Proactive vs. Reactive Reputation Management: Why You Need Both

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How customers view your brand can play a significant role in your business’s success and growth — no matter the size of your business or your industry.

A positive online brand reputation can help you build customer loyalty, drive sales, increase trust, and generate positive word-of-mouth marketing and customer reviews. It can help you stand out from your competitors.

As a result, incorporating online reputation management strategies is no longer nice to have — they are becoming essential. So you should have a system to manage your reputation and ways to respond in case of a reputation crisis. 

In this post, we explore what proactive and reactive reputation management means, why you need both, and tips on using these strategies. 

What is proactive reputation management?

Proactive reputation management involves strategies to help you shape, improve, and maintain your brand reputation on an ongoing basis. 

Ideally, you start these strategies early on, so you can use these strategies to:

  • Attract more customers
  • Build and strengthen brand loyalty
  • Enhance your online reputation
  • Increase conversion rates

These strategies help you consistently earn customers’ trust by showing you value them. 

For example, Chewy, an online pet supplies company, shows the power of proactive reputation management with their moving and heartfelt responses to customers whose pets passed away. 

A customer reached out to Chewy to cancel their auto shipping for pet food because their pet had passed. The representative helped and spent time with the customer, letting her talk about her pet. 

Chewy also has sent grieving pet owners handwritten cards and flowers. They make the process of canceling auto shipping or getting refunds easy.

These actions by Chewy are thoughtful, helpful, and show they care, which strengthens brand loyalty and enhances their reputation. Additionally, many of these customers shared their experiences online, including leaving positive reviews. This provides Chewy another chance to engage and support, showing other consumers what they are like as a company.   

What is reactive reputation management?

Reactive reputation management is more like having a crisis management plan. It helps businesses address and respond to events to minimize brand damage, like responding to negative posts, comments, or online reviews. 

These events can be related to something the brand has accidentally done or something they couldn’t have predicted or was out of their control. For instance, the company Tide could not have envisioned a YouTube challenge to eat Tide pods would emerge. Yet the company had to address this issue to repair damage to its brand reputation. 

Another way reactive strategies can help is by responding to negative reviews or comments on social media. For example, when a customer raises an issue or problem, Whole Foods addresses it promptly, provides understanding, and a solution when possible. 

This type of reactive reputation management helps the customer feel better about the company and shows others how that brand handles problems, which can help establish trust.  

Why do you need both?

Reputation management is an ongoing process. Ideally, you want to establish systems to nurture and maintain your brand’s reputation using proactive strategies.

These proactive strategies also help reduce the need for reactive ones since the goal is to shape, improve, and maintain your online reputation continuously.

But even the most thoughtful companies will eventually have a negative review or event that pokes at their brand’s reputation requiring reactive reputation strategies.

So incorporating both proactive and reactive management into an online reputation management system will enable you to handle all possible situations effectively — helping you avoid damage to your brand’s reputation while building and maintaining customer loyalty.  

Pro Tip: Instead of paying for additional reputation management software and then having to integrate and maintain it, it’s often more effective to go with a marketing platform that has reputation management features built-in. For instance, you can streamline all of your agency’s accounts including reputation management in HighLevel. 

6 tips for coming up with a reputation management strategy that incorporates both 

As we alluded to above, the key is to integrate both proactive and reactive reputation management tactics. Here are some tips for how to do that. 

1. Audit your current online reputation 

You’ll need to understand your current online reputation first, so you know your reputation strengths and areas to improve.

This audit will help you know how your brand is currently viewed. And it lets you identify brand reputation challenges, and strengths to continue building on and helps you create your objectives for your reputation management system.

While this step leans towards more of a proactive strategy, you do want to be on the lookout for information that can point to areas where you may need to apply reactive reputation strategies.

To get started, you can Google your brand to see what type of information is revealed, including reviews. Also, check your other channels, like social media. 

If you have a high volume of reviews and comments, you may want to consider using an online reputation management tool to help you understand the current sentiment about your brand.

2. Create a guide for responding to both positive and negative comments

You want responses to comments about your business to have a consistent tone, whether you’re responding to a positive or negative comment. 

Otherwise, your responses could be viewed as defensive or biased, especially if you’re responding harshly to negative feedback but nicely to positive comments.

