We've been writing quite a lot about other topics recently and I thought it was time for a return to our core topic of reputation monitoring and management.
Much of reputation management is (or should be) a pre-emptive process - the best results are attainable if you start the process before the firestorm - but by necessity, the monitoring is an ongoing process because you need to be constantly aware of what is being said about your company and brand. We are strong advocates of monitoring everything, because one thing blogs are proving again and again is that stories can blow up remarkably quickly from small starting points.
This makes it important, in our opinion, to monitor everything said about you and at least glance over it to determine whether to take any action. In the vast majority of cases, the answer will be 'no', you can safely let it lie if you have more important things to do (though we have had great success with having clients engage with anyone who writes anything positive about them - even if you only do this for a short period of time, you can build a great groundswell of positive support - support that helps in your general marketing efforts and should help you if you ever find yourself in the middle of a reputation nightmare).
Hopefully, you have a policy of monitoring everything and analysing certain stories for the need to take further action. We would suggest having policies for all these things in place during your planning phase - the time for policy creation is not when the story is breaking all around you. It's hard sometimes, though, to decide where to engage - especially with a limited budget in the face of a lot of discussion.
Enter your analytics software.
Most analytics software allows you to set up a report to be emailed to you regularly. I wrote recently about the reports you should make sure Google Analytics sends you. By making sure you get a report of new referring sites, you will get a very good idea of where the most buzz is happening. If you can only engage in some places, making sure you have at least analysed the highest-traffic places makes sense.
In Google Analytics, the report you want to set up is 'Referring Sites' under the 'Traffic Sources' menu. Have this emailed to you every day or every week depending on your priorities and scan it quickly for new sources of traffic (any less frequently than this and not only will you be too slow for any breaking stories, but also you will find it hard to spot new sources of traffic). If you spot something that you haven't picked up any other way, you can log in and drill down further through the report and find the exact page that is sending you the visitors. Go and visit that site and check out what is being said - hopefully you will have picked this up and assessed it through your regular monitoring, but this provides you with a great fallback and also focusses your attention on the higher-traffic areas.
Although we created (and therefore use) Reputation Monitor, a tool for monitoring blogs, we are always on the look-out for new ways to improve our monitoring. If you have any tips, please get in touch!