Every brand and business owner needs to pay special attention to their online reputation. But few industries are as impacted by the onslaught of review/rating sites on the web as QSRs.

QSR patrons are among the quickest to hop onto Yelp to voice complaints or – hopefully – sing praises.

Prospective patrons then use these reviews to form decisions on not only whom they’ll dine with at that moment, but which QSR brands they’re most likely to forge long-lasting relationships with.

Clearly, then, reputation management should be among your top priorities. Unfortunately, managing the reputation of a QSR has proven to be extremely challenging and time-consuming.

Just think of all the potential review/rating sites where your brand might appear. Is it feasible to expect you to monitor each and every single one?

Likely not, but without monitoring these sites, how can you ensure your brand is coming across positively to your current and prospective patrons?

These 5 reputation management growth hacks should help.

HARO is Your Hero

journalistIf your QSR is being ravaged by negative – or few – reviews, reaching out to local (or national) media is a great way to get your message out. HARO – or Help a Reporter Out – is a quick and easy way to establish yourself as an authority figure in your niche.

HARO makes it easy for you to interact with journalists who are looking for industry experts to help them with their research and articles.

In what way can you offer expertise that put your QSR in the spotlight positively? Once you establish that, all you have to do is sign up to HARO using your email address. You can then browse their daily emails, which feature requests from journalists searching for experts in certain business industries.

If you reach out to enough people and offer your expertise, there’s a good chance you’ll get covered in the media, which in turn can evolve into positive pages online, all featuring your brand. The media sites where your brand will be mentioned are typically owned by media companies that enjoy high Google SERP rankings, thanks to their authority.

Even if you have negative reviews on popular sites like Yelp, these highly ranked references to your QSR could help soften the blow.

Create reward systems for your team

One of the best ways to combat negative reviews and become more attractive to potential patrons is to cultivate as many positive reviews as possible.

Why not get your staff involved?

Introduce an incentive program that rewards the employees who get the most customers to leave reviews.

The reward could be anything you feel your team would strive to win, including:

  • A paid day off
  • The chance to be manager for the day
  • A gift card

Prior to introducing the reward program, you’ll have to spend time crafting a guide that outlines how best to encourage customer feedback (while adhering to the rules of each ratings site). A simple “we wouldn’t mind if you left us a review” at the end of the dining experience could suffice. Some of your team members might even want to add a little “Leave us a review” card along with the bill, that outlines how to leave a review on sites like Yelp.

The reward system will create a friendly yet competitive environment within your workplace, where your team members will brainstorm ideas on how best to get their patrons to leave reviews.

Do good in the community and get noticed

charity-raceYour most important customer base is your local customers. These local customers tend to be well connected to their community. They attend local schools; they shop at local retailers; they even read the local newspaper.

One way to create positive connections with your local community is to get involved in charitable events (or create one yourself).

These charitable events (like food drives, races, etc.) are always covered by the local press. The more active you are for these events, the more likely these local newspapers and bloggers will cite your brand name online.

These citations will help your brand rank higher among local searches, which is far and away the most important search criteria your QSR should be concerned with.

But as an added benefit, your do-good strategy will help you build a positive relationship with local audiences – even those who have never dined at your QSR.

The next time any of these local prospects are looking for a place to dine, they’ll likely remember your brand name, connect it with the positive commitment you show to the community, and choose your QSR over your competitors.

Conduct Paid Advertising campaigns

This strategy isn’t effective in all cases, but it’s certainly a strategy worth keeping in your toolbox.

Let’s say that you notice several negative search results appearing online, thanks to negative reviews. You can conduct a Google AdWords campaign – filled with positive titles/headlines/content – where the ad leads to landing pages that focus attention on positive aspects of your QSR.

These positive messages can help drive down bad reviews on results pages, but they also allow you to directly address negative information.

This strategy requires special delicacy so that your PPC ads don’t add fuel to the fire. A good rule of thumb is to keep these ads and ensuing landing pages short and simple.

You’ll want to include your QSR name as well as all relevant keywords. When people search these terms online, they’ll see your ads.

This approach helps you to get a virtual message out there within a matter of minutes. However, this is also a short-term solution, as it can be costly and doesn’t have the lasting effects of a proactive brand management foundation.

Grab hold of your Wikipedia identity

wikipediaIf you can, you should try to get a Wikipedia page created for your QSR (and/or yourself). These pages almost always show up on the first page of Google when someone searches for you by brand name.

If you want your own Wikipedia page, you’ll need to have existing online articles/announcements/references on trusted third-party websites that discuss you or your company (a few or our earlier hacks should help you achieve this).

Not every QSR will qualify for a page – yet – however, this is a reputation management goal you should strive for.

Start with these hacks, but implement longer term strategies as well

These five growth hacks are designed to help you see results easily and, generally, quickly. But in addition to implementing these hacks, be sure to establish a two-pronged approach to your long-term reputation management strategy:

  • Proactive reputation management – The first three hacks fall within this approach, where you try to build positive ratings and references to your brand to outweigh any negative mentions.
  • Reactive reputation management – The paid ad hack falls within this approach, where you respond to your ratings in positive, fruitful ways. Brand monitoring is key to this approach.

Once you have these strategies in place, even the occasional negative review about your QSR won’t stand a chance among all the positivity.