Today's law firms have to think about reputation in more than one way. Offline reputation, like how you're viewed in your community, is still important. More and more, so is managing your online reputation. If you want to manage your online reputation but aren't sure how, you could use a few pointers. Here are 8 tips to get you on the right track today and help you avoid some of the mistakes that can wreck a firm's reputation for good.
Tip #1: Conduct Yourself Appropriately—Online And Off
It may seem obvious, but the best way to start managing your online reputation is to make sure you're conducting yourself in a way that makes a good reputation deserved. If you're skating by with barely ethical practices and aren't particularly concerned with whether you're getting repeat business, you're setting yourself up for a major reputation failure.
On the other hand, if your firm is full of attorneys who are already working hard to maintain a highly visible and positive reputation in their communities, you'll have a much easier time managing your online reputation. Your offline reputation definitely casts a light or a shadow on your online reputation, so make sure yours looks bright.
Tip #2: Monitor Your Online Reputation Consistently
If you're not checking to see what people are saying about you, you won't have much success managing your reputation online. You can't know what to say in response unless you're taking a close look at what people are saying and where negative and positive thoughts are coming from.
You should consider having an online reputation firm help you with managing your reputation online if you're not able to devote time and energy to it. This has become such an important part of how people view your law firm that it no longer makes good business sense to keep out of online reputation management.
Tip #3: Be Honest With Yourself And Others
You know that your law firm isn't perfect. Part of managing your online reputation will be understanding what your law firm's true strengths and weaknesses are, and being able to portray the firm in a favorable light given both. Don't try to be something that you're not, and if there's a problem with the culture at your law firm, don't think that managing your online reputation means you can just deny those issues. You'll be much more successful at managing your online reputation when you're willing to change your company's habits in response to feedback.
Tip #4: Work to Remove False Reviews
Even if you've done a good job managing your online reputation, it's always possible that an unethical competitor will try to smear your hard-won rep. That's when you need to take decisive action quickly. If you see a negative review about your law firm that doesn't seem to be grounded in reality, you should notify the website where the review was posted.
Most of these websites have procedures for identifying and removing reviews that do not meet content standards or are created by competitors to slander a business. However, you often have to do the work of notifying them of these reviews, so you may want to check these websites as much as once a day to be diligent about managing your online reputation.
Tip #5: Solicit Positive Reviews From Satisfied Clients
In addition to abolishing the false and bad reviews, you should also solicit their opposite—true excellent reviews from the people you know you've made happiest at your firm. These clients are often glad to talk about their experiences with your firm if you ask them to review your firm on a reviews website.
Positive reviews tend to be worth more to people if they include at least some small amount of criticism—reviews that are too positive tend to be met with more skepticism. Keep checking review sites to see if this method of managing your online reputation is generating new reviews consistently.
Tip #6: Don't Make a Bad Situation Worse
Unfortunately, a lot of law firms get this one wrong. If you're caught up in some sort of mistake, faux pas, or just a moment you'd rather forget, don't defend your actions. You'll have much better luck managing your online reputation if you apologize for mistakes right away instead of waiting for days—days that can lead to pressure heating up and a tempest in a teapot. Delete things that offend people and move on.
Tip #7: The Internet Has a Short Memory
Remember that no matter how bad a week you're having at managing your online reputation, this, too, shall pass. As long as you do some damage control, even if your law firm gets a negative mention on a major blog like Above the Law, you can salvage your reputation and you'll see the internet denizens move on quickly to a new target. The worst thing you can do is continue to rise to the bait. Managing your online reputation sometimes means knowing when keeping your mouth shut is the only way to let things move on.
Tip #8: Never Make the Same Mistake Twice
This is one of the biggest keys to managing your online reputation. If you make a particular mistake once, most people won't hold it against you for long. However, if you make the same kind of mistake twice, it starts to look much worse for your company. You'll have a very hard time managing your online reputation, for example, if you have a tendency to write rude or sarcastic replies to people who criticize you.
Keep in mind that managing your online reputation is an ongoing process, not something you do all at once. Mistakes and setbacks are bound to occur, but as long as you learn from each one, you'll get better with each successive effort.