A business’s brand and image are invaluable assets in today’s connected, digital world. But how do you quantify whether your brand reputation is in good or bad shape? Conducting a reputation audit is not only the best way to know if you have a positive reputation or not, it can also help you take steps to improve it. 

💡 Read Brand Reputation 101: Monitoring, Analysis, and Management Tools

In short, reputation auditing is a comprehensive health check of your brand – especially your online and social media presence. It allows you to engage in online reputation management by mitigating reputation risk from customer reviews, and negative content on your website and other platforms. 

Let’s look at why a reputation audit can benefit your business in more detail.

5 Strategies You Should Use to Repair Online Reputation

What Is a Reputation Audit?

A reputation audit is the process of finding out what consumers really think of your brand, how your brand sits in the marketplace, how it stands up against competition, and what the brand’s strengths and weaknesses are. In essence, it’s a SWOT analysis of your brand’s reputation.

This means a deep dive into your business’s social media profiles, how your brand shows up on search engines, and what people are saying about your brand in online reviews. It also means revealing how your content and online platforms connect and communicate with your target audience.

The Importance of a Reputation Audit

The importance of conducting a reputation audit is clear if you look at the image below. As you can see, ratings and reviews come second only in importance to quality goods and services. 

While positive reviews from satisfied customers are what any brand desires, in reality no business or brand can hope to achieve zero negative reviews

However, a reputation audit can reveal if you have a small number of disgruntled customers or the beginnings of a bad reputation. This vital information can help steer your marketing strategy, and inspire an action plan to better appeal to and please potential customers.

Elements of reputation
Source: Zippia

7 Steps to Conducting a Reputation Audit 

Knowing how your brand is perceived and valued is an essential brand principle, and carrying out an effective reputation audit is the most practical way of gaining this information. 

While there is no one way of conducting a reputation audit, there are several steps you can take to carry out an effective and comprehensive reputation audit for your brand. Let’s take a look at seven of them below.

Step 1: Define Your Goals and Objectives

Chances are you and your team already have an inkling of your brand’s potential issues and weak points. Maybe customers have complained about unsustainable materials used in your packaging and it’s leading to customer churn. Or perhaps your team is slow to respond to social media messages and it’s impacting customer satisfaction levels. 

These areas give you a legitimate place to start – there will most likely be evidential reasons you want to check your social media presence, online reviews, online shop, or marketing campaigns.

It won’t be possible to tackle every aspect of how your brand comes across to target audiences, so prioritize and set parameters for your audit. It’s also vital to ensure that your audit objectives are measurable.

For example, let’s say your objective is to compare your brand’s social media reputation against competitors. To measure this, you might use social listening tools during the audit to identify the number of social media mentions about your brand over a six-month period compared to your main competitors.

Step 2: Know Your Target Audience

Next, decide who exactly it is you want to reach online. In other words, who are you trying to strengthen your brand image with? Knowing your consumers and what they want is vital in focusing your efforts on pleasing them. 

If you look at the image below, you’ll see how important the opinion of your consumers is, and more to the point, how much consumers demand of brands. Gone are the days when just having a good product was enough. Now consumers want ethical concerns met, greater personalization, and to see brands support causes they care about.

A good way to establish who your target audience is, is to start by asking yourself questions.

For example:

  • What demographic are you aiming your products at? 
  • What are their interests/hobbies/jobs/interests? 
  • Are these the same people that your competitors are aiming their products at?
  • How are your competitors trying to appeal to them?
  • How do your competitors’ brand presence compare with yours?
  • Which online platforms do your audience prefer?
  • How present is your brand on these platforms?
  • How present are your competitors?

Of course there are many more questions that you might want to ask to get a picture of your target audience, in relation to how your brand comes across to them. 

Source: FinancesOnline

But why does this matter? Different audiences have different concerns and so will interact with your brand differently. Your audit should take this into account. 

For example, let’s say you manage a start-up selling 3D printed health supplements. You might be targeting customers aged 18-40 with an interest in wellness and sustainability. But chances are you also want to target potential investors and partners who can help scale your business. 

Your audit should analyze perceptions of each stakeholder group as this collective feedback will offer valuable insights that could determine what direction you take in the future.

Step 3: Assess branding

This step is really where the brand audit takes shape. It means making a thorough assessment of all assets and branding that might impact reputation.

In any organization, there are internal and external assets. In the same way you might store important business data on a PBX cloud rather than on-site, not all of your brand’s assets are internal to the business.

Internal branding is important, but it has less impact on your reputation in the wider world. It consists of internal signage, newsletters, and the design of offices and workplaces. 

External branding, on the other hand, is an asset that impacts reputation in a major way. 

Examples of external branding include your logo, website, advertising, and social media pages.

