Tag Archives: reputation management

Proactive Reputation Management

image by dbking

image by dbking

ReadWriteWeb’s Lidje Davis recently posted a very thought-provoking article entitled The Unforseen Consequences of the Social Web. In the article, Davis notes the many ways that that one’s actions on the social web can adversely affect one’s own reputation.  The flip side is how other peoples’ actions on the social web can affect your reputation as well. “Reputation Management” means monitoring and tracking of one’s own brand, creating appropriate online personas, and developing an encompassing reputation strategy.  The best way to manage your reputation is by creating a proactive reputation management strategy.

Why should an organization spend its time to create a proactive reputation management strategy?

  • There is no delete button on the internet. Your posts, and comments about your organization live forever. A great example is when I searched under the terms “L’Oreal+Israel” using Google: the third and fourth listings were entitled “Boycott Israel Campaign” and “L’Oreal: Makeup for Israeli Apartheid.” These campaigns are at least 10 years old. Is this really what L’Oreal, Israel, wants its customers to see at the top of the search page?
  • Current comments about your organization can spread like wildfire and affect your organization’s ability to raise funds successfully. As Elaine Fogel writes in Network for Good’s blog here, “one negative media report on a nonprofit can set it back to the point where it may not recover. A nonprofit’s main asset is its reputation.” No one wants to give money to a company with a poor reputation.
  • Inability to react quickly to negative online publicity and conversation will damage your reputation as well. See my previous post analyzing two online reputation management cases for examples.
  • If your organization’s online brand is not up to date, it will also affect fundraising. Imagine soliciting major donors…but donors researching your company find negative listings in the top ten Google search returns.  Or better yet, what if Twitter searches for your organization’s name show many negative comments? Smart donors search online first for information about organizations. You want the top online results to be positive.

A little bit of proactive attention to your organization’s online profile can prevent problems down the road, and find allies, collaborators and donors. That said, how about getting started? I suggest a few starter actions, listed below.

  • Set up “listening posts” to monitor online conversations about your organization.
  • Buy your domain name, those related to your organization, and potential common domain name misspellings.
  • Create a blog so that your organization has a platform from which to issue its own stories.
  • Pick two social networking sites to join where your stakeholders hang out,  and begin to converse with people there.
  • Create an organizational social profile on a handful of social networking sites. You don’t have to be active on them, but you’re ready to be if need be, and it will help increase your organization’s search engine rankings.

Ask Dave Taylor asks: What Is Reputation Management? Dave answers this question thoroughly.
Social Media Optimization’s blog post:  Five Steps to Managing Reputation Management.
Reputation Advisor’s Six Easy Steps to Personal Reputation Management.
Chris Bennet on Reputation Management.
Search Insider’s 17 Search Engine Reputation Management Optimization Tips.

If your organization wants to delve deeper, there is great information available online. Here are some of the best management reputation informational posts that I found:

  • The “mother of all” resources and tips to manage your online reputation was compiled by Jacob Share at Job Mob. He lists 170+ Resources and Tips to Help Manage Your Reputation Online. This post gives a thorough list of online tools to manage your reputation and specific steps of how to “clean up” one’s reputation in each participatory media sphere.
  • Brett Borders’ Copy Brighter blog speaks only to online reputation management, with wonderful posts about managing one’s online reputation, how to deal with “impossible” online reputation issues, and more. If you want to know more about this specific area, I’d start here first. Ditto for finding answers to your questions regarding online reputation management and strategies.
  • Marketing Pilgrim focuses on the search engine that determines all of our reputations, Google, and how to adjust one’s rankings within Google.  There are very practical ways to increase your organization’s Google rankings in the post Google Reputation Management: Fix Your Google Reputation and Remove Negative Results. Some are quite easy to implement. Though the article focuses on fixing a negative Google reputation, it is worthwhile to read and implement these strategies proactively so that your organization controls as much of its reputation as it can.
  • The New Zealand State Services has an article about monitoring social media buzz. The article focuses on creating RSS feeds for each social media tool, and specifically how to do this for Wikipedia. Since Wikipedia references boost Google search engine rankings, it is important to stay on top of the chatter on it.

I hope that this inspires you to dip your toes into proactive reputation management. Let me know what you find!

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Reputation Management in Times of Crisis

image by altemark

image by altemark

I once worked for a non-profit organization that created a particularly controversial education curriculum for the public school system. After launching the curriculum, the local newspaper published an op-ed piece criticizing it, and negative press soon followed. The organization is local to its city, offering varied projects and services, and funded partially by public funds.  All of its good work was lost, temporarily, in the maelstrom following the op-ed piece. This was in the days before social media and Web 2.0.  What could my organization do? They tried to get their own op-ed piece published, sent out a press release, spoke at the local city council, sent letters to their members and donors, and organized a neighborhood rally. Did it mediate public opinion? A bit.  The biggest problem was that of reach, not message. Secondly was the lack of opportunities to engage directly with its critics.

