Bad press? This month's insurance agent marketing tactics will aid you in clearing your good name

These days, it seems that it's easier to get bad press than good press. Since everyone has access to social media and review sites like Yelp, Angie's List, Glassdoor and Ripoff Report, they can post anything they want to about you - and you can't stop them. Because it doesn't take many thumbs-down reviews to cause potential clients to pause and then choose someone else, we're dedicating our three monthly insurance agent marketing tactics to online reputation management.

1. Find what's being said about you

We disagree strongly with P.T. Barnum (of Barnum & Bailey's Circus) who said a hundred years ago, "There's no such thing as bad publicity." We don't think he'd agree with himself today, either. Bad publicity or reviews absolutely can hurt you. So step one is this: find out what your online reputation is.

Here's how.

  • Start with a Google search, since they're the largest search engine; then do the same using Bing and Yahoo. Just type your company's name or your own name in the search bar, and then look at every listing. Note any negative reviews and where those rank on the page: Are they higher or lower than your own website and social media listings? Take screenshots of pages 1 and 2 so that after you take steps to mitigate, you can see how you're doing. Next, type in common misspellings of your name and see if they lead to any references to you or your company.
  • Now go to such sites as Yelp, Angie's List, Kudzu, GetSatisfaction and Ripoff Report, adding your name and company name in the search function.
  • Next, check to see what's being said about you in social spaces - not just on your Facebook page, but elsewhere. There are a number of free or low-cost good social media monitoring tools out there that we've used in the past, such as Hootsuite, Klout and SocialMention.
  • Sign up for alerts using Google Alerts (which will alert you any time your search term - your name - shows up) and Klout (which also alerts you - but only to mentions on social media).

2. Address the issue

Read every complaint about you or your company. Respond to each, with an apology if appropriate, and explaining your side of the story. If the complaint was recent, ask that the conversation be taken off line so that you can ask additional questions to get to the bottom of the complaint. Once you've solved it, if they're happy, ask them to go back and post another comment. Otherwise, you can post an additional comment telling how you resolved the situation. If you uncover any particularly outlandish or vindictive reviews, contact the website, asking them to remove the post.

If you're not using social monitoring tools, be sure that you've set up your Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc. profiles to automatically notify you when someone posts on your page. As we've said before, this isn't a once-and-done tactic, but rather one that needs to be ongoing.

3. Now post lots of positive content

If you're reeling from a black eye, be sure to post lots of helpful content on your social media sites. Refrain from posting sales messages for a bit - instead, show how helpful, knowledgeable and thoughtful you are (remember, you're repairing your reputation). If you've created a Powerpoint presentation that might be helpful to others, let's say on losses and risk management, post your content on Slideshare, which is now owned by LinkedIn. Post the text of your presentation on LinkedIn Pulse. Create a press release about company news and send it out via such media PRNewswire, PR Web or Insurance Journal. Those aren't cheap, but they will garner you some good press, which is what Google wants to see, in order to rank your PR story above a bad review. Cyberalert.com has ranked other free press release websites that you can check out.

As you continue to monitor your progress, compare your screenshots of your original SERP (search engine results page) to the latest page. Be aware, though, that Google will serve you up content that they think you want to see, based on your search history. So it's best to pull up an incognito page when you search each time.

Also, warns in Chris Smith in "9 Key Points for Cleaning Up Your Online Reputation Nightmare Via SEO," be careful how you click. If you continue to search for your or your company name and then click on a negative listing, you're actually adding to that bad listing's ranking. Oops. Instead, just click through to that bad listing just once, copy the URL, and then navigate directly to that URL in the future, bypassing Google.

For more insurance agent marketing tactics, check our earlier posts: Digital Insurance Marketing Helps, Insurance Agency Marketing Tips on Branding and Facebook, and Nail 3 new marketing skills to grow your book of business.

Other resources:

How to clean up an online reputation, by Entrepreneur.com   

Top 10 tools for reputation marketing, also by Entrepreneur.com