Normally the preserve of blue chip firms with large online security budgets, online reputation management is now available to small businesses.

Riskeye, which was launched in January 2016, is a business backed by insurance company AIG, public relations expert Edelman, law firm Johnsons, and online monitoring specialist Cloud90.
Working together under the Riskeye umbrella, the aim is to provide small and medium-sized firms with the same level of protections that large firms have traditionally enjoyed.

“Our role is to protect against the online threat, specifically online defamation,” said Sarah Holland (above), head of information security at Riskeye, which operates in Ireland and the UK.

Users pay a monthly subscription which is in effect an insurance premium that will cover the costs of any action taken to manage and defuse online threats. This includes public relations help and legal fees of up to €50,000.

“We can detect a problem if one arises online, we can alert clients to it, and we can help them take action to resolve the issue,” said Holland.

Prices start at €30 a month for a self-monitored package, which includes access to a 24/7 crisis hotline. The most comprehensive package costs €250 a month.

The ‘round the clock’ aspect of the service is vital, given the speed at which communications can spread online, says Holland.

A risk that makes people nervous
“Everyone has the right to their reputation, but the online world is mostly unedited, it’s the Wild West regarding what people can say about your business, and that’s a risk that makes people nervous. We saw a niche opportunity to respond to that risk by providing a service that is available to everybody. Before Riskeye it was only large enterprises that could afford this kind of expertise.”

Small businesses tend to rely on Google Alerts to pick up references to them, which is free. “It has limitations in so far as its algorithms run by key words. It won’t recognise a sarcastic post as a risk to your business, for example.”

Subscribers also get comprehensive advice on responding to negative commentary. “Very often it’s about just educating your staff about good old fashioned customer service. Unfortunately, not all businesses supply this to the staff managing their social media activities.”

The stereotype of the most junior person in the office becoming a business’s online voice, simply because they “know about social media”, holds true, she says. It also poses a very real risk.

“All staff should be educated about how to respond appropriately to negative commentary. Good old fashioned customer service will defuse most issues. If not, take it offline and deal with it that way. A lot of clients self-sabotage, however, by responding poorly to a bad review.”

Defamation is defamation
Just because the internet can appear lawless, doesn’t mean it is. “Defamation is defamation,” says Holland. “If you are defamed online, you are just as entitled to have your good name restored as you are in real life.”

If you are in the wrong, Riskeye provides the tools to help you take remedial action. “If that’s the case then they have to take responsibility and deal with it, which again comes back to good old fashioned customer service.”

Having recourse to a third party in such a situation can be a huge advantage. “When it’s you that is being referred to, you’re likely to respond emotionally. It can be hard to be objective about what is the right thing to do,” she says.

Small business owners caught up in a cyber-storm can find it hard to know where to turn. “Part of the problem is that nobody likes to talk about this. If a business has had its reputation damaged, and has had to take steps to remedy that, the last thing the owner wants to do is bring it all up again. It would be much better if people did, though, so that others could see how prevalent and how there are steps they can take to resolve it.”

Have an action plan to hand
The online threat to reputation is the number one reputational issue facing business owners in the UK, she says. “Some 87% of survey respondents rated managing that risk as the most important strategic issue facing their business.”

Without proper advice, the most common reaction from business owners who feel under threat online is to go offline. “But just because you’ve removed yourself from the conversation doesn’t mean the conversation isn’t still going on online,” she says.

Much better to have an action plan to hand – and an insurance policy for the legal bill should you need it.

“There’s nothing new or innovative about the services we are providing. Online reputation management has always been available to large companies. What is new and innovative is that we are making it affordable to as many businesses as possible,” she says. For more visit RiskEye.com.