If this organization were to encounter the same problem today, they could achieve much greater reach and impact using social media applications.

Your organization can’t afford NOT to be on all social media sites relevant to your stakeholders.

Your reputation depends on it.

Let’s look at two companies that faced reputation problems, and what non-profits can learn from them: Network Solutions and Motrin. Jason Falls, at Social Media Explorer, wrote a comprehensive case study about Network Solutions’ reputation problem and analyzed their brand invigoration strategy.

In his case study, Falls explains that “Network Solutions reserved domains that are searched for over a four-day period if they aren’t purchased right away, preventing you from registering them elsewhere unless you call customer service to have them released.”  (They have since changed this policy.) Because of this policy, they increasingly encountered soured customers, negative online conversations, and a brand reputation problem. What did they do? They hired a communications firm to monitor and engage in conversations on-line, address issues directly on their blog, and they provided valuable information to their customers through their blog. They fully engaged, directly answered issues, and listened to their stakeholders, using all the available social media tools. Through this invigoration strategy, they directly addressed reputation issues, potentially creating more advocates.

The second case is more recent and public: The Motrin Moms. For those of you unfamiliar with this campaign, Motrin launched a viral video ad in November 2008 offering mothers with back problems from wearing baby carriers relief through Motrin.  However, many mothers (myself included) were offended by the implications of the ad:  we may not enjoy carrying our children and/or may not want to be labeled as “that kind of mom.”  (You can watch the ad here.) The backlash began immediately on Twitter and YouTube.  The social web waited while Johnson and Johnson (Motrin’s parent company) did…nothing…for a few days. Eventually, the subsidiary company that markets Motrin emailed apologies to bloggers, and the VP of marketing at Johnson and Johnson apologized to consumers on Motrin’s home page. Critics (myself included) agree that Motrin failed to listen to its critics in real time, reacted too slowly to the reputation crisis, and did not satisfactorily engage with its critics on the social web.

There are several interesting case analyses of this case: Jeremiah Owyang looks at the reputation backlash by the numbers, Pistachio offers her insightful  in-the-moment analysis of the issue (with later updates), and David Gelles of the Financial Times wrote a longer piece (reprinted here) that highlights the episode within a larger discussion of brand management.

What is the difference between Motrin’s and Network Solutions’ strategy? Did Motrin open up a special portal for its disgruntled consumers? Did Motrin engage in conversations on the web? Not at all. Motrin (and Johnson and Johnson) talked to consumers, not with consumers. Even today, Motrin’s website is primarily information- and sales-based, with a few FAQs. On the other hand, Network Solutions engaged and addressed critics where they posted in the social web, and learned from it: today Network Solutions asks for customer ideas and feedback on its Ideas Are Power portal.

Two different companies, two different situations, two different approaches. Motrin was hit with a brand reputation crisis, and Network Solutions was trying to raise its reputation and decrease negativity towards the brand. We can learn from these two cases, and hopefully react better than Motrin did.

Organizations must be ready to deal with brand reputation crises. In order to do so, you should have all the appropriate social media tools in place to listen, engage with your stakeholders, and broadcast messages if a crisis hits.  What tools should you have in place?

1. A Blog: the only media source fully controlled by you. See John Hayden’s post on 22 Ways A Blog Can Rock Your Non-Profit’s Social Media Campaign.

2. Listening Tools: I previously wrote about how to set up a “listening post” to monitor online conversations about you and your organization. For additional reading, try Chris Brogan’s 5 Tools I Use for Listening.

3. Participate in Social Media Spaces: Where are your stakeholders? Engage with them where they are spending time. Is it on Facebook? Twitter? Bebo? HiFive? LinkedIn? Maybe the local community forum or listserv? Set up a few accounts now and begin engaging with your stakeholders so that if your organization’s reputation is ever questioned, you are in the conversation and able to address the concerns quickly. A plus is that your stakeholders will be more likely to trust your response because you have spent the time building up their trust through your engagement efforts.

4. An Interactive Website: not the static website of old, but one that includes opportunities for engagement, clear calls for action, guest posts by stakeholders, and an Idea Portal.

If you have a great example of crisis reputation management through social media, I’d love to know of it. In another post, I’ll address the issue of proactive reputation management.

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