words. Now, Google factors in content a lot more heavily. As such, there are less instances of scam and ripoff in Autocomplete, but they do exist. If they do for your company, spend time making sure that you know what set of words you want to push above it. This autocomplete tool can help. Then, make sure you reinforce those keywords across all of your website content, social profiles, and any off-site content you create (such as interviews like this). You want to train Google to associate these words with your brand.

How do you measure the results of ORM efforts? Which are the KPIs?

The KPI vary. For instances where the search results are bad, it is all about how much you are able to push the negative content down. This can be a complex issue because of all of the SERP movement, so we created a sentiment score that quantifies this into a single number, which we can report on weekly and monthly. With Yelp, it is all about how much we can improve that star rating. With Wikipedia, it is about solving the issue that the client has identified. With Autocomplete, it is about pushing the negative terms out. If they have all of these issues, then it is all of these KPIs :)