If you have ever made a purchase online, you must be familiar with online reviews. Perhaps you even used them to choose a seller or a product. If you have, you joined thousands of people who consult online reviews to make a good purchase. Some sources estimate that 92 percent of online shoppers now do that.

Though customer reviews vary in comprehensibility and accuracy, they have a profound effect on the behavior of buyers, and therefore, they serve as legitimate PR tools. Given that PR is all about communicating the advantages of a product or a brand to potential buyers, online reviews can be used to influence the audience.

But how can one turn online reviews into PR tools that can make a difference for a business? Let’s answer this question in this article.

Online Reviews as PR Tools

Nowadays, online shoppers are used to finding information about both local and international businesses by themselves. Even a simple Google search for a local coffee shop will produce results with reviews on Google+, so the research of credibility can begin there. Also, review sites are getting popular as well.

How important are online reviews for improving the relations between a customer and a business? There are two important areas that need to be identified.

Online reviews help shape the online reputation of a business. Positive reviews contribute to a good reputation while negative ones can do some serious damage.

Online reviews provide important feedback for companies. Essentially, reviews are constructive feedback that can help to improve customer service, delivery etc. There’s always room for improvement, and customers can assist with identifying the shortcomings.

If you’re unsure how many reviews improve your reputation among customers, take a look at these results produced by the Local Consumer Review Survey by BrightLocal.

As you can see, 85 percent of the respondents said they needed up to 10 reviews to trust a business.

Let’s Make Online Reviews Your PR Agents

To make sure your business gets reviewed, you need to whether encourage leaving reviews or ask customers directly.

First, you need to understand that customers are often reluctant to spend extra time online to leave a positive review because they got what they needed. “On the other hand, if they encountered problems with your business, they will be pretty much happy to go to review sites and leave a nasty comment,” says Gordon Bledsoe, a PR manager from Awriter.

So, you need to encourage your customers to leave reviews after the first purchase. This can be done by providing small incentives. For example, a customer who leaves a review gets a 10 percent discount off the next purchase. For those who go through all the trouble producing a video review, you can arrange a giveaway.

The second way is to ask the customers to review your business directly. For online businesses that don’t have a lot of face time with their customers, the best way to get some feedback is email. Here are some tips to get the most out of this method.

  • Pre-screen the customer base using a survey before asking them for a review. If you consider this cheating, just think about how you would have done it in person. The mechanism is pretty much the same, agree?
  • Every email should be personalized and come from a person. For example, you should call the receiver by name and write it as a personal letter.

Additional tips: make the review links clearly visible and ensure that they take the customer directly to the review form. This letter should be sent to a customer as the first follow-up.

  • Make reviewing easy for those who are reluctant to write a feedback. This version of the email provides a more direct route for getting online reviews. It just asks for a rating in one click, so no comments or feedback are incorporated.

Additional tips: this version is also perfect in case if you already have a great collection of reviews because you exceed customer expectations consistently. It decreases the number of steps a customer must take to leave the review online because only one click is needed.

On the other hand, you don’t capture the feedback, so use it when you have a collection of positive recommendations.

Test different subject lines and texts and see what works best. For example, put a person’s name in the subject line for a better personalization. Also, try different versions of the text and analyze the response.

React to negative reviews quickly and rectify the situation. When a negative review appears, you should discuss it with the person who wrote it via phone or email. Emphasize with the and help to correct the situation. Remember: turn off the business mode and put yourself into the shoes of the reviewer.

In Conclusion

A simple act of asking for an online review can increase your ability to manage PR in an effective way. For that, you don’t need some expensive technology or tools because your commitment is all that counts here.

Always underpromise and over-deliver!

Lucy Benton is a marketing specialist, business consultant who finds her passion in expressing own thoughts as a blogger, and currently writes for www.assignmenthelper.com.au. She is constantly looking for the ways to improve her skills and expertise. If you’re interested in working with Lucy, you can find her on FaceBook and Twitter