Reputation management is the process of comprehending and/or influencing a person or company’s reputation. Typically used to denote public relations (PR) initiatives that are used to spotlight the positive elements of businesses, (and to push the negatives, such as unflattering media coverage or sub-par customer reviews, into the shadows) reputation management may happen on and/or offline.
Common reputation management strategies include addressing reviews in order to minimize their negative impact, planning PR campaigns that polish a company’s reputation, and forming coherent, long-term marketing plans that are designed to highlight all, or a select few, of a company’s strengths and positive attributes.
These days, the increasing popularity of home computers, laptops, smart phones, iPads and other electronic toys (which allow consumers to post feedback and opinions online in an instant) make the need for effective online reputation management more pressing than ever before. However, reputation management which occurs in offline arenas is also very important. For example, any negative media coverage that is shown on TV, heard on radio, or read in newspapers and magazines also needs to be addressed, often in an offline format.
Ethical Red Flags
While the concept and practice of reputation management raises some ethical concerns, reputation management is a fact of life for most public persons and organizations these days. Ethical abuses of online resources that are used for reputation management may include the posting of fake, “false positive” reviews, the censoring of honest, but unflattering feedback, and “black hat” search engine optimization (SEO) techniques (which are used to boost Google rankings).
However, there are also ethical techniques which are used to defuse inflammatory situations which might otherwise detrimentally affect a person or company’s reputation. Offering customers who’ve left negative feedback access to caring customer service that addresses their concerns (and neutralizes the impact of their complaints) is one of the most effective reputation management strategies. Other options include press releases, company statements, and new advertising campaigns that address issues, thereby clearing the air and paving a path for better public relations in the future.
History of Reputation Management
While reputation management has always existed, its modern-day significance may have been ushered in by the presence of online storefronts, such as the auction website, eBay.com. Sellers on this website quickly learned that negative reviews from buyers would adversely affect their ability to generate income at eBay.com. Therefore, various reputation management strategies, some of them questionable from an ethical standpoint, became commonplace.
For example, eBay sellers would push products for extremely low prices, in order to generate spates of positive feedback that increased their overall rankings, and made prior negative feedback less noticeable or harmful. The principles used by Ebay.com sellers are now employed by tons of online merchants, as well as by persons and companies who promote themselves via the World Wide Web. Therefore, modern reputation management is linked with the Internet in a very strong way.
Reputation Management Saves Businesses
There are many pitfalls out there for modern entrepreneurs and public persons. These include review websites, such as Yelp.com, which may feature an array of negative feedback. Since there is always the chance that competitors may be posting “fake negative reviews” via these types of websites, it’s important to monitor such feedback carefully, and to contact management at these websites if abuse of the review system is noticed.
In addition, negative news stories that are posted online need to be “sunk” through reputation management methods. Many entrepreneurs create Google Alerts services in order to make sure that they don’t miss any mentions of their business. When they find negative news stories that paint their enterprises in an unflattering light, they do all that they can to “sink” these stories, usually by creating new content that attracts the attention of Google search engine “bots”. In best-case scenarios, new content will begin to rank highly, pushing down the negative content, so that less people find it in Google results.
When done ethically, according to industry “best practices”, this type of work pays great dividends. When done unethically, it has the potential to cause a business even more reputation damage.