The term “online reputation management” has been thrown around a lot recently, especially in relation to public relations nightmares some companies have experienced. It seems that rogue PR professionals are posting inflammatory Tweets or blogs, or maybe a company’s website was hacked and damaging information was released. On the other hand, you’ve probably also heard of companies with a great online reputation who are known to interact meaningfully and positively with their customers. Online reputation management is an essential part of public relations in the 21st century.
You may have never thought much about online reputation management. You may have been taught that the best reaction is no reaction, and that if you ignore a pest it usually goes away. While that may be true, taking no action to a cyber-assault on your good name is definitely a bad idea. Negative opinions and misrepresented fact can tarnish your clean reputation immediately and ruin an otherwise trustworthy name, especially in the times we live in today, with technology and the online world growing at a rapid rate. Online Reputation Management is now essential to any company or service wanting to maintain a clean and untainted online image.
Let’s first define ORM. Online Reputation Management can be defined as “the process by which a company can build positive feedback, respond to negative sentiments about their brand in online conversations and minimise the effect of negative publicity by suppressing damaging web pages in Google search results.” (http://www.targetinternet.com/, 2008. A practical guide to online reputation management).As online discussions on forums, Twitter, Facebook and product review sites become more popular and customers turn to these channels as part of their buying decisions, companies need to be aware of where and how their business is being discussed. Every day, lies and rumours fill these forums. Search engines looking for fresh content place these postings at the top of their results. There's no “undo” button, and defensive posts may make matters worse.
By continuously updating and adding new and fresh content, this situation can be prevented. Strict adherence and close attention to content and responding effectively and courteously on all platforms is one of your best weapons in the arsenal of ORM. If your customers like your content, they’ll tell their friends about it via email or social media. This means you have to produce the best content possible to manage your online reputation.
However, if there is a lack of attention to posts and complaints, or if the content is managed badly, the consequences can have far reaching effects .One example of this is the horrendous way Nestle handled their Facebook interaction with its customers and clients. Nestle, in all their glory, decided to place their interns (and the “less experienced” personal) in charge of their Facebook group. Nestle told their fans and customers that if they used an altered Nestle logo as their profile picture they would be removed from the group. The following image depicts the interaction between Nestle and the users:
The problem, obviously, is Nestlé’s response to people who didn’t like the initial statement. It’s PR 101: Don’t insult your customers. And in PR 2010, mind your manners in public forums — especially those expressly created for fans of your company. Nestle ultimately alienated and angered many of its customers and in turn, took many months to recover successfully.Your online reputation can be seen in a number of ways. Whether you’re seeking employment, selling a product, looking for an investor or trying to score a date, someone is going to turn to a search engine to learn more about you, and when they do, only flattering and complementary information should be seen.
There are many companies offering the service of ORM today. The key is to find the right one for you. Due to the sensitive and volatile nature of the online world, highly skilled expertise is needed when managing and monitoring your online image. So be careful when deciding who you want in the hot seat.