4 Ways to Protect Your Company's Online Reputation Give time and attention to your company's digital presence before a crisis hits.

By Dan Bova

Reputation Control Inc.

"Move fast and break things" is a philosophy that many entrepreneurs subscribe to. The idea being: don't wait until it's perfect; launch now and fix it later. For many aspects of business, this is a process that works. Glitches get fixed, tweaks are made, problems eventually get solved. But for your business's online reputation, the "fix it later" approach can result in disaster. Hersh Davis-Nitzberg, founder and CEO of crisis management firm Reputation Control Inc., says that entrepreneurs need to be proactive about managing their online reputation before irreversible damage is done. Here are four steps he recommends you take to protect and improve your business.

1. First, understand the anatomy of your online reputation.

"Your online brand is your entire digital footprint -- every news article, video interview, Facebook post, Yelp review, Instagram photo, or other information about you on the internet. While each piece of data influences your overall presence, those that appear on the first two pages of search engine results have the most significant impact. Research by Hubspot shows that 75% of users never scroll past the first page. Regularly Google searching your name can help you keep an inventory of the content you wish to showcase and the information you want to suppress.

Related: 10 Steps to Building an Impeccable Professional Reputation

In order to suppress unwanted data, a reputation management consultant designs a campaign to create positive content that is in line with the subject's brand. This resulting press and media are optimized to rank at the top of Google search results. Consequently, undesirable content is pushed out of focus, and a new reputation is nurtured."

2. You can't build a brand if you don't know who you are.

"Often, entrepreneurs want to nurture a positive online reputation, but they don't know where to begin. Powerful brand building isn't just about removing and suppressing harmful content -- it is about aligning your overall online image with your authentic brand. You cannot specify your brand without first determining your goals. Take the time to visualize your ideal online reputation. What are you trying to communicate? Who is your target audience? When your intention is clear, you can successfully create content that supports your voice and highlights your success."

Related: 7 Ways to Recover After a Reputation Crisis

3. It's easier to build a good reputation than fix a bad one.

"It's easy to ignore your online reputation when everything is going well. But when a crisis strikes, suddenly the information about you on the internet can determine how the media, clients, and even your personal relationships will react. An entrepreneur needs to be proactive. Be on top of your digital footprint before a crisis happens. If you lack an online presence or have a negative reputation, a crisis situation can become a top story. But, if you have established an authentic, positive, and robust reputation, the same event can be a blip on the radar. If something happens, take a step back and look at the big picture. There may not necessarily be a quick fix, but with a solid strategy, you can repair your brand. The biggest mistake you can make in a crisis is to respond without thinking. Quick reactions can turn a minor crisis into a disaster."

Related: 4 Mistakes You're Making That Can Jeopardize Your Reputation

4. Know your tools.

"As you develop a strategy to repair, build, or monitor your reputation, it is essential to understand the distinctions between different tools and management methods. Public Relations firms generally focus on publicity -- they aim to obtain general media coverage for you or your business. Press can be a powerful tool when sculpting a reputation, but without proper optimization, the press you receive from PR may not even show up in search results. Online Reputation Management (ORM) takes a different approach. ORM's objective is to ensure that all existing online content is consistent with your goals. After designing a campaign, Reputation Management firms often work with PR firms to create positive content or use a press team in house. Then, they use a variety of methods to make sure that the attained publicity consistently ranks on the first two pages of search results. Regardless of how you choose to manage your online presence, remember: authenticity is key. Think of your reputation as a portfolio book of your most outstanding work."

Dan Bova

Entrepreneur Staff

VP of Special Projects

Dan Bova is the VP of Special Projects at Entrepreneur.com. He previously worked at Jimmy Kimmel Live, Maxim and Spy magazine. Check out his latest humor books for kids, including Wendell the Werewolf, Road & Track Crew's Big & Fast Cars, and The Big Little Book of Awesome Stuff.

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