This article explains Reputation Management in a practical way. After reading it, you will understand the basics of this powerful marketing strategy tool.
What is Reputation Management?
The definition of Reputation Management
Reputation Management is a strategy that involves any activity aimed at identifying, monitoring, and influencing public opinion about a business or brand. Organizations and people that work on reputation management’s activities usually use various online channels to interact with consumers to make sure that organizational goals align with public opinion.
Previously, this strategy was a general practice during a crisis. Today, with online access and more than four billion internet users, reputation management should be carried out proactively to minimize potential reputation damage. Consumers can easily access online communication platforms to share their online reviews and experiences about products and services, brands, organizations, and anything else they like to share.
Therefore, Reputation Management activities are today usually executed on online channels. While shared positive experiences by positive reviews are most likely to enhance a business due to a potential snowball effect, negative reviews can seriously harm an organization if it does not take appropriate measures. A negative public opinion with negative reviews scares potential customers, which consequently results in missed revenues.
The difference between Reputation Management and Public Relations
Reputation Management should not be confused with corporate communication and public relations. However, these are instruments that can be used for reputation management. Reputation management goes along with multiple synonyms such as online Reputation Management, corporate reputation management, and brand management. Despite these names, all share the same goal, shaping perception and maintaining public opinion about an organization or brand.
Organizations need to invest in reputation management. Effective Reputation Management requires proactive engagement to overcome negative reviews and opinions. Failing to do so could result in reputation damage, decreased profitability, and in the worst-case scenario, it could lead to bankruptcy for a company. Hence, it is valid to state that reputation management is essential for business survival and business continuity, especially if reputation damage is high.
A primary reason for the importance of proactive reputation management is because a reputation is built over time, but it can be damaged within a second. Reputation is built from the accumulation of experiences, reviews, comments, and everything the public says about an organization, brand, or person.
The downside is that both people and businesses have no control over public opinion. Some companies consider reputation management activities as communication initiatives that could be carried out through sales and marketing teams because of this obstacle. These departments’ goal is to create awareness and convert prospects into customers while simultaneously providing an excellent experience.
Another reason for a proactive reputation management approach is because negative experiences with a company, brand or person are more likely to be shared online than positive experiences. Unfortunately, readers typically find negative messages more interesting, so the chance of circulation of a negative statement is much higher than a positive one. A way to undermine this is to build a good reputation that balances criticism from the public.
As the public could comprise various stakeholders with different demands, conducting a stakeholder analysis can be useful. It enables the identification of who should be communicated to regarding the reputation goals. It can be helpful to maintain a stakeholder analysis since the stakeholders’ expectations can change. For example, if corporate goals remain the same while stakeholders’ expectations change, the risk of reputation damage increases.
Reputation Management and the PESO Model, including examples
As public opinion about a business or person is mostly shared online, it is important to understand how public opinion can be influenced. Within marketing, the PESO model can be used to understand how different types of media channels can share messages.
PESO refers to paid media, earned media, shared media, and owned media. By understanding these types of media, the possibility arises to influence public opinion with external communication.
Paid media concerns any paid communication effort intended to share a specific message with a target audience. Typical examples are paid advertisements that could be redistributed on Facebook, Twitter, but also Google. Usually, the possibility exists to gain insights into the number of impressions and click.
Earned media is basically earned. It is free media about a company or brand. If the public recognizes the company, the organization or brand will drag attention from various public parties such as influencers, investors, and the media. If these parties communicate positive messages about the organization or brand, it can be regarded as earned media.
Shared media and social networks refers to any content about an organization or brand redistributed by a specific targeted audience through social media channels as Facebook or Twitter.
Shared media also needs to be earned because the messages need to be circulated by the public before being considered shared media. It is hence out of control of the organization or brand.
Owned media concerns any online asset such as websites and social media pages owned by the organization or person. It includes customer reviews, employee stories, customer stories, but also videos and podcasts.
To effectively carry out reputation management in the online environment, it is essential to monitor the different media, channels, and messages. These channels can be used to influence the public, maintain a company or brand reputation, but also to learn from.
