Recently I had the opportunity to chat with Tommy Glasgow, Project Manager at Go Fish Digital. Tommy oversees all Online Reputation Management projects. He has led ORM initiatives for clients ranging from small local businesses to Fortune 500 companies, and specializes in online review improvement, search results cleanup, proactive reputation management, and online sentiment monitoring.
While Go Fish has their own software and strategy when it comes to ORM, it was great to see some specific tactics that he and his team are doing as one of the leaders in the industry.
Tommy is a graduate of the College of Charleston, and it turns out he’s not too far from me. He lives in the Washington D.C. area with his wife, Virginia.
Check out my interview with him below:
The state of online reputation management (ORM)
Garrett: Okay, hey everybody. Garrett Sussman here, the Head of Content at Grade.us and today for this reputation management interview, I am joined by the ORM Project Manager at Go Fish Digital, Tommy Glasgow. Thanks for joining me today, Tommy.
Tommy: Thanks so much for having me.
Garrett: Absolutely. So I’m really excited to talk to you, because you know, reputation management is still a growing digital marketing channel.
And it’s really nice to talk to someone who’s in the weeds and works with different businesses on a day to day basis on their reputation. But naturally, reputation means a ton of different things to different people.
So I just want to ask you to start out: What is reputation management in your own words? In your mind, to what extent does it fall under PR, Social, SEO, customer service, what do you think?
Tommy: Yeah, I think it does cover a lot of different topics.
For me, it’s a brand or an individual putting their best foot forward and making the best first impression possible for anyone looking them up online, searching for them on Google or another search engine, and making sure everything from the online reviews that come up to recent news and press to your social media, everything is reflective of who you are as a person or who you are as a brand.
So that that first impression really sets you up for success.
The value of online reputation management for businesses
Garrett: So how important is it for you, thinking specifically for businesses, because Grade.us works with a lot of businesses as well, as well as Go Fish Digital, how important is reputation management as a digital marketing strategy for the businesses and clients that you work with?
Tommy: I think it’s extremely important and I think more and more people are starting to find out how important it is.
I came from a traditional PR background. I think brands and small businesses and just about everyone is starting to realize that your first impression with a customer might not be a glossy magazine piece. It might not be an ad. It might be someone searching for what they want online and you pop up.
That’s the first impression. It might even be your autocomplete results before they even get to your search results. So from that standpoint, reviews are obviously important. Everything else that comes with it as part of your reputation online is important as well. So I think ORM is kind of paramount to small businesses. Definitely.
What online reputation clients are typically looking for at an agency
Garrett: Yeah, ultimately, if you’re building your business, whether you’re a media publisher or in eCommerce or anything, you know how people interact with you and that first impression is ultimately going to decide whether they do business with you.
So with that said, when someone comes to Go Fish Digital, you offer online reputation management services, what types of clients you typically work with?
What are they typically looking for when they come to you in the first place when they’re looking for reputation management help?
Tommy: I think our clients fall into two buckets.
There’s definitely the reviews, online reviews, improvement type projects. Those are folks that could run the gamut from small mom and pop shop to a major restaurant group that has dozens or more locations across the country.
Those projects are typically doing an audit of their reviews. We’re seeing if there are any major themes to the reviews. We might need to remove some of the negative reviews that conflict with site guidelines on a site like Yelp or Google. It might involve building strategies to respond to reviews, or could even involve building strategies on how to get new reviews. So we help identify customers, and determine: What that script is going to look like when we ask for reviews? Who is going to be in charge of that? etc.
Our other bucket is online search results improvement.
You might have some review sites popping up, but maybe you have an old piece of negative press that is in your search results or a negative testimonial video that someone’s made. How can you suppress that by moving up all the more savory content you have about your brand?
Those are the two areas where we most help clients. I think when you work with Go Fish Digital, you’re working with a company that has a really strong backbone in SEO. We use that to dissect and reverse engineer how we can get better ranking on review sites or in search results versus what is currently there.
How you set online reputation management goals for clients
Garrett: That’s a really good point with the SEO component, because that plays a major role in terms of reputation.
When the clients do come to you, and you’re doing this audit, to what extent are you doing education in terms of how receptive are clients? Typically, when it comes to some of the strategies that you’re suggesting, what sort of goals do you set when you bring on a new project?
Tommy: Yeah, clients are generally pretty receptive to it. That goes back to being an award winning SEO agency first and foremost.
But we also have a lot of reps in the ORM space, and we’ve been at the forefront as the reputation management industry has both crested and continued to build.
We even wrote some of the key articles and blog posts that, in the last 10 years, have been pillars for online reputation management. So I think clients are usually pretty receptive.
We always clarify that we’re looking at things from an ORM perspective. If we’re performing an SEO audit, we’re not necessarily looking at traffic, lead generating keywords, site speed, or anything like that. We’re looking at it from an ORM standpoint. We really want your own channels to rank as well as possible for any sensitive search queries.
So coming at it from that perspective, most clients are receptive to it. Usually, in those first couple months, we can get some low hanging fruit and some key wins early by just making some SEO tweaks to the content that’s already out there.
