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How Online Reviews Impact Public Relations

woman holding her smartphone doing a review

There’s no two ways about it – online reviews are one of the most key elements in shaping public perception of brands, products, and services. And for PR professionals, understanding and managing the impact of these reviews is now an essential part of the job. Let’s dive into how online reviews are reshaping the PR landscape and explore strategies for effectively handling this powerful form of public feedback.

Importance of Managing Online Reviews

Online reviews are more than just customer comments; they represent a public conversation about your brand, with their influence extending far beyond potential customers, affecting journalists, stakeholders, and even your own team members. Recent studies also indicate that an overwhelming 93% of consumers report that online reviews influence their purchasing decisions, underscoring the critical need for review management in any comprehensive PR strategy.

However, the impact of reviews isn’t limited to sales figures. They also play a significant role in shaping your brand’s reputation, influencing media coverage, and contributing to your overall public image. And as the boundaries between PR, marketing, and customer service continue to evolve, the ability to effectively manage online reviews has become an indispensable skill for those looking to shape future trends in PR.

How Online Reviews Affect PR Efforts

The influence of online reviews on PR efforts is multi-faceted and far-reaching:

Media Coverage and Publicity

Journalists and bloggers often turn to online reviews when researching stories about brands or products. Positive reviews can lead to favourable coverage, while negative reviews might prompt investigative pieces or critical articles.

Crisis Management

A surge of negative reviews can quickly escalate into a PR crisis, so being prepared to respond promptly and appropriately to negative reviews is key for effective crisis management. This involves not only addressing the immediate concerns but also implementing strategies to mitigate long-term reputational damage.

Customer Relations

Online reviews provide a direct line of communication between customers and brands. How a company responds to reviews, both positive and negative, can significantly impact public perception. Thoughtful, timely responses demonstrate a commitment to customer satisfaction and can turn critics into advocates.

Strategies for Managing Online Reviews

Effective management of online reviews requires a proactive and strategic approach. As a top-rated PR agency in the UK, here’s what we advise our clients:

Monitoring and Responding

Implement a system for regularly monitoring reviews across various platforms; ideally, you’ll want to respond to all reviews, both positive and negative, in a timely and professional manner. This shows that you value customer feedback and that you’re committed to continuous improvement.

Encouraging Positive Reviews

Develop strategies to encourage satisfied customers to leave reviews – this could involve follow-up emails after purchases, social media campaigns, or in-person requests. Remember, the goal is to gather authentic feedback, not to manipulate ratings.

Addressing Negative Reviews

When faced with negative reviews, respond empathetically and offer solutions, and use these interactions as opportunities to demonstrate your commitment to customer satisfaction. Where possible, take the conversation offline to resolve issues privately.

Promoting Transparency

Transparency can build trust with your audience and demonstrate your commitment to authentic engagement, so be open about your review policy and how you handle feedback.

Challenges in Managing Online Reviews

street sign with the word challenge printed on it

While essential to your business, managing online reviews comes with its own set of challenges:

Volume and Diversity of Feedback

Developing efficient systems for monitoring and responding is essential; with reviews potentially coming from multiple platforms, managing the sheer volume of feedback can be overwhelming.

Dealing with Fake Reviews

Unfortunately, not all reviews are genuine. Identifying and addressing fake reviews, whether overly positive or negative, is key when it comes to maintaining the integrity of your online reputation.

Maintaining Brand Consistency

Ensuring consistent messaging and tone across all review responses – especially if multiple team members are involved – can be challenging, but is vital for brand coherence.

Leveraging Positive Reviews for PR Success

Positive reviews can be powerful tools in your PR arsenal:

User-Generated Content (UGC) Campaigns

Incorporate positive reviews into your marketing and PR materials. UGC campaigns featuring customer reviews can be highly effective in building trust and credibility.

Social Proof and Influence Marketing

Use positive reviews as social proof in your PR efforts; highlight glowing customer feedback in press releases, media kits, and other PR materials to bolster your brand’s credibility.

Highlighting Positive Feedback in PR Materials

Don’t be shy about showcasing positive reviews in your PR materials. Whether it’s a press release, a pitch to a journalist, or a social media post, positive customer feedback can add weight to your message.

Final Thoughts

Overall, there’s no doubt that in today’s digital landscape, online reviews have become an integral part of public relations. They shape public perception, influence media coverage, and impact your brand’s reputation, and ultimately, can make or break your business. For this reason, effectively managing your online reviews strategy requires a methodical approach, combining proactive encouragement of positive feedback with tactful handling of negative reviews.

Remember, the goal isn’t to achieve perfect ratings across the board, but to demonstrate your brand’s commitment to customer satisfaction and continuous improvement.

Article by:

Joshua George is the founder of ClickSlice, an SEO Agency based in London, UK.

He has eight years of experience as an SEO Consultant and was recently hired by the UK government for SEO training. Joshua also owns the best-selling SEO course on Udemy, and has taught SEO to over 100,000 students.

His work has been featured in Forbes, Entrepreneur, AgencyAnalytics, Wix and lots more other reputable publications.