Online reputation management services are increasingly common as more businesses get online and need to worry about their name. Hiring an expert to manage your businesses online reputation can be a great step to managing your reputation, but it can be challenging to select the right firm to manage your brand online. What should you look for when hiring an online reputation management service? Here are some basic guidelines.
Do some research into the business and determine how long they have been operating. If they are a brand new business they may be talented, but simply lack the skills that come with experience. If they are new to reputation management, what is their background? They may come from a solid background in a related field and be an excellent candidate, but you should do yourself the favor of finding out.
Take some time to look at other details of their history: What clients have they worked with? What industries? How big were their clients? Do they have recommendations? Were they engaged exclusively in reputation management or was it a side-thought in a bigger project?
Also take into account the size of their business and what their capacity is. A small shop can still provide excellent results, but if they are spread too thin their performance might suffer. Be wary of businesses that offer hundreds of different services, and lack the staff to back up their services.
Once you feel comfortable with their expertise, start by asking for recommendations from their clients. Website testimonials are too easy to fake, so go ahead and ask for a referral or a direct contact with a prior client. Ask them what they were happy about, and what they were dissatisfied with. Don’t grill them about every detail, but don’t be afraid to ask for some specifics and get their overall impression.
Also take some time to review the company’s online reputation. If they are offering reputation management services, but are suffering from a poor online reputation themselves, they are probably not a great candidate!
You can also request some statistics and actual numbers to understand what kind of results you expect. This can be hard to determine before getting deeply involved with a new company, but they should be able to provide some basic estimates and at a minimum they should be inquisitive and clear about what they need to know and what your expectations should be.
Before signing on to a contract, get a detailed proposal. Make sure that the proposal breaks down expectations, pricing, timeframe and other details. You should have a good understanding of what kind of costs you will incur, and specific terms of your agreement so that you have a “Plan B” in case things don’t go as you hoped.
What if things don’t go as you hoped they would? Most reputable companies will have some kind of guarantee. While you can’t always guarantee results in online reputation management and search marketing in general, there should be some kind of promise of due diligence and a process to handle cancellation of a project if results aren’t up to par.
Many of the steps for hiring a reputation management company are similar to hiring any other professional. Do your homework. Get to know the company. Understand the terms. But there are some unique variables when it comes to online reputation management, especially since it is a new and emerging market. A poorly managed reputation management project can also turn sour and actually hurt your reputation further, so always be very cautious of companies that over-promise, or guarantee unrealistic results. They are often just looking to close a deal, and haven’t really thought it through.