I’ve recently encountered an ecommerce client with a severe brand and reputation management issue. Their situation is hardly unique, so in the interest of moz-like information sharing, I’d like to cover their scenario in case it can help some of you who manage ecommerce companies/clients.
For the sake of client privacy, we’ll call this client, “Flamingo Crossing.” Flamingo Crossing sells a high-end product to the posh VPs and real estate agent types who relish living in the lap of luxury. Flamingo Crossing not only sells their product through an ecommerce store, it also sells through a list of approved vendors. Now comes the problem(s).
There are dozens of non-approved vendors selling Flamingo Crossing’s product. They are using the company name “Flamingo Crossing” in their PPC ads, matching old or incorrect logos/images with the product, selling stolen product, reselling product without permission, etc. On top of these issues, even the approved vendors are not adhering to a consistent branding theme, thus diluting the potency of the Flamingo Crossing brand.
This is where the reputation manager enters into the equation. With several hundred approved vendors to review and potential thousands of non-approved vendors to deal with, Flamingo Crossing needs someone to monitor their branded names and products in hopes of serving these offenders with cease and desist letters from their legal department.
This project revolves more around brand management, but rolls over into reputation management as these inappropriate vendors may generate negative reactions from the consumer. So we have a multi-tiered problem to deal with, and a client that is VERY motivated to make things happen. Let’s look at the basic outline of this project:
We have already established that the primary goal here is to locate vendors selling the brand or the product. We also want to inform the client of negative statements made against their brand so that they may both generate responses and follow the trail to possible misuses of their brand names.
We begin by requesting a comprehensive list of identifiable terms, including SKUs (SKUs optional, based on scope of approved project). We take that list of terms and run it through our keyword analysis tools just to make sure there aren’t similar words and phrases that could lead us to our targets.
Monitor Tool Setup
We set up several monitoring tools to begin scouring the Web for information regarding our targets. We don’t implicitly trust any one tool at this point to provide comprehensive information, so we use each client as a case study for comparing the tools and how they perform.
Perhaps the most lengthy part of the ongoing project. We take all the URLs that lead to mentions of our target keywords and review each instance not stemming from a website owned by the client for possible negative statements or misuse / abuse of intellectual property. We compile a list of pages on the Web to be addressed along with comments about each.
In addition to compiling a list of troubling mentions / instances, we deliver to the client comprehensive reporting on the overall status of brand mentions, the proliferation or lack thereof of negative mentions / brand abuse, and deliver recommendations for how to appropriately deal with visible or forseeable top level issues that could spread.
This includes both the daily and the top level strategic responses that should be made to stave off the PR slide that can come from negative press online. The reputation manager distributes cease and desist letters to brand abusers (NOT an action taken for standard reputation issues) and assists the client with implementing approved measures to counter balance the negative statements already made. This is also the time for proactive PR and marketing initiatives to stave off potential future crises.
In the end, the client is responsible for legal actions taken, and the reputation manager is not in any way responsible for discussing legal terms with brand abusers or illegitimate vendors. When not directly responsible for the creation of ORM responses, the reputation manager is charged primarily with the task of locating the problems, accurately assessing the atmosphere surrounding each issue, and ensuring a timely response to crises, questions, complaints, and negative statements so that further damage to the company name is avoided.