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Branding & PR, Contributed

How to Conduct Reputation Audits

January 10, 2020

On top of ensuring a company is performing well in its industry, reputation audits also help businesses better communicate with their customers, stakeholders, and internal team. To gain a better understanding of a brand, these steps are crucial and easy to do.

How were your last quarter sales? Is your competition outearning your business?

There is a golden formula in brand marketing: “Brand equity and online sales are directly proportional."

However, most brands do a poor job proactively monitoring the online reputation. Most brands do not even have a reputation monitoring framework or a well-defined process to manage online negative PR nightmares. 

Angry customers can tend to react in a variety of ways, ranging from personal disappointment to let down expectations.

For example, in bad reviews of shoes, customers complain that the shoe isn't waterproof as advertised and that the product looked different from its photos.

When customers react to your product in this way and leave reviews of this style, it’s important to respond. This brand didn’t address the negative comments making it a lousy reputation management strategy.

Why You Need to Conduct a Brand Reputation Audit

The purpose of a brand reputation audit is to understand how your target market sees and understands your brand. It can also shed light on potential problems. 

Overall, a brand reputation audit helps with several crucial tasks for any business.

Understand Your Business’ Positioning

Brand reputation audits help brand managers understand how the brand is positioned in the market. The actions for improvement or course correction need to be based on the reputation audit data. 

If you’re a brand manager and don’t have data about how you stack up against the competition - your competition will have a home run. 

Identify Strengths and Weaknesses

Every brand has flaws in its online reputation management strategy. An audit can help brand managers find the strengths and weaknesses of competitors' reputation monitoring strategy.  

Locate Problems in Your Strategies

If you are selling a product online and there is a sudden decline in sales – often the problem can be found in the product reviews section. 

I worked with an electronics manufacturer who saw a massive drop in sales. By the time they found the reason- the sales loss was huge. 

One batch of their wireless headsets had a faulty battery; people took their disappointment to the comment section of the product page and damaged their reputation. A proactive reputation monitoring plan could have prevented this. 

Brand managers should be equipped with monitoring tools to find these problems proactively. 

Evaluate Distribution and Delivery Partners

The performance of distribution and delivery partners play a crucial role in customer satisfaction. You can identify what customers think about your distribution and delivery partners by analyzing reviews. 

Speak to Your Customer’s Expectations

Speaking about the latest processor to an accountant who is purchasing a computer doesn’t make sense since that isn’t their area of expertise. 

Customers only care about how their problems are being solved. Customers have a perception of brands, so you have to meet their expectations. Talking in their language is one of those expectations. 

Speak to your customers in their language and terms – this is a golden rule of copywriting. Understanding what customers expect and comparing it with what you offer can provide amazing insights

I've seen a lot of brands changing their marketing message and product description after a brand reputation audit. 

Respond to Negative Reviews Early

Negative comments are a PR nightmare for online brands. It could be a natural response to a problem with the product/distribution or some competitor might be attacking you. 

As Winston Churchill put it: "A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on."  

Constant reputation monitoring can help find potential PR issues early on and tackle them proactively, providing a response to a real concern.

Constant reputation monitoring can help find potential PR issues early on and tackle them proactively, providing a response to a real concern.
Source

By addressing concerns, providing solutions, and apologizing for mistakes in your response, you’re improving the way negative press is seen online. 

How to Monitor Your Business’ Reputation

Let’s go over how to build a simple online reputation monitoring framework for your business.  

1. Define Your Competition

The first step in building an online reputation framework is defining your competition. Reputation monitoring initiatives start with usually three competing brands. 

Once they develop a scalable and repeatable process - brand managers can add more competitors and scale their efforts. 

Assume you are the brand manager of Adidas sports shoes. Your competition could be with three brands listed below.  

  1. Nike
  2. PUMA
  3. Sketchers

Listing out your competitors and knowing who compares to your business is a helpful step in starting this audit. 

Note: We will use the brands listed above throughout for demonstration purposes. 

2. Define the Sales Channels

The second step is to define the sales channels. Let’s use the Adidas example for reference. Shoe brands will be selling products via multiple channels like Amazon, Walmart, and their own website. 

You need to define your top two sales channels. The best practice is to use top-performing chains such as Amazon or Walmart, which will have a sufficient number of reviews. 

3. Extract the Data 

The third step of the process is to collect data. There are multiple ways to get the data, such as web scraping yourself or sourcing it from a data vendor. 

Make sure that the review data is extracted frequently, and the extraction and analysis are automated. 

4. Analyze the Data

The widely used method of finding out your reputation is by monitoring the sentiment of the review data. Using a tool such as MonkeyLearn- you can classify reviews into positive, negative and neutral. 

The scope of sentiment analysis is not limited to opinion finding; it can extract attributes of the opinion such as

  • Polarity: if the speaker expresses a positive, negative or a neutral opinion
  • Subject: the subject that is being discussed
  • Intent: Intent analysis sheds light into context and motivation for a review

Identifying and understanding these elements of the data will help you figure out what the data means for your business. 

5. Monitor and Benchmark Reputation Scores

Based on the insights from your analysis – you need to benchmark your reputation scores against competing products. 

You should extract new reviews every day, perform the analysis and apply course corrections. A visualization tool like Tableau would be a great way to see how your course corrections are performing. 

Why Automated Reputation Analysis Is the Best Choice 

There can be thousands of reviews to analyze every day, week, or month, so automating the process could be a huge time saver and make your efforts efficient in various ways. 

Scalability

Imagine manually evaluating thousands of customer reviews to identify brand reputation problems. There is just too much data and too little time which humans can't handle. 

An automated reputation audit using sentiment analysis can process data in a more scalable way. 

Speed

As a brand manager – you want to understand what is happening with the brand reputation before it becomes a PR nightmare. Getting these results in a speedy fashion is critical. 

Machines and automated processes can do this faster than humans, making it a better option for getting information quickly. 

Consistency

Humans tend to be biased; machines are not. Using a sentiment analysis system, brand managers can apply the same criteria to all of their data at a larger scale, improving data consistency.

Start Auditing Your Business’ Reputation

People love maintaining the status quo, so taking the first step in auditing your business is always the hardest. 

As a salesperson, my job is to influence people to take that first step.  If you don’t, your competition will and catching up later won’t be easy. 

Hesitation to take the first step damaged a lot of consumer brands who, at one time, were the crown jewels of their industries.

Data-driven brands are turning data into profits and you can do it too. Start with a simple brand reputation monitoring approach.