Protecting Your Brand Online: Is The Truth Out There?

“Shirley” just went online to find a retirement community for her millionaire father, age 92. She even Googled your brand name. What came up first? Twenty YouTube videos by another adult child, gleefully pointing out deficiencies in your residences, your services and your care.

That’s actually happening. Your brand is vulnerable online, where you can’t control the message.

The Internet is the number 1 source for health and wellness information: 59% of consumers search there first. Today in America, every month, the search volume for senior living keywords equals 7,685,000 results.

How do they find your brand? Four ways:

  1. By its position in the search results. If you aren’t listed there, you might as well be located on the Titanic.
  2. By its brand description. When Shirley types in those keywords, your description is her first look at your community.
  3. By reviews from other consumers. And as we all know, people write more bad reviews than good ones. They’re more fun to write and more fun to read. People trust consumer reviews 12 times more than a company’s own description of its products and services.
  4. By news stories about your brand. Press releases rank well with search engines naturally.

In other words, people are online, looking for reasons to opt out of your message—and finding plenty of alternatives.

How can you protect, defend and enhance your brand?

First, through Search Engine Optimization. But, just as a Studebaker and a Jaguar are both cars, there’s SEO and then there’s SEO. Don’t assume that your message is optimized, just because it has the keywords. Look for SEO providers who can show you a methodology for achieving the numbers you need.

Second, through social media and social networking. Join the conversations where your consumers are engaged: in chat rooms discussing health care, retirement and elder care, for example.

Third, through public relations. Good press can drive your brand higher and higher in the results.

Fourth, through pay-per-click, ensuring the prime position you want.

Fifth, through directory listings—but you’d be astonished how often they’re rife with errors. Where are you listed—and how accurately?

You can sometimes get a news source to delete or update an old story.

When an unhappy customer or employee complains about you on the Internet, reach out to them by phone or email. They will often respond positively: According to Harris Interactive, businesses have turned 18% of detractors into loyal customers, simply by responding to negative reviews, and 67% of once-disgruntled customers will delete their reviews or post positive ones.

Suing a reviewer for defamation rarely works and often generates more negative attention than it’s worth.

“Shirley” is out there, and her dad is ready to sign an entrance fee check for your largest residence. He might even make a sizeable gift to your foundation, once he’s happily ensconced in your community.

But it all begins with a few keystrokes and a search engine. Are you feeling lucky? Or ready?