One of the few axioms that marketing strategists can agree on involves brand and reputation management. There is an overwhelming consensus that brand reputation matters, impacts revenues, and can cripple organizations.

As a category, online reputation management is in its infancy, but it is growing in importance as many corporations are now beginning to focus on performance optimization.  Here’s what senior marketing managers need to know about online reputation management.

No industry category is immune—Ask any restaurant manager what he or she thinks about Yelp, and you’ll get an earful. Few will sing its praises, but 9 out of 10 will be able to tell you what reviews have been submitted over the past 24 hours.

At the other end of the spectrum, B2B enterprises rely less on reputation management at the grassroots level, but more on corporate brand management. That’s not to say executive reputation doesn’t matter, but B2B companies are better able to do damage control at the corporate level than their B2C counterparts.

Takeaway: Be cognizant of your industry category and plan accordingly. Some require daily or even hourly scrutiny and aggressive countermeasures, while monthly monitoring and case-by-case responses will accommodate others.

Quantify the starting point—Audits often uncover unseemly online mentions that are irrelevant, dated, or not applicable. These simply need to be deleted. Others identify hidden gems that can be resurrected to great value, like an old baseball card found in an attic. One of my clients forgot about a favorable quote in The Wall Street Journal from 10 years ago that surfaced during an audit, which then played a big part in his optimization strategy.

Takeaway: Canvass the internet for relevant keywords and company and executive names, then document the collateral and relative strength and weakness of its effect to determine its role in the optimization plan. 

Get executive teams and staffers involved—Every employee is a company ambassador. Emblazoned with the corporate logo, his or her LinkedIn profile should reflect his or her job title and responsibilities and the company mission. Most staffers will happily comply, but almost everyone will require instruction and hand-holding.

Takeaway: Work with HR to develop policy protocols for LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and Google+, and recruit an executive sponsor to roll out a companywide reputation management plan and implementation training session.

Be prepared for crisis management—Just as IT groups have formal disaster recovery plans, marketing groups must be ready to act in the wake of a reputation management crisis. Most situations are unsavory but remarkably common: drunk driving arrests or regrettable posts on social media. These aren’t typically covered by the media, but they can be problematic when a prospective customer does some research. 

Takeaway: Identify an example or case study in your industry category to help educate marketing executives about the issue, and design a crisis management plan to be ready if something similar happens to your organization.

The best defense is an aggressive offense—For both corporate brand and personal online reputation management, the best defense is an aggressive offense. Having a solid foundation with multiple digital touchpoints amplifies the impact of every outbound message and reference. 

With this kind of foundation in place, campaigns can be quickly deployed and disseminated into the marketplace with maximum effect. In the event of a crisis or a negative media event that requires management, the infrastructure exists to facilitate an offensive response. 

Takeaway: A close cousin of SEO, the most successful reputation management plans are designed to accommodate a company’s unique requirements and proactively manage them over time.