First impressions matter.  That’s why we dress the way we do when we meet with a client, go on a blind date, or go on an interview.  We know that how we are first perceived will influence how someone interacts to us.  That’s why it’s astounding that so many healthcare professionals don’t have a strategy to protect their online image, a practice commonly known as reputation management.

Let’s face it, prospective patients, clients and business partners are all doing a Google search for you before you meet.  Patients want to see the reputation of a facility before they call.  They want to know what the place looks like, who they are meeting with, and the experiences that other people have had.  That’s where reputation management comes in.

What is Reputation Management?

Basically, reputation management, specifically online reputation management as we address it here, is how you control what people see regarding yourself or your company online.  You are managing the image of your brand.  It’s often split into two different pieces – proactive reputation management and reactive reputation management.  Proactive reputation management typically deals with creating a positive image before there is ever an issue.  This way people see you positively and if there ever is an issue, which is bound to happen to everyone at some point, the positive far outweighs the negative.  Reactive reputation management deals with a response to an event whether it’s a bad review or a tense legal situation.  This actually used to be a big problem as part of an extortion scam which would put people’s mugshots online, until Google recently launched a fix.  It’s still a problem if you’ve been arrested, though, because of public arrest records and newspaper articles.  Nevertheless, whether it’s an arrest or a bad review, reactive reputation management can help improve your situation.

How Proactive Reputation Management Works

For proactive reputation management, the goal is preparation.  Even the best doctors have unhappy patients, regardless of whether or not it’s their fault.  Positive reputation management prepares for that unhappy patient, while simultaneously putting the best foot forward for new eyes.  Here are five major components of proactive reputation management:

  1. Claim and control of all local listings for doctors, key personnel, and your practice/company.  Make sure there is a system set up for monitoring reviews on all of these sites, even if it is just a bi-monthly manual review of all the listings to see what is new.  This also makes it much easier to respond to negative reviews if/when they ever come up.
  2. Control social media platforms and publish actively.  This helps these profiles to rank high in search results, allowing you to control most of the immediate content that people see regarding your brand.  You don’t have to claim every social media platform under the sun, but you want to make sure you get the big ones (Facebook, Twitter, Google+ LinkedIn, etc.).
  3. Create positive press.  Get involved in the community.  Talk about what key personnel are doing professionally as well as any type of volunteer work.  Pushing these topics out through your website and press release channels shows your company in a positive light and shows the quality and caliber of the professionals in your organization. People are more likely to overlook a bad experience with your business if they are aware of the positive impact you have on the community.
  4. Train Your Staff.   As simple as it sounds, this is massively important.  Many times a patient has a good experience with a doctor but an office staff member, whether it is in scheduling or front desk, makes it a miserable experience.  A negative review is the outcome and your reputation is hurt.  Don’t let that happen.  If you cannot train the staff yourself, hire someone to come in and do it (at Points Group, we do training like this all the time).  A well-trained staff creates a great impression for your practice.
  5. Create a plan for positive reviews.  94% of those surveyed said that “reputation of facility” is important in decision making.  Creating multiple positive reviews helps this significantly.  DO NOT create fake reviews.  Aside from being unethical, this will create huge headaches in the long haul.  Instead, create a plan designed to encourage patients to leave reviews of their experience online.  Do things like:
      • Have iPads in the lobby set up for customers to leave reviews
      • Send out a postcard the week following an appointment
      • Have QR codes handy to direct someone straight to review sites
      • Give multiple options so that customers can use the site that makes the most sense for them

    NOTE: The review site “Yelp,” a particularly important site because its reviews are synced with Apple Maps, does not allow reviews to be submitted from the physical location that is being reviewed. Partaking in this practice on this particular review site could result in a lawsuit.

Creating a strategy to control your online image before an incident occurs is crucial to your business.  It helps in the final stages of bringing in new business, and prepares for the possibility should something negative ever happen with your practice.

How Reactive Reputation Management Works

Sometimes, no matter how good you are, negative content gets out there.  It may be from an unhappy patient with unrealistic expectations, a false accusation, or an honest mistake.  Once there is negative information out there, it needs to be dealt with.  Think about the number of patients that look you up online during a given day (look at your Google Analytics if you’re not sure).  Now, do you want them to see something bad in the Google search results and not call you?  Then, let’s get to work.

Although our strategies at Points Group are fully customized to the specific situation, here are some major components you should plan on:

  1. Assessment – Take a comprehensive inventory of what is being said online.  Check brand mentions, mentions of key personnel, and any related keywords.  Review sources and continually monitor to see what else pops up.
  2. Response – There should be a planned out, thoughtful, courteous response to any legitimate complaint.  Make sure that you reach out in a timely manner and do everything you can to resolve the situation.  It shows that you care, it may have just been a mistake, and you have a chance at getting the complaint removed.  Don’t engage too much though.  Continuous engagement on a complaint website could cause the post to rank high in search results for a longer period of time.
  3. PR – As in proactive reputation management, highlight everything positive that your company is doing.  Take part in community events and highlight everything special happening in your company.  Not only does this help to counteract a negative image, but can also be used to rank higher than negative material (see #5 – search saturation).
  4. Optimization – Optimize all content on your website properties for terms that are showing bad listings.  This is typically a company or executive name.  Use the terms in page titles, in the contents, in background data like alt tags, and anywhere else you can.  You’re not trying to be spammy here, but you do need to make sure you’re highlighting the term in question on your own properties for positive purposes.
  5. Search Saturation – And this is where some of the big work comes in.  You need to saturate page one of a Google search with as much positive content as you can.  DO NOT SPAM CONTENT.  If you throw up garbage it will make your company look cheap and arouse suspicion. However, you can claim and optimize every social media property you can think of for your company name.  You can also create quality specialty microsites, blogs, press releases and all kinds of other web content.  This takes a lot of work, but can suppress negative content.
  6. Damage Control – You don’t want to have the same problem 6 months down the line.  Make sure that you’re doing as much damage control as you can.  This means cleaning up a dirty facility that earned you a 2 star review.  It means training your staff so they can efficiently and courteously handle patients as they come in.  Whatever the issues are, they need to be addressed promptly.

Your Next Steps

If all this seems like too much to handle on your own, that’s what we’re here for.  We understand that it can be intimidating and overwhelming.  For us, its what we do every day.  Give us a call at 973-998-8008 to see how we can partner with you and your practice to control your online reputation

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