We understand online reputation management as a set of tools and activities a company or a person undertakes to ensure the security of information and reputation, both on and offline in internal and external communication. The idea of such a service came from years of learning that for corporate clients or business celebrities, having a social media monitoring tool for so-called mentions of the brand name is just not enough. Today the sophistication of a company’s or person’s digital existence goes far beyond catching every social media comment about the brand or personal brand. Surly anyone working in corporate marketing or PR departments would agree that today the security of the brand image and reputation depends on a number of factors. They’re often much more dangerous in the long-term perspective than what we could call the typical social media crisis that is a common risk for brands that have profiles on social media platforms.
For consumer brands, a key element of online reputation management is of course tracking and responding to brand mentions across the full range of digital channels. Depending on your industry and customer base, this could mean:
Many factors influence the brand image of your company or your personal brand. However, the most important because the most visible in today’s digital world are the testimonials of other customers who have interacted with the brand. Very often, consumers also judge the way a brand communicates with the public. Finally, consumers are increasingly willing to take into account individual opinions and recommendations from influencers.
Reputation management goes beyond traditional marketing
Something that is actually quite unique about our work on online reputation projects is that in many cases we do not work with the marketing department of the company or not only with the marketing department. The client in many cases will be the HR department or the operations team in one of the company facilities. Sometimes it will be the company CEO or the legal department, often it will be a mix of many departments that unite to deal with a specific case.
In this respect, we support our clients among others in the following areas:
Monitoring and prevention – online and offline
The crises taking place online, even if they involve bots and automated technologies, always have some underlying basis in ordinary human emotions and beliefs. That’s why in the case of complex attacks on company reputation often a lot of our work is done offline on the ground by talking to various levels of company employees, meeting with teams, conducting either group meetings or one on one interviews, and just trying to find out what’s going on outside of the digital sphere.
Focusing on offline issues is also a very efficient source of intelligence that can lead to reports on potential crisis situations long before they become real internal or external threats. And a lot of that can, of course, be diagnosed using sophisticated digital tools. But sometimes it’s the human eyes or ears or the human brain that sees and interprets more accurate than we would be able to see with our digital eyes and ears. So to put it simply, what we do is we gather data, we listen and watch, and then we interpret whatever data and information we are able to catch. And actually, our analytical team is the nerdiest one in the company, and so far it has been able to deliver some outstanding results for our clients.
That said, it is worth adding that we are much more often involved in projects aimed at preventing image crises, and nipping threats in the bud, than cleaning up when the milk has already been spilt.
Of course, our human skills and experience will be nothing without the tools we use and they vary depending on the scale and type of operations. The social listening part is one of the most important things to cover. There are a number of tools we use for social media monitoring, for analytics.
When the storm hits – how to respond
Intuition is the worst adviser in managing a corporate or personal image crisis. Most people whose personal brand has been attacked would like to immediately stand in front of the cameras and explain that there has been a mistake, that the facts are different than everyone thinks.
This is not a good way to go, especially for people who have no media training at all. There are many media case studies in which CEOs explain on camera that they are not liars, thieves or whatever. Media have a habit of cutting short statements and adding drama, and this never ends well.
If you are facing a sudden image crisis, don’t panic, get your team together, and analyse the situation and the level of actual threat in a sober way. Often the first intuitive reaction is not the best one, it is worth giving yourself time and thinking through more possible scenarios for responding to a crisis. This is by no means about burying your head in the sand, as this would also be the wrong way to respond. The aim is to find the best way to react and respond officially and unofficially to the crisis.
If you fail to plan, you’re planning to fail
The most important part of effective reputation management is good planning. Our online image is not a static monument but rather a living painting to which the google algorithm is capable of adding or changing something new every day. Good reputation management takes this into account. It predicts. It monitors. It analyses. And it plans. Companies that only react to crises when they happen lose twice. Firstly, they lose the advantage of being prepared with adequate resources and the ability to react quickly. More importantly, they lose the opportunity to get ahead of the enemy, to recognise an impending crisis before it develops.