Both for individuals and corporations, the opinions of others are important. Unless you’re a billionaire living on your own tropical island and don’t have to interact with others, you never know when what other people think may influence what happens to you. Even though you may be unaware, perhaps someone has made a comment online. That can be good or bad. Suppose you would like to give a short presentation to your local Rotary Club on a charity you support. One of the executives googles your name and sees a favorable account of what your charity is doing. That opens the door and you’re welcomed with open arms. You apply for a job and the employer checks you out on Facebook. What appears there is not very professional, particularly the comments from some of your friends. Bingo, you never get the opportunity to impress them in an interview. What holds true for individuals is even truer for companies. It is difficult to please all the people all the time. In any case, some individuals have a bias against corporations. Whistling in the dark to keep up your spirits can be foolhardy.
Old-style Public Relations (PR)
Around 20 or so years ago, heads of corporations faced with a corporate disaster would often keep their heads down, say nothing, and wait for everyone to forget their blunder. With any luck, some other news story would emerge that drew away everyone’s attention. That (lack of) policy deliberately took the risk that things might get even worse. The best PR advisers would encourage a prompt, proactive response. This corporate concern would get some brownie points and might well reduce any penalties that the blunder might have attracted.
Reputation Management in the Age of Social Media
A tweet about a bad customer experience is as permanent as the same words carved in stone, but is much more visible to anyone who takes an interest in the company. Given the speed at which bad news travels, a company’s reputation is perhaps most clearly defined by what can be found on the Internet. The following are the important tasks in a proactive reputation management plan. Although they are written in terms of a company, the same applies to individuals, particularly if you have “celebrity” status.
- Real-time monitoring of all online references to the company both in web searches and in the major social media (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+).
- Appropriate engagement with any instigators of negative references to the company.
- Any positive references should be supported and encouraged.
- In some cases, it may be appropriate to develop online responses and associated brochures or pamphlets for any important opinion leaders.
In summary, reputation is an important asset that can have major impact on results. Like any other asset, it cannot be neglected.