Online reputation management tactics that lead to early wins
Garrett: What are some of those low hanging fruit examples when a client comes to you? What are the little tweaks that produce results? Repressing the negative content or getting some wins in terms of the positive, proactive reputation management?
Tommy: Having a presence on a lot of business directory websites is an example. We might make sure you have a presence on Glassdoor, or Indeed, or a site like Crunchbase that typically ranks for business names.
That’s usually an easy way, if you can create those profiles, keep them active, keep them up to date. They generally rank pretty well for those types of search queries. That’s one example of something we can do early on to get a presence that might take up the first page and a half to two pages of your search results and keep anything else at bay.
The average scope of an ORM project with a client
Garrett: That makes a lot of sense. It’s nice, because we know especially with SEO, that that generally is a long game.
Being able to have those low hanging fruit and being able to produce some results right away is probably important in terms of the long term relationship with those clients.
How long is a typical project or the scope of an ORM project from start to finish? Or is it always ongoing with the clients that you work with?
Tommy: It depends.
Sometimes we’ll joke that if we do a good job, we’re out of a job, because if we take care of the main reputation threat, and we really improve a review site where we really suppress something old and negative, then we’re not really needed. But I think one of the good things about Go Fish Digital is that we have flexibility in terms of projects that we can do. We can reduce the scope of the project and do more of a monitoring type ongoing project. We can do a proactive reputation management project where, maybe nothing’s popped up yet, but we’re helping you put together a tool kit to potentially deal with issues that may pop up in your industry or for your business.
So for the typical project, we’re looking at maybe a year to see what we can do. That obviously depends on the search volume that that term is getting. It depends on the state of something like a review site, and where we’re trying to get it to. But typically a year is the length of the type of projects we’re looking at.
Creating customer ORM reports for clients
Garrett: Got it. So this is really cool, I noticed that one of the services that you offer is actually building out reputation reporting. You create these custom reports with metrics that are going to matter only to your client without any sort of fluff.
Do you have any insights in terms of the origin of that type of service and what kind of lift that entails from your team? How do clients react to the reporting and what’s the value you’re providing there?
Tommy: We have some really cool in-house reports that we’ve made here at Go Fish. We have some cool visual ones that our clients really respond well to.
We have a tool that pulls the search results and exports them into a spreadsheet, once a week or as needed. Then we’ll label every search result, say on your first page. If there’s something negative, there would be a big red label and something positive would be a green. You see from week to week, that red URL moving down the search results. You can really see what’s been moving up, suppressing that negative and then eventually the negative disappears.
Reports like that are really helpful.
We also have some more dashboard centric tools where you can check in anytime if there’s any reputation threats that you need to jump on, whether it’s a new negative review or something new on social where someone needs a question answered or has a complaint that they want to vent about. Those tools really separate us as well, because we built them based on our experience with clients in the past.
The day-to-day of an ORM project manager
Garrett: That’s so cool. I geek out about that, because working in the ORM space, I appreciate the value of the reporting, especially as it impacts SEO as well as just digital marketing. Being able to have quantitative results, but being able to visualize them where they’re consumable sounds really interesting and really helpful for clients.
What’s your day to day looks like? For someone who is an online reputation manager, you’re doing ORM day-to-day. Can you tell me a little bit about what your day to day responsibilities are? What does that look like?
Tommy: I’m one of the project managers with Go Fish Digital overseeing the online reputation projects.
I work with a great team here. I’ve had an opportunity to not just understand SEO and PPC, but have my pulse on this growing reputation industry as well. So my job is to onboard the clients, be their main point of contact throughout the project, and make sure that every task that’s being completed along with it, every initiative we’re taking, is all happening on time and happening with those final goals of the client in mind.
We’re working towards a certain star rating or we’re working toward getting something off the first page of Google. I’m quarterbacking or playing the role of the point guard there and making sure everything is funneling towards what we’re trying to accomplish with that client.
Who is the ideal online reputation management client?
Garrett: Awesome. And it makes sense.
So when you have the types of customers where it’s not necessarily about negative repression as much as it’s about positive and proactive reputation strategies, naturally different clients make it easier or harder.
Who’s the ideal client for proactive reputation management? What clients make it easy to improve their reputation? What are some of the strategies that you find are really effective when they bring you on and you hit the ground running?
Tommy: From a proactive reputation management perspective, we get a lot of clients that have maybe recently rebranded their company and there’s not a lot out there online about them.
They’re building out some of those social channels, getting some new press, or something like that.
So it could be a little bit PR, it could be a little bit of content creation, or it could be a little bit of social media. We might get an individual, a CEO, who’s in the spotlight now and starting to get speaking engagements or something like that. They need to have a positive first page of Google when somebody is looking into them.
Those clients can be a little bit easier to start, because they don’t have reputation threats. It’s better to be proactive rather than reactive. If you let something metastasize and get worse, it would be a lot harder to put that fire out, versus having that playbook or that person on your team who knows what they’re going to do if something pops up. That’s better than having to scramble and react.
We’re trying to instill best practices when it comes to responding to a negative review or best practices should something pop up. Things like knowing the industry that the client is in, so we can set them up for success.
