Many "reputation management companies" aren't actually reputation companies at all - often they are really SEO companies or traditional PR companies that have added on a service that isn't their specialty. In our estimation, the majority of businesses that advertise this type of service is, in reality, a mass content generation operation, sometimes called "spammers" in the industry.
Choosing the right one is important, and well worth some research. Here is a list of the types of reputation management partners out there, as well as suggestions for picking the right one.
The word "offshore" means different things to different people. Most online reputation management companies are based in countries like India and Pakistan, yet they seem to be located in the United States or Western Europe. In over ten years of online reputation management experience, we can say without a doubt that finding a reputation firm in the country your brand services is very important. If that is India or Pakistan or any other country, then you should use a firm based there. Why?
For example, if you are an EU based firm whose primary language is French, you'll want to find a firm in Belgium or France to service your needs, perhaps even Eastern Canada.
That doesn't solve the problem of companies pretending to be native. One clue: If the price is really low, it isn't based in the US or Europe. Sometimes you have to do a bit of digging to find truly US-based companies, there aren't many.
"SEO" stands for Search Engine Optimization, these companies are not usually reputation agencies. What is the difference between SEO and ORM? It's like the difference between an engine and a car.
SEO is an activity engaged in by ORM companies along with many other tools and strategies that go together to make up the practice of reputation design and development.
SEO tends to focus on a single website, whereas ORM companies focus on many at one time. A good SEO company is great if you just need some help raising your website in search listings, but they’re not so good at providing reputation management services that include many psychological elements that make up a comprehensive reputation project.
Companies that specialize in review management are a good choice for local businesses that want to improve their online reviews. They don't usually engage in suppression, removal, protection, or related projects, but they’re helpful for getting that (profitable) bump on Yelp.
There are a handful of large, well-marketed reputation companies out there. As is the case in many industries though, bigger isn’t always better. Big companies need to keep their margins high, so they rely heavily on automation. If you need to have your name, address, or other information removed from databases, they may have a software tool to help. If you’re looking for more in-depth care though, you’re probably out of luck. Most large companies sell "reputation packages," pre-fab plans that are intended to fit the needs of all brands. Unfortunately (and unsurprisingly), these rarely work.
Most reputation experts are of the one-person-and-a-garage variety. These are a great choice if you want to hire a dedicated reputation consultant, especially if they’re local and able to perform in-person services. But some projects take a village, and if your needs grow too large, chances are a one-person operation is going to farm their projects out to overseas firms.
Mid-sized firms are a balance between hand-crafted reputation practices where everyone knows your name, and large, automated firms. They offer the best of both worlds: the resources to deliver solutions and the ability to offer individualized attention. Of course, we're pretty biased on this one because we're one of these awesome, mid-sized firms.
Who better to help you than someone who specializes in your industry, right? Well, as it turns out, that’s not always an asset. For example, if you’re a car dealer, there are reputation firms that cater only to you. But you have to be careful—we know of a couple of automotive reputation firms that are the vendor of choice for major automobile dealerships but are actually low-end outfits that outsource to India with very low-quality results. Search for quality above specificity. If a reputation firm is great at what they do, it doesn’t matter what industry you’re in.
The best choice for many businesses is usually to use an internal or external PR provider for public-facing issues and to let a reputation management specialty company like Reputation X manage the "behind the scenes" portion of the projects. Often known as a "Reputation PR" company, specialist PR agencies like this frequently use our white-label services to discreetly make the difference for their clients.
No matter whom you choose to work with, your reputation management company should have firm, positive references and a shining online image (after all, that’s what they’re promising to do for you). Read reviews, ask around, and consult with multiple firms before making your decision. Choose wisely—hire the wrong firm and you could create a bigger mess to clean up.