The direction of PR has shifted monumentally in the last few years alone. PR isn’t just about keeping a good game face and projecting a positive public image. Public relations must now plan for strong defense as well as offense. And this is primarily because new media has made corporate profiles much more transparent. Between search engine results, Yelp, Twitter and other peer reviews, just about anything said about you or your company is public domain – and anyone can say anything.

In order to play smart in this new field, business owners and marketing directors need to be very astute about the rules of reputation management. There are companies out there that will do this professionally; however, a bulk of their small to mid-sized business clients don’t go to them unless there’s already an issue. Yet considerable time can pass between the time an issue arises, it’s spotted, the PR company is contacted, a contract is negotiated and the service performed. Meanwhile, how many people, clients, colleagues and potential customers have seen the harmful material and how much damage has already been done?

Larger businesses keep a reputation management company on retainer to maintain transgressions. Unfortunately, smaller companies often can’t afford them – so they do nothing. Rather than doing nothing or doing something when it’s already too late, take a cue from this list of tips for DIY reputation management.

Tip 1: Google Alert

Know what’s being said about you the moment it’s said. Set up Google alerts for yourself and address an issue the minute it happens. You can often nip an issue in the bud by contacting the commentator and appealing to them through appeasement if necessary, if they’re a disgruntled customer, or legal action if the content is slanderous.

If a website inaccurately states something about your or your company, you can contact the domain owner and request the material be removed for a specified reason. Once the domain owner has removed the material, you can then contact Google and ask them to remove the search result from their listings. Google will comply if the website owner has first removed the material.

If you’re looking to remove content, you want to make sure both the website and the search results are removed so that no one is seeing either of the two. In the meantime, don’t broadcast the incident and don’t click on the link more than you need to. You don’t want to advertise embarrassment nor do you want to give the listing more importance by clicking on it.

Tip 2: Establish Your Social ID

A part of defending yourself is establishing yourself. First, claim your domain. Second, create authority and presence by claiming social IDs on major social media channels, including Google profile. This prevents other people from claiming it and (in worse case scenarios) scamming people, putting up unwanted content or embarrassing you or your company in some way.

Setting up a social presence will also increase the chances that unhappy customers come and complain to you on your playing field (where you can see it and respond accordingly) rather than going to other channels where you may not catch it.

Tip 3: Redirect Traffic and Boost a Positive Game Face

Search listings are big. So make sure you have more of your own content popping up in search results rather than unwanted content and complaints by third party users. Do this by creating great blog & site content.

Tip 4: Deal with Unwanted Yelp Comments

Creating your own content has its limits with reputation management because websites like Yelp will always have the upper hand. Their peer comments about your business will always rank high, about as high as your own domain on a search result. If you have unwanted comments about your business on Yelp, you can always reach out to the commentator and see what you can do to ease their angst. Maybe a free service for the one they’ve complained about, so that you can redeem yourself and they can remove their post if they’re now satisfied. Never underestimate the power of a sincere free offer to smooth over ruffled feathers.