For example, earned media such as reviews could provide insight into customer pains or occasional negative experiences. From an organization’s perspective, this is an opportunity to interact with a consumer to transparently find a solution. Such an approach could build trust with potential customers, and a reputation could be built, which shows that the company always finds a solution if anything goes wrong. If these positive comments are visualized on a corporate website, the reviews are considered owned media.
Another example is that of a company that identifies an issue with its products that impact the short term’s quality. It is an opportunity for the company to recall the sold products before it does not meet consumer expectations in the long run. In this scenario, the organization can use different media channels to communicate to customers that this specific type of product needs to be returned. This mitigation measure potentially prevents further reputation damage.
Reputation management strategy
Reputation management goes along with a strategy. Organizations and brands need to know how to respond in a specific situation and what type of activities to provide to maintain a good reputation. As every organization and people differ from another, the below approach solely serves as an example.
Every strategy starts with understanding the environment in order to determine the most desirable approach. A reputation management scenario is no different as it begins with understanding how the organization or brand is positioned in stakeholders’ minds. A reputation management strategy next focuses on addressing the opportunities and issues that need to be fixed. Followed with an action plan and finalized with a monitoring phase.
The main objective of the research phase of reputation management is to understand the company’s current reputation. It requires online research that will provide insights into the perception of the public. A possibility is to evaluate positive reviews and negative reviews as these could give a general understanding of customer pains. The chance is also high that if one has experienced a specific experience, others have experienced it as well. Reviews can be found at search engines / search result like Google and Bing, but also at review websites.
Search engines and social media platforms are also great tools to research companies and brands. Specific keywords via search result can lead to news articles, videos, and blogs in which the public have shared stories, experiences, and perception of the organization or brand. Social media platforms provide immediate insights into companies and people as these platforms offer the possibility to search with hashtags, which refers to a specific topic on social media.
After having a complete understanding of the environment, reputation management is now concerned with determining the corporate or brand reputation strengths and weaknesses. The SWOT model could be a useful framework for this identification step. It is essential to continuously research the environment and always aim to identify points for improvements, as these could change over time.
3. Design a plan
For effective reputation management, it can be useful to draft a behavioral code that addresses how one should respond or behave in specific situations. It is important to note that the faster one delicately responds to negative feedback, the higher the likelihood it can still become a positive experience. Hence, negative feedback should be acted upon as fast as possible.
An organization should additionally show empathy and evaluate complaints honestly and responsibly. As explained, the chances exist that if one has a complaint, probably others have the same complaint. Vice versa, positive feedback should be encouraged, and it could be highlighted on corporate online assets. Finally, proactive behavior always provides better results. Hence, proactively asking for feedback is a great way to find improvement points that will enhance the reputation in the long run.
4. Monitor reputation and measure
Media Monitoring and measuring reputation is crucial as it can provide insights into a problem before it further escalates. All the previous steps can be monitored individually, but it is also useful to observe the whole strategy. Media Monitoring could go along with assigning or evaluating one’s responsibilities.
It could be that one’s specific activity is not viable as expected; hence it could serve as an indicator to change a particular process. Therefore, monitoring and measuring are essential for effective reputation management. Without evaluating the reputation management activities along with reputation growth, reputation enhancement is less likely.
Reputation management tools
Reputation management may be overwhelming as there are tons of websites, social media platforms, and other channels available where the public shares opinions about specific businesses and brands. All these comments are somewhere on the web and stay there forever. It enables the possibility of digging deep into the past and evaluating how a company or brand’s reputation has developed over time.
In order to make this easier, numerous reputation management tools exist. These tools search the internet for different objectives, depending on the types of tools. Many times, tools can be categorized into monitoring, outreach, analysis, and publishing tools.
Reputation monitoring tools research the web where a specific keyword is mentioned in articles and websites. These keywords could be a company name or brand but also a product. Monitoring tools that research social media platforms also exist. Outreach tools are designed to help find a publisher who is willing to write a story about an organization or brand. Publishing tools send content to numerous websites, which is a great way to share messages to a target audience quickly.
It’s Your Turn
What do you think? Do you recognize the explanation about Reputation Management? What obstacles have you encountered that probably had an impact on your reputation? Do you have a reactive approach or proactive approach to reputation management? How do you keep your stakeholders informed? How does your reputation management strategy look like? Do you have any tips or additional comments?
Share your experience and knowledge in the comments box below.
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