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Interview with Mike Zammuto on Brand Management for Your Company

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I had the chance to catch up with Mike Zammuto, President of Brand.com. I asked him some of the hard questions that many branding experts have a hard time answering. Enjoy!

Can money buy reputation?
Building and maintaining a brand is a lot of hard work – you can damage your reputation and brand very easily. Just as easily, you can be attacked anonymously by people with bad intentions. It’s unfortunately true that there are lots of sites on the internet whose business model is predicated on hurting reputations.

While there is no single surefire way to create a strong brand or a protected reputation, an investment in your brand and your reputation is always worthwhile. Internet trolls are relentless, and you can expect to face an online attack or damaging digital content more than once over the lifetime of your brand. Be prepared, no matter what.

How can someone do this themselves?
There is a lot that an individual can do to build and support their brand online. He or she can acknowledge, firstly, what is already written and published about him or her online. He or she must determine how that online brand could change for the better.

Set up social media accounts across all platforms, particularly LinkedIn and Completed.com, so that you can highlight your professional achievements. Use a platform, such as Brand.com’s Command Center, to monitor and track your reputation at all times. Commit to a consistent online brand identity across all networks and platforms.

What are the costs if I go about repairing my online reputation personally?
Personal brand management strategies, including managing social media networks and producing positive content independently, will ONLY work if you are NOT under attack and are NOT already prominent online.

What are the costs one can expect when working with a reputation management company?
We work primarily with small companies, large businesses, and prominent individuals. Large businesses and prominent individuals would likely spend tens of thousands of dollars annually to protect and enhance their online brands. Major organizations and governments could spend into the millions annually without professional online brand management help.

If you have no real prominence as an individual, you may be able to do a lot of reputation management on your own (updating your personal website, social media, links, etc) for free. We coach our clients on these elements at no cost as part of their campaign with us.

A company’s name or high-profile client name will likely be far too competitive to improve without professional backup. Working with legitimate news providers, Brand.com helps clients to decide what readers WANT to read.
Content marketing focuses on how to be interesting, but our content is geared to be meaningful and newsworthy, directly relevant to readers’ lives and news needs.

Can social media help repair my online reputation? How would I get started? What's the best strategy you've found? Which social network works the best?
Some of the top hits for your name on SERPs will likely be social media profiles – Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, G+ and LinkedIn among others.

Repair’ is a poor word here – social media profiles are both expected and generally valuable to SERPs, but the key word here is ‘control.’ Social media is not within your control – only your own profile is controlled, but on these sites, your overall brand image is NOT within your grasp. Other users and trending topics can have a weighty influence on how you are perceived on these networks. Maintaining social media profiles is a helpful part of brand management, but it is not a comprehensive strategy. As you develop social media profiles, define your brand, be consistent, and be careful -- remember that the information and image that you present will be publicly available to any and all digital users.

What are the hardest obstacles when dealing with a negative reputation online?
Our most costly and difficult campaigns are ones in which clients did not work on their own to build a digital wall around their brand in anticipation of an eventual attack. If you create empty space around your brand, you open up for slander and misleading information to fill that space and define your brand.

How hard is it to erase something online?
It’s almost impossible to erase something online based on the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. Internet trolls are impossible to negotiate with. They will not remove negative content just because you ask them nicely.

How long does it take to come back after having your business reputation tarnished online?
In the case of some serious outliers, a few days. But in the overwhelming majority of cases, far longer. Brand management is something you must plan for long term, and potentially for as long as you brand exists, in addition to PR and online defense options.

How can I proactively protect my brand? What are the steps?

  1. Decide what you want to accomplish with brand management and who you want to be online; most brands we work with are trying to highlight specific products or services.
  2. Be consistent and create lots of credible content that speaks to what makes you unique.
  3. Don’t avoid or discount controversy, but give a clear and consistent brand story that users can trust.

What's most frustrating about reputation management?
In truth, the ORM industry is lagging behind OBM developments. Credibility is king; content is queen. People need to move away from SEO and focus on a holistically-built and healthy brand online.

Do I need a plan or should I just get started?
You need a plan – know your audience, your goals, your existing brand identity, and the most effective strategy for building the online brand that you want.

Number 1 way to sabotage your reputation management?
Not making your online brand and reputation central to your online strategy and driving other priorities is a surefire way to sabotage your brand online. You must understand that the way you do business supports the brand image you create. You must present a consistent and comprehensive brand story online.

Pitch for your Company: How is Brand.com helping companies with their Online Reputation?
How you’re viewed online is critical. Trillions of dollars are moved and influenced by online perception. Reputation is a facet of a company’s brand. We understand what a company is trying to accomplish, and figure out what is compelling and newsworthy about their story.

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