Online reputation management (“ORM”) is a relatively new field in public relations and marketing, but its importance cannot be overstated. In fact, many parties now make decisions based solely on information found online. For that reason, if negative information about your firm, company or practice is allowed to dominate search results or exist unchallenged, your business can suffer greatly. In response to this issue, strategies have risen to meet the challenge of maintaining a positive image online. Here we address some of the most frequently asked questions about ORM and how you can start building and protecting your online reputation:
What is Online Reputation Management?
ORM encompasses a wide variety of tactics aimed at establishing a favorable presence online. Responding to negative reviews found on lawyer review websites, requesting that inaccurate content be removed from websites and creating positive and accurate online content about your firm can all be considered ORM.
Why Does Online Reputation Management Matter for Lawyers?
Online searches can be conducted by many parties, such as clients, associates, partners, opposing counsel, staff, personal contacts and others. Online, negative references to you and your firm can scare off potential clients, sour business relationships, harm recruiting efforts and have a number of other negative effects on your practice. Moreover, negative information can live online long after the underlying issues have been resolved, and this information can become lodged at the top of search results. This can cause ongoing damage to your firm or company and your professional reputation.
How Can a Lawyer Start Online Reputation Management?
The best place to start is with online outlets that are under your control. Ensure that your own website and/or company profile page are accurate and optimized for search engines, so that they have a chance to climb to the top of the search results. Other outlets like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter are also important. Create simple profiles and ensure that they are accurate. Beyond that, the more active you are in publishing articles online, speaking at professional events and networking online, the better. The benefit of all this activity is to create accurate and positive mentions of your company that will appear in search results, addressing any negative comments and creating a more accurate representation of your law firm.
How Do I Spot Negative Information?
Negative information is found primarily through searches for your name or your company/firm name. After your initial searches are done, be sure to set up a few notifications on Google Alerts that will let you know when new information about you or your law firm is published online, or at least shows up on Google Search Results. It is also a good idea to independently check any websites that allow for reviews or comments about you or your law firm, for example Yelp or Martindale.
If you do not find any negative information — great! Continue building your positive (and accurate) reputation online, and you will have a healthy lead on any future issues that may arise.
If you do find negative information, however, you have a few options:
- If you come across a negative review, reach out to the reviewer (if appropriate) and attempt to resolve the issue. If the issue cannot be resolved, leave an unemotional and accurate response so that readers can understand both sides of the story.
- If inaccurate information is posted about you, reach out to the webmaster of the website in question and request that the information be removed.
- If you come across accurate, but negative information and it is something that cannot be removed, it may be appropriate to address it in one of the outlets you control, or to simply let it stand. In this case, your best defense may be the continued creation of positive content surrounding your firm in the hopes of pushing negative results down the page.
As you can see, online reputation management is not just for lawyers that have problems to manage, but for all lawyers that want to establish a favorable image online. Remember, even outright falsehoods can quickly show up in search results, taint your reputation and be quite persistent when you attempt to remove them. For that reason, proactive ORM is a bit like insurance and should become a part of any lawyer’s regular PR and marketing strategy.