But external branding doesn’t just cover tangible, visible things like logos – it also covers experiences and interactions. For example, it encompasses customer support and the customer journey and experience. 

External branding extends to brand perception in the minds of customers, and this is especially true when it comes to online assets such as social media. Looking at social media reveals important insights into how consumers feel about your brand. Be sure to also look at any mentions of your business in blogs, vlogs, and articles.

This step might sound overwhelming, particularly if you’re a large business, have a strong online presence, or have been operating for some time. Even if you’re a small business, it’s likely there will be mentions of your brand spread far and wide. 

Use a media monitoring tool like Determ to dig deeper. AI-powered platforms like this automatically monitor and analyze social media and online mentions for you. So if you were worried about plowing resources into manually doing this, it’ll put your mind at ease.

Brand reputation and sentiment analysis dashboard in Determ
Sentiment analysis dashboard in Determ

Step 4: Look for gaps in data

Looking at external branding and assets will generate useful data. But inevitably there will be gaps in your gathered data, and what it will be able to tell you.

There are ways to give a more complete picture, and sources you should utilize to fill any gaps.

For example, you might use customer surveys or focus groups to gather further customer insights. These are valuable as they can provide more detailed information about how the brand is perceived.

But there is another way, closer to home, to reveal insights into how the brand’s reputation is faring. Your staff and business partners, if interviewed, may be able to give useful information, based on their impression of the business and also the feedback they get from consumers directly. 

Which of these data collection methods has your organization used in the past 12 months_
PR Statistics; source: Determ

Step 5: Assess content for quality, visibility, and engagement

The content you share online is an important element of successful branding. The quality of this content is key in getting audiences engaged and gaining new followers. What you post either on your website or social media should be a natural expression of your brand’s personality, style, and values.

Make sure all content is relevant and useful to your target consumers as well as being engaging and interesting. Good content enhances a brand’s reputation, so during your audit, check this is the case. 

  • Are your blog posts genuinely relevant to your target audience or did you write them just to target keywords? 
  • Do your social media posts actually inform or entertain followers or are they purely promotional? 
  • Are your emails engaging and useful or do subscribers consider them spam?

It’s also crucial to measure search engine visibility. Are you using the right kind of domain for the geographical locations you want to reach? For example, if you are a tech company, could you look into what is a .IO Domain

It’s also valuable to check SEO (search engine optimization) to improve your online visibility and find out which keywords are being used to find your business. But as we mentioned, any SEO content should still be valuable for readers. Done correctly, this can help your brand build trust and authority with potential customers, boosting your reputation in the process.

Step 6: Analyze findings and results

A reputation audit is a big undertaking and can generate a massive quantity of data. It will take time to properly analyze, digest, and make sense of the information you have collected. 

Conventional spreadsheets don’t quite cut it – unless you want to spend weeks sifting through everything. Find a data analysis and reporting solution like Determ that will streamline this process. These tools automatically filter and analyze data from online media so you can save significant time creating customized reports.

This also makes it easier to present and discuss your findings with colleagues. Get their input on what the data means, as they can help build up a picture of where exactly you stand in terms of brand reputation.

It can be valuable to ask questions in order to thoroughly interrogate the collected data. These could include the following:

  • What strengths and weaknesses have you uncovered?
  • Where are the main threats coming from? (Bad reviews? Negative vlogs? Lack of visibility?)
  • What patterns have you seen?
  • What matters to your target audience? What matters to your business? (Do these things match?)
  • Where are you most visible? Are you on the right platforms?

Systematically going through the data and reaching conclusions will enable you to move on to the next step. 

Step 7: Create an improvement plan

Finally, the whole purpose of an audit is to provide the information you need to create an action plan for reputation improvement. Use the insights you’ve gained to set out concrete steps to elevate your brand reputation. 

Create a list of recommendations, such as exploring new markets, revamping website content, or engaging influencers and brand advocates. 

An improvement plan should also include a timescale and measurable targets, so that progress can be calculated and demonstrated.

Public Relations PR Plan template

Going back to our original objective, it may be that your audit showed your competitors have a much stronger reputation on Instagram than you do. They share fun Reels and do monthly Live Q&As, post interactive content, and reply to comments within minutes. 

To compete with them, you might use the results of your audit to tweak your marketing strategy. New tactics might include: 

  • Collaborating with two influencers each month with a goal of gaining 100 quality followers
  • Posting more consistently by sharing content 3 times a week on specific topics relevant to your audience’s interests
  • Assigning a team member to community manage the platform to guarantee message response times are under 30 minutes.

Conclusion

Conducting a reputation audit for improving your brand’s image is a serious but valuable undertaking. To be truly beneficial to your business, you should take a targeted and planned approach. 

You should focus on where you think your brand is potentially weakest, and gather as much information as possible. This will equip you to make the necessary changes to turn your brand’s flaws into its strengths.

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