Educating and helping clients with negative review responses
Garrett: That’s a good point about knowing the industries and being able to be prepared for situations that do come up, because it happens even to the best of businesses, where there is either a miscommunication or something happens that you do need to react to.
When you mentioned best practices for responding to negative reviews, specifically, when we’re talking about reviews, what are some of those best practices that you instill in your clients?
Tommy I think it’s best to empathize with the customer. You have to understand where they’re coming from. That doesn’t mean you have to say everything they’re saying is right, but you do have to put yourself in their shoes.
A couple of the best practices we usually recommend would be: don’t put a completely templated response out there. Be customized with your response. Give a real name, give a real contact number and email, should the person want to follow up.
You usually want to take the conversation offline. So if you can, get the conversation off of review sites, when you don’t need other people chiming in or other people seeing how it’s going. Take the conversation offline.
Thank the person for their feedback first and foremost. They took the time to leave a review, whether it was good or bad.
Restate that you understand what their issue is, admit fault if you have to, and be as positive and polite as you can.
Try to resolve their issue from your perspective as best as possible.
Garrett: It makes a lot of sense to simply treat people well. Just be considerate. I think that’s a great framework for approaching it.
When you’re working with clients and it comes managing their own reputation, who do you typically put in charge of responding to the reviews? Does Go Fish take it on or do you work with the business to do it themselves? If you’re working with the business, who within that business should be responsible? Is that a support thing, a marketing thing? Who should be responding to reviews?
Tommy: We found that giving a loose script to go off is effective, but having the business do it themselves is usually the best setup. They have insights into the more granular details that are helpful. We can suggest a lot of different strategies, but if you’re an eCommerce site, for example, and someone within the company knows a lot more about how the shipping process goes, they’re the better person to handle that conversation. So we try to give as much insight as we can based on our experiences across industries, but usually it’s best for someone at the company to handle that.
That person is usually either a social media person or maybe a PR person at the team, someone who’s familiar with the tone of the company and has a general framework for, “if this type of complaint comes in, this is the channel we want to take them down.” We usually try to identify that point person pretty early on in the project, and then give them the tools they need to get that conversation started and to hopefully bring it to a better place. But they’re handling the smaller conversations there.
Garrett:That process makes a lot of sense.
I don’t know if you get this granular, but do you have anyone call you in a panic, “Oh my God, I got a bad review. How do I handle this specific situation?”
Tommy: We do. Yeah, that happens relatively frequently. Like I said, it’s better to be proactive. So you try to think about anything that can come up.
If you’re a restaurant, you want to have situations for when a customer has an issue with a meal, what’s our response? If they have an issue with a waiter or waitress, here’s how we’re going to respond.
You try to prepare as best as possible. But we have seen all sorts of complaints that are totally unfounded, and you try to work on it the best you can.
Parting advice on review management
Garrett: That’s awesome. It’s really insightful, because a lot of people especially agencies, working with clients, helping them with Online Review Management, it can be tricky to figure out who is the right person to answer those reviews. I love your suggestion about having the correct tone, because it’s all a brand thing. It’s all representative of your brand and that voice.
I can only imagine some of the stories that you have, but before I let you go, what would be one tactical piece of advice that you’d recommend for someone proactively getting new reviews, like a small business mom and pop? What piece of advice would you give them for improving their reputation with reviews?
Tommy: We’ve kind of said it, there at the end.
When you’re responding to a negative review, you’re not just responding to one person. If it’s a public response, everybody’s going to read that response. So keep that in mind.
If individuals searching for your business, reading your online reviews, even if there’s some negative reviews on there, if they see that you’re making an honest effort to remedy the issue, if you’re responding quickly and honestly to those complaints, it goes a lot further than not having any presence at all.
Also identify the person who’s going to handle reviews. Make sure they’re on the ball with that and have a strategy in place. That goes a long way and protects you even if you do get the occasional crazy bad review, because everybody gets them. That would be the best advice I can give.
Working with Tommy and Go Fish Digital
Garrett: That’s great. A key is not ignoring it until it’s too late. But if somebody does ignore it and they need to go ahead and hire someone like yourself at Go Fish Digital for online reputation management, tell me what’s the best way to contact you?
Tommy: The Go Fish Digital website, gofishdigital.com. In addition to housing our blog and case studies, there’s a lot of different channels for you to contact us. You can chat with us anytime and someone will get right back to you.
If you’re dealing with issues regarding negative reviews that you just can’t seem to get rid of, if you need a strategy to respond to or to get new reviews, those are all very within our wheelhouse, in addition to any sort of tangential ORM topics. Follow us on LinkedIn or on any of the social networks that you like to follow. We’ll be sure to get back to you and try to help you out.
Garrett: Awesome. Well, thank you so much Tommy for joining me today. This has been Tommy Glasgow of Go Fish Digital. He’s the ORM project manager there. My name is Garrett Sussman. I’m the Grade.us Head of Content.
Thanks again. Tommy. Really, really great info. I appreciate your time.
Tommy: Yeah, thank you.