6 minute read
Reputation management companies: What to look for, and avoid
Updated on January 25, 2021 by Reputation X
Not all online reputation management companies are the same. They have different strengths, weaknesses, and strategies. Here's a primer.
Online reputation management (ORM) companies offer a broad range of services: from monitoring their clients' names and brands online to helping them create new social media profiles. Some online reputation management companies also engage activities such as monitoring online discussions about their clients, and using SEO and Wikipedia editing to help clients control their search rankings.
But many "reputation management companies" aren't actually reputation companies at all - often they are really SEO companies or traditional PR companies that have added on a service that isn't their specialty. In our estimation, the majority of businesses that advertise this type of service is, in reality, a mass content generation operation, sometimes called "spammers" in the industry.
Choosing the right one is important, and well worth some research. Here is a list of the types of reputation management partners out there, as well as suggestions for picking the right one.
Offshore reputation mgmt. firms
The word "offshore" means different things to different people. Most online reputation management companies are based in countries like India and Pakistan, yet they seem to be located in the United States or Western Europe. In over ten years of online reputation management experience, we can say without a doubt that finding a reputation firm in the country your brand services is very important. If that is India or Pakistan or any other country, then you should use a firm based there. Why?
- You have better legal protection if companies are based in the US or EU.
- The people doing the work should be native to the culture for which the work is being done.
- They're awake at the same time you are.
- Some offshore firms tend to cut corners. Corners you wouldn't notice until it's too late.
For example, if you are an EU based firm whose primary language is French, you'll want to find a firm in Belgium or France to service your needs, perhaps even Eastern Canada.
That doesn't solve the problem of companies pretending to be native. One clue: If the price is really low, it isn't based in the US or Europe. Sometimes you have to do a bit of digging to find truly US-based companies, there aren't many.
"SEO" stands for Search Engine Optimization, these companies are not usually reputation agencies. What is the difference between SEO and ORM? It's like the difference between an engine and a car.
SEO vs. ORM? It's the difference between an engine and a car.
SEO is an activity engaged in by ORM companies along with many other tools and strategies that go together to make up the practice of reputation design and development.
SEO tends to focus on a single website, whereas ORM companies focus on many at one time. A good SEO company is great if you just need some help raising your website in search listings, but they’re not so good at providing reputation management services that include many psychological elements that make up a comprehensive reputation project.
Review management companies
Companies that specialize in review management are a good choice for local businesses that want to improve their online reviews. They don't usually engage in suppression, removal, protection, or related projects, but they’re helpfully forgetting that (profitable) bump on Yelp.
"Big" reputation companies
There are a handful of large, well-marketed reputation companies out there. As is the case in many industries though, bigger isn’t always better.
Big companies need to keep their margins high, so they rely heavily on automation. If you need to have your name, address, or other information removed from databases, they may have a software tool to help and are good choices. If you’re looking for more in-depth care though, you’re probably out of luck.
Most large companies sell "reputation packages," pre-fab plans that are intended to fit the needs of all brands. Unfortunately (and unsurprisingly), these rarely work for challenging reputation issues.
One-person reputation operations
Most reputation experts are of the "one-person-and-a-garage" variety. These are a great choice if you want to hire a dedicated reputation consultant to work with your existing in-house PR and SEO teams. But most projects take a village, and if your needs grow too large, chances are a one-person operation is going to farm their projects out to overseas firms.
Mid-sized firms are a balance between hand-crafted reputation practices where everyone knows your name, and large, automated firms. They offer the best of both worlds: the resources to deliver solutions and the ability to offer individualized attention. Of course, we're pretty biased on this one because we're one of these awesome, mid-sized firms.
Industry reputation specialists
Who better to help you than someone who specializes in your industry, right? Well, as it turns out, that’s not always an asset. For example, if you’re a car dealer, there are reputation firms that cater only to you. But you have to be careful—we know of a couple of automotive reputation firms that are the vendor of choice for major automobile dealerships but are actually low-end outfits that outsource to India with very low-quality results. Search for quality above specificity. If a reputation firm is great at what they do, it doesn’t matter what industry you’re in.
PR isn't reputation
The best choice for many businesses is usually to use an internal or external PR provider for public-facing issues and to let a reputation management specialty company like Reputation X manage the "behind the scenes" portion of the projects. Often known as a "Reputation PR" company, specialist PR agencies like this frequently use our white-label services to discreetly make the difference for their clients.
Finding a company you trust
No matter whom you choose to work with, your reputation management company should have firm, positive references and a shining online image (after all, that’s what they’re promising to do for you). Read reviews, ask around, and consult with multiple firms before making your decision. Choose wisely—hire the wrong firm and you could create a bigger mess to clean up.
Reputation company FAQs
What are the different types of reputation management firms?
Reputation management firms range in specialities and experience. The best online reputation companies execute every campaign differently because every company and individual is different. Some of the types of reputation management firms include: Automation-based reputation management, search engine optimization companies, public relations firms, and reputation PR.
What is the difference between ORM and SEO?
SEO is an activity engaged in by ORM companies along with many other tools and strategies that go together to make up the practice of reputation design and development. SEO tends to focus on a single website, whereas ORM companies focus on many at one time.
How do I choose the best reputation management firm for my project?
Read reviews, ask around, and consult with multiple firms before making your decision. Choose wisely—hire the wrong firm and you could create a bigger mess to clean up.