Hiring an Online Reputation Management Expert? What to Look For.

Excellent_ReputationAs our online world gets more and more complicated and challenging to navigate, online reputation management experts and consultants are becoming more and more common. A business confronted with reputation damaging issues may find that hiring an expert can be the best solution. As with any time you put your company’s work in the hands of an outsider, caution and due diligence are very much in order. Follow some simple, but critical, steps to help assure you get what you are looking for and what you, and your reputation, need.

  1. Do They Have the Reputation Management Experience You Need?
    Carefully check the consultants’ level of experience in online reputation management (not just internet experience). Evaluate how many years they have been in business – one year, five years? The experienced practitioners may do a better job, but may cost more. If they are new, what did they do before that qualifies them to handle your reputation (hint: public relations is a good background for image managers)? Also, a less experienced person with a good background may cost you a bit less, but may require more involvement from you – your time.
    Also look at what types of jobs they’ve done in the past. How big – or small – were their reputation repair clients, and how many are still with them as ongoing clients? What did they have to accomplish for these prior clients? How much of their past projects were simple Search Engine Reputation Management, and how much used newer methods like social media?
  2. How Much Time Would Be Yours? Do they have the staff? If not, how many hours can the expert devote to your needs? This relates to how quickly your company reputation and business reputation can be brought up to where you need them. And would they provide online reputation management tips to help you avoid problems in the future?
  3. Be from Missouri: “Show Me!”
    Always get and check recommendations and referrals. As you would when hiring any other worker, staff or freelance, talk directly to the company’s clients, current and past. Print or video testimonials won’t do – you MUST talk to people directly to find out what those clients liked and what they didn’t like – there are always negatives to go with the positives. Make sure those negatives are not deal breakers for your business – they may have been OK in another industry, but in yours, they may hurt a lot. So judge, yourself, how well you feel that this person would handle YOUR reputation – the only one that counts.
    Look at the service’s own online reputation. If they haven’t done a good job promoting themselves on the web, how can they possibly do it for you?
    Find out the time it took for the expert or company you are considering to get their prior clients’ reputations restored. Depending the problems the other clients had, this can give you an idea of the level of difficulty they can handle.
  4. Always Get it in Writing
    Before hiring anyone, but especially someone so critical to your business, require a detailed, written Online Reputation Management proposal. Your expert should outline how they plan to manage or repair your reputation, and how long they estimate it will take… and how much is should cost. Whether it’s a flat charge for internet reputation repair to fix one incident, or and hourly charge for ongoing online reputation monitoring, you must know what to expect so you can budget accordingly.
  5. Get a Guarantee!
    What happens if it doesn’t work? What do they guarantee in terms of rankings and time frame? What if they don’t achieve those results? Do you get your money back? If not, how will they make it right? Lesson here, don’t pay the full projected cost up front – retain partial payment so you retain control.

As it is your reputation and you company’s reputation on the line, when you are hiring a reputation management expert, use the same care you do when hiring any other professional consultant or service… only more so. Inexperienced consultants often cause more harm than good – so carefully research and thoroughly check the individual or company. It’s the only way you can know what you should get for your money – and make sure your reputation gets back where it should be.

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