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Firms need to get serious about online reputations

Law firms need to get serious about their online reputations, according to an expert in the field.

Kent Campbell, the founder and chief strategist at InternetReputationManagement.com, says online reviews of their work are becoming more and more prevalent for law firms. The savviest operators, he says, are getting proactive with reviewers.

“When someone thinks you’ve done a great job, suggest that they go to a review site, and write a good review,” he says. “Good reviews are much harder to get than bad ones, and if you can honestly build a strong base of positive reviews, then when the inevitable bad one comes along, it’s effect is going to be diluted. Otherwise, you can get stuck in the one-star mode for a long time, and you revenues will drop.”

While there aren’t as many such review sites in Canada as there are in the United States and elsewhere, they are becoming more prevelant so Canadian lawyers would be wise to heed Campbell’s advice.

Here’s some of Campbell’s dos and don’ts for law firms when they do come across a bad review.

  • Don’t share the bad news: Business owners often want to talk about the bad review with their team, but Campbell urges them to resist the temptation: “It’s the opposite of containing the problem. You share the bad news, which is the same as spreading the negative sentiment.”
  • Don’t respond online: It’s possible that any additional comments on the review site will just strengthen the link in the eyes of search engines, says Campbell. By defending yourself online, he says you will actually draw more attention to the negative comment.
  • Don’t fire off a demand letter: At least not immediately. Your complaint could easily find its way online, get indexed, and then pop up as a link in search results. This also applies when it’s the firm’s client that is the target of a bad review. Campbell says he’s seen zealous law firms get dragged into their clients’ problems with an over-the-top cease and desist letter. “They do damage to the client accidentally, and then damage themselves by getting caught in the blast radius,” Campbell says.
  • Do call the reviewer: And when you get hold of them, remember to speak calmly. Phone calls are better than email, according to Campbell, because your paper trail can easily be reposted online. “Lawyers love putting things in writing. It’s drilled into them,” Campbell says. “We like to tell them to call first.”
  • Do try to get a retraction: If you can get hold of the reviewer by phone, offer to fix the problem they identified and see if they’ll take the comment back once you do. That can save the cost of an intervention by reputation experts like Campbell to push the review further down in search results, he says.

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