A Proactive Discovery Phase
Typing your company name into a general search engine’s search box and glancing at the top 10 results is not the most effective online reputation management program. To get a complete view of a brand’s online reputation, exploration must extend well beyond that first results page. This need has created an opportunity for technology providers to offer tools to help companies (and individuals) monitor their online brands and identities and, in some cases, help them diminish and remove negative information.
Tony Priore, CMO and head of product development at information services company Biz360, stresses the importance of looking at both channels: social media as well as news media. "The impact of ignoring the blogosphere can be significant," says Priore. He notes how messages can easily flow from an individual who starts his own blog to millions of people who could be influenced by that one blogger.
Biz360’s Media Insights service aggregates, measures, and analyzes content from both social and media sources to help marketers and media professionals better understand their audiences. The company can measure many different facets of a company’s brand—from the impact of its marketing and public relations efforts to its success (or failure) related to recent product launches or events. Articles that enter the system are labeled with a sentiment rating (negative, neutral, positive), and tone is classified as either very positive, positive, neutral, negative, very negative, and divided.
When the company was founded in 2001, BD-BrandProtect, an online threat protection specialist, primarily served financial services companies that were concerned about preventing identity theft attacks. "That has evolved to larger brands that want to protect their names and trademarks online," says Kevin Joy, VP of BrandProtect. "With the advent of social media, it has a broader impact. Companies are becoming more aware."
Cymfony began 10 years ago with a focus on traditional media, but it has since expanded into social media solutions through its Orchestra platform. Similar to Biz360, Orchestra uses a natural language processing engine to aggregate and analyze traditional and social media. Cymfony has retrievers that find the content written online about a particular client by using the company’s own spiders as well as those from partners.
Elixir Technologies similarly monitors online conversations for its clients to uncover what is being said about them. The company also scans results (both organic and paid listings) in the search engines to get a clear picture of a client’s online reputation.
Visible Technologies, an online brand management solution provider, focuses on helping companies as well as individuals, such as company executives, maintain a closer eye on their online reputations. The company helps its customers optimize search engine results so more favorable items have more prominent positions. "You can’t change content, but you can optimize it," says Blake Cahill, SVP of marketing for Visible Technologies. "About 80% of searchers go no further than the first page of search engine results. The challenge is having relevant and new content out there. We help optimize and better promote or develop assets."
Cahill says Visible Technologies works with individuals with a high net worth who want to be known for their philanthropic work. Overall, by using its TruView product, the company’s main goal is to help its clients promote their desired messages online and ensure that they are prominently viewed. Visible Technologies serves more as a consultant to its clients by advising them on what will help them rank higher in search engine results and guide them to create the content that will achieve that goal. The company also monitors future activity to ensure that a client’s reputation remains positive.
Cleaning Up the Mess
Once monitoring processes are completed, clients are typically presented with a report that summarizes the status of their brand on the web—what positive things are being said about them and what negative press appears. Biz360 offers monthly, weekly, or quarterly reports, but it also allows clients to view a dashboard of their metrics on an hourly basis.
Oftentimes, this is where the online reputation management technology’s job is finished. The next step is typically an analysis of the findings to determine how to eliminate negative information and how to ensure that an abundance of positive information about a client exists. "We counsel clients to give them strategic information about what will rank higher [in the search engines] and guide them to create it," says Cahill.
After Cymfony’s solution collects information, internal analysts review the content and write reports and recommendations for clients to follow. Nail says clients typically turn to other outside vendors, such as their public relations agencies, to create a plan to deal with any negative information that is found.
BD-BrandProtect collects information for its clients and presents it in reports or directs them to a portal to view the data. "We look at the variety of threats and provide them the visibility to take measures to ensure they’re mitigated," explains Joy. "The key is to get to it early." A series of three letters can be sent to the guilty parties requesting that they stop compromising another company’s brand name. Joy says the process is typically 75% successful.
ReputationDefender, through its MyReputation product, scans the internet (from sources such as social networks, websites, and news sources) to find information about a particular client—much like other solutions available in the marketplace. That information is compiled into a monthly report. From that report, clients can select content that they want removed, and ReputationDefender can assist in removing it or making it more accurate, according to founder and CEO Michael Fertik.