Back To Basics: Online Reputation Management

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Reputation management is the practice of attempting to shape public perception of a person or organisation by influencing online information about that entity. In today’s era of social media no CEO or entrepreneur can escape public glare. They are all being watched all the time and since their reputation is sacrosanct for their organisation they are supposed to take care of it. We are suggesting the basic five steps of online reputation management.

1- Online Audit

It’s not as technical as it sounds. Take a deep breath and simply type a name on google and check the results. What’s the information that tops the list? You may have to try the process with different ways as people would or may search the same name. Think aloud. If it’s a common name, chances are that people will search it with the brand related to the name or the industry he or she belongs to.

The exercise will give you an idea of what appears on top of the page when the name is searched for. Is it good, positive information? Is it current, latest and updated? Is there a need to push down some irrelevant links and an update required? You can ask as many questions and reach a worthy conclusion. This is where you get started and the objectives start evolving all by themselves.

2- Create a Source Box

To save yourself from being misquoted and misrepresented and if you don’t want to see your old avatar profile photo appearing in some media mention or post, you need to offer a one point resource for all. Think of it as a repository of all the information and articles that are available online (read all with positive coverage). You can also include the scans of those articles that are not available as online version.

Create space for your photographs, upload them in various resolutions and keep available as many options as possible. Also keep it all updated.

The source could be a blog of yours (better to be an official website) wherein you could also voice your opinion on varied topics and relevant issues.

3- Social Media Audit

It’s like reading what you write, observing how you appear and hearing the conversation around – what people are talking, what’s their opinion and on the outset what is available about you in public domain, especially social media.

There are ways and means to control the information that’s out there and what more can be visible to masses by way of your security settings etc. on the respective social media handles. But all the restrictions have their own limitations and one should always go out on social media with the idea that nothing is private in today’s world. You may or may not share certain information but then there are others who would do that and tag you as well. You have little or almost no control over it. Best you can do about it is to control what you say and think twice before voicing your opinion about anything. It may or may not be an official issue and official stand but there is no such boundary between the two.

4- Engage but remain Polite

Engagement is the key. Staying polite and courteous in all conversations is the golden rule. Be ready to face criticism and backlash on the comments you make and opinion you put forth. Social media is an arena where people more often than not react without any inhibitions. Anybody being in a position of repute or leading an organisation is advised to restrain from being curt and getting disturbed with the comments from not so social people. In the first place, you never know if they exist in reality or are dummies working for your competition. Their sole aim may be to push you out and get a news making reaction that can dent your reputation. They mostly have nothing to lose.

5- It’s OK to Apologize

If you or your organisation makes a mess, deliberate or accidental, whatever be the case, owning it up and apologizing is fine. Rare are the occasions when you should steer clear of the issue and refuse acceptance. The best criterion to decide on the same is by understanding if the question is that of the reputation or image. Reputation is the lasting entity and if your owning may tarnish it, you may refrain from doing so. Though on social media, reputation is rarely at stake. It’s all about the image and that shines by being polite, humble, accepting the mistake and coming forward to make up for it.

The safe sided, diplomatic statements like “I’m sorry if our actions made you feel bad” are not advisable. It’s a very different audience and generation out there on social media. Such apologies may add fuel to the situation. An unconditional apology, direct connect with the aggrieved party and offer to make up for the situation is best way to move.

These are just a few basic steps towards managing your reputation online. The list of dos and don’ts could be longer than a possible read. For that extensive a management there is no dearth of experts out there. More suggestions are welcome in the comment section below.

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Reputation Today is India’s only print magazine for Public Relations and Corporate Communications professionals. It is the official magazine of PRAXIS - India’s largest offsite summit for Public Relations and Corporate Communications.

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