To help, you can establish a guide for responding to comments, whether they’re reviews or comments on social media. This guide can help anyone responding understand the overall tone they should take, provide examples, or even include templates. You can also tailor sections of the guide to address different platforms, like responding to reviews versus comments on social media.

This guide can help with both proactive and reactive situations, so it can be helpful to include examples and information to help people respond to positive and negative reviews.

3. Monitor your brand mentions

Monitoring your online brand mentions allows you to understand what your customers think about your brand, what they associate with you if they’re having a problem related to you and more. 

You can monitor mentions on various sites such as Google, social media platforms, and review sites like Yelp. 

This more proactive reputation management strategy helps you keep a consistent eye on your brand. But it can also alert you to problems that will require a reactive reputation management strategy.

Monitoring brand mentions can be a time-consuming task when done manually, especially for businesses that generate a number of reviews and comments. But you can use reputation management tools to help. These tools incorporate AI technology to monitor brand mentions and provide alerts.

4. Establish a response strategy for negative reviews and complaints

Anyone can see online reviews and comments, so you want to have a strategy in place to respond to negative feedback. 

Having a consistent (and effective) reactive response strategy will help unsatisfied customers feel heard and potentially help them feel more positively about your brand, given your response. It also lets others see how you treat your customers — ideally showing how you value them even when they have a complaint.

Your response guide and brand monitoring strategies will help with this process since you’ll be alerted to problems quickly, and anyone responding will have a general sense of the tone and way to react.

But you’ll also want to set up a system of response so you’re reacting consistently. For instance, it can help to:

  • Respond promptly
  • Show you hear them by expressing that you’re sorry they had a less-than-stellar experience
  • Be courteous, professional, and genuine
  • Let them know how you will work with them to solve the issue if possible
  • If necessary, send the issue offline through email or DMs (but make sure you’re initially responding in public)
  • Thank them for their feedback

You can’t make everyone happy all the time. But by responding appropriately to negative reviews and comments, you show others that you’re trying to rectify the issue.

5. Incorporate strategies to encourage positive reviews

Positive reviews help support your online brand reputation and play a strong role when someone is making a decision about your brand or whether to buy from you. Additionally, the more positive reviews you have, the more they can limit the impact of any negative ones. 

For instance, if you only have 15 reviews and 5 are negative, this can make potential customers pause and leave a questionable impression. But if you have 100 reviews and only 5 are negative, potential customers are more likely to overlook the negative comments.

But many satisfied customers often won’t take the time to leave you a review — unless you ask. 

This proactive strategy can help you generate more positive reviews, which can help improve your reputation, show how you treat customers, and build brand loyalty. 

There are many ways to request a review. But if you’re doing so on a review site, like Yelp, make sure you’re following all terms of service. Additionally, all reviews should be given freely.

To request a review, you can: 

  • Send an email requesting a review or feedback after customers make a purchase
  • Send a link to your Google My Business or other sites where you’d like to generate reviews
  • Request reviews from customers on your social media platforms
  • Include a printed thank you message and a request for feedback with a link to the site you want the reviews in the packaging of physical products

You also could set up a system where you first ask the customer to rate your business. Then if it’s a positive rating, send a message asking for a review. If it’s a negative rating, ask them what you can do to fix the situation or do better in the future.

6. Establish a crisis response plan

You can’t anticipate every potential problem (remember the Tide pod challenge). But you can establish a general plan or workflow. So when an issue arises everyone already knows who needs to do what.

For example, you can identify:

  • Who will write responses
  • What platforms will be involved
  • Who will review and approve the responses
  • How you’ll pause all planned marketing and external communications to allow for a shift to address the big event or issue
  • How to ensure the messages include an apology and commitment to do better
  • Post-reaction strategies to ensure you learn from the event and avoid similar mistakes in the future 

This reactive reputation strategy can help you be prepared to address potential big issues your brand will likely encounter. 

When setting up a general plan or workflow, think about what are some potential scenarios to help guide you. For instance, you may want workflows that can address a data security breach or insensitive messaging that could go viral.

Mistakes and problems happen. By being prepared, you can respond consistently, confidently, and efficiently, repairing any damage to your brand quickly.


Helping your clients steer and manage their online reputation is increasingly important and valuable.  

Plus, many reputation management features are already baked into HighLevel. 

Ready to give it a try? Sign up for a free 14-day trial. 


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