For most financial planners, your reputation is your brand. What you say about yourself is important, but what others say about you can have an even larger impact on a prospect who is considering hiring you. As the Internet continues to reach more deeply into everything we do, it’s important to take control of your online reputation.
Online reputation management breaks down into three basic components:
1) Be aware of what’s being said about you and your firm
2) Emphasize and highlight positive feedback where you can (I know, I know … compliance)
3) Work to resolve and minimize any negative feedback
Start evaluating your online reputation by searching for your name, your firm’s name, and your partners’ and key employees’ names. Thoroughly review the first three pages of search results, and check in both Google and Bing. To see any new online content, set up Google Alerts (www.google.com/alerts) for all of these search terms so that you’ll be notified via email whenever something new about you is written.
While you probably cannot post positive comments or testimonials on your site for compliance reasons, you may be able to help foster complimentary content about you on third-party websites by making it easy and inviting for people (like your clients, for instance) to comment. Take the time to develop a full and informative business profile on Yelp (www.yelp.com), Google Places (www.google.com/places) and other business-review venues. Take advantage of your ability to control how these third party sites present your business, and make it easy for reviewers to comment on your firm without needing to establish the profile themselves. Link to these sites if, when and where allowed by your compliance.
Be sure to approach any negative items that may appear about you with a clear head and even keel. Even if someone says something outrageous about you, rapid escalation and threats are rarely effective in getting them to rescind their comments, and can often wind up making you look even worse. Look at their issue objectively and make an earnest effort to resolve it if you can; don’t ask them to take down their comments until you’ve rectified the problem. If that is ineffective and the comments are made on a third-party website, carefully study the site’s Review Guidelines and file a cogent, point-by-point complaint that explains why it should be reviewed. Clearly demonstrate that the comments violate the site’s terms and conditions, and you may find the offending item deleted in just a few hours.
Your online reputation is an increasingly important part of your prospects’ decision-making process. Actively managing this “rep” to present yourself in the best possible light is now a part of any effective marketing plan.
Kristin C. Harad, CFP®
Founder and Principal
VitaVie Financial Planning
San Francisco, CA