There’s no question that the internet serves as a great megaphone for organizations that want to conduct business around the globe. The web can communicate your message to more people and more locations than any previous communications channel ever could.
However, with the ever-growing number and influence of online social networks, blogs, and forums, an increasing number of voices can be heard, and word certainly travels fast. Unfortunately, that word isn’t always complimentary. Yet many companies do not know what information about them is floating around cyberspace. They have no idea that negative and potentially damaging information is being circulated and possibly eating away at their businesses and the reputations they have worked so hard to build.
Getting a Reputation
Some companies (especially larger ones) make considerable investments in creating their brands, while risking everything by falling short of maintaining the integrity of those brand names in the online environment. One reason is they don’t know where to begin—especially today when references to brand name products or organizations can appear in thousands or even millions of webpages.
Augmenting traditional media measurement tools that help marketers better understand their customers, technologies have emerged that are designed to help organizations (and individuals too) wade through the vast web and monitor how their brands are being perceived online. Online reputation management is gradually growing on the priority list of marketers, corporate communication specialists, and even IT professionals within organizations of all sizes.
"We’re just at the early stages now, but there is a growing realization that companies need to be proactive and take a strategic approach to online reputation management," says Jay Heiser, a research VP at Gartner. He believes that while this will become a corporate communications function, it requires a partnership between IT and corporate communications.
It will certainly need a solid team behind it—team that knows how it wants to deal with the issue. As powerful as the internet is at building businesses, it possesses equal strength to destroy them. "You always need a crisis management plan because you never want to have to use it," says Jim Nail, CMO of Cymfony, a market influence analytics company that is a unit of TNS Media Intelligence.
Apparently, companies are starting to put that plan in place. Jason Ferrara, COO of Elixir Interactive, a digital marketing agency, says that the company has witnessed an increased awareness of online reputation management by clients. "It’s taken off more than SEO," says Ferrara. "They realize that ignoring reputation management will do a lot more damage."