Most of us associate “reputation management” with the idea of hiring someone to do public relations (“PR”) when some type of crisis has negatively affected a firm’s public image. However, the field has evolved considerably since the Internet has taken over. Now, we have “reputation marketing,” a kind of hybrid between old school “reputation management” and new school “brand marketing” (aka “branding”). Nowadays, consumers of services hold a lot of power. There are no shortage of websites and apps where they can quickly and easily post reviews of lawyers and law firms. In this climate, “reputation marketing” means managing all of your online feedback as a way of attracting new clients.
This is not really a new strategy. For decades, many law firms have leveraged their success upon “word of mouth” recommendations. The current climate is just like word of mouth on steroids. A 2012 Neilson study found that 70 percent of all consumers trust customer reviews that they read online (up 15 percent from 2008), second only to personal “word of mouth” reviews. Consumers trust other consumers—even more than they trust what your firm has to say about itself on its webpage.
So what can you do to manage your online reputation? First, you need to actually monitor online reviews on a regular basis. Set up a Google alert for your law firm’s name. Routinely check other platforms such as Yelp, Avvo.com, Glassdoor, Martindale-Hubbell, Yelp, Google Business, Customer Lobby, and Yahoo. Ideally you should be checking at least the major sites for reviews every single day. Never let more than a week lapse without checking any site where your firm may be reviewed. This is because the only way to really turn around a negative review is by responding promptly to consumer concerns. By engaging unhappy clients with constructive feedback, you show potential customers that you care about what they have to say and making things right.
Due to a phenomenon called “negativity bias,” a person who had a bad experience with your firm is much more likely to leave a negative review than the person who had a great experience with your firm is likely to leave a positive one. To encourage positive reviews, create an area on your website where clients can review your firm, make sure that it is very easy to use, and send reminders to your clients.
If you do happen to get a bad review, listen. Maybe it is a problem that can be easily fixed, such as an unfriendly receptionist. By listening to negative feedback and changing your ways, you will be more likely to garner positive reviews in the future. Consistently providing good service is always the best way to garner consistently positive good reviews.