Online Reputational Risk Management
Wise managers know they must invest in structures that will grow and protect their corporate reputation. They understand that corporate reputation – apart from brand and product reputation – is a manageable strategic asset. Those managers also know that, on very little notice, they may be required to withdraw that investment and redeploy it elsewhere. Limited resources mean limitations on where, when, and how to invest and, at key moments in the history of their organizations, they may have to sacrifice some aspect of corporate reputation to protect another.
Reputation is more than just a company’s good name, of course. It’s a composite of those factors affecting how others, particularly those outside of the organization, view the company. Issues affecting an entire industry can taint the name of a company not responsible for any of the publicized misdeeds.
Whether the cause of reputational damage is spread across an entire business sector, the result of economic or cyclical factors, or the fault of individual managers who miscalculate the impact of their actions, corporate reputation is among the most valuable and volatile of a company’s assets.
Numerous polls and surveys of executives, investors, analysts and others have turned reputation management into a competitive sport, focusing on annual rankings and lists of most and least admired firms.
The belief that corporate reputation is so widespread among so many stakeholders, or that most of the factors affecting what those groups think of a company, has led at least some managers to believe that reputation itself is unmanageable. Nothing could be further from the truth. Consider the case of a company whose reputation is almost entirely dependent on the image of its founder and chief executive.
Many factors can affect corporate reputation, including the behavior of executives responsible for the company’s image. While it’s clear that no post-conviction maneuvering could do much to salvage the reputations of Tyco, Enron, WorldCom, Adelphia, and others, it is equally clear that key stakeholders – including investors, customers, suppliers, employees, regulators, and others – closely follow the behavior of corporate executives, looking for signals that will indicate the depth and sincerity of the company’s intentions.
How do managers plan as they review the landscape of choices? Is there a formula? British poet John Milton wrote in the 17th Century, “If we are unable to measure that which is important, we will ascribe importance to that which we can measure.” So, what should a conscientious manager measure, and what should she do with the information once she’s gathered it?
Although monitoring systems are in place, the work is not yet over. It is crucial to analyze your social reviews to improve your brand. The analysis part consists of going though all the key comments, feedback and identified concerns that are being expressed online.
Once you have learned what is being said about your company online, you need to evaluate the impact this has or will have on you. You need to understand that healthy discussions comprise of both positive and negative feedback. This feedback (negative/positive) will bring about many opportunities to formulate new and upbeat changes for the better.
Let your audience know that you have been following them and their feedback has helped you enhance your product/service. Invite them to give more feedback to enable you to provide them with a better product/service. Let your audience know about the new improvements you are making and ask for their advice. Make your audience feel involved and let them know you are listening to them.
For instance, if someone left a negative comment or review about your company, they’re giving you a chance to change the conversation and make things better. They did not silently vow to never do business with your company again or trash you to their friends. They told you what happened, why they are disappointed, and now they are looking to you to make things better. Instead of just deleting the comments, listen to what they are telling you. Understand their problem and where the communication has failed. Do not fear the biggest critics. You just need to know how to handle harsh criticism in a positive and subtle way.
Let’s assume you represent a well-known company whose leader has just been photographed engaged in an illegal action. Do you merely release a statement, or quickly take to the Internet to defend your company’s interests?
Although this situation is somewhat overriding to the idea of public relations, the advent of social media is quickly changing the way this sort of crisis is handled. Since business organizations can connect with its audiences quickly, it is possible for them to deal with such situations rapidly and digitally.
By definition, digital crisis management is the act taken by an organization to prevent unexpected situations or events, leading to negative publicity in the digital space, which can affect a company’s reputation, image, resources or people. Digital crisis management involves the procedure taken to minimize risk before they occur. It is the development of plans and actions taken to deal with a crisis as it occurs online to minimize its impact and to assist the company’s recovery.
Successful crisis management requires timing, response and sincerity. If you expect your audience to be true to you, you should be able to do the same. Digital crisis management involves more or less the same steps for online reputation management. The principles remain the same. Handle issues quickly, accurately, professionally and with care. Companies should leverage all the tools they can access to monitor all relevant social media and able to take control of complex situations.
Everything happens very quickly. With the help of social media, bad news spreads faster than ever via Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and so on. If you are the target, you have to react very quickly and monitor all relevant consumer-generated media. This will help you trace the root of the problem.
Today, you can no longer hide secrets. Everyone has the power to expose striking situations – making “private” become public. You need to ensure that there are no inconsistent practices in your business. Make sure that your corporate social responsibilities are legitimate, justifiable and reliable.
A two-way dialogue between you and your audience is very important. Communication is the only means to pass on your message. The most effective and efficient way to build goodwill is to invite your customers to participate in a conversation. You must be attentive to what your audience is communicating to you by being receptive.
Did you know 80% of Internet users start their session at search? Online users’ use search engines to do research, gather information so that they can make practical decisions. If the information they come across during a search relating to your brand is unfavorable, it can affect the decisions they make. A search can either make or break your reputation.
Your brand may have many enemies and they many have tons of information concerning your business. You should be aware of the news and comments circulating around online concerning your company. An individual voice can travel around the world more easily today. Therefore, you must keep an ear for what is going around.
Mark Twain famously said, “A lie can make it half way around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes”. This is fully applicable in today’s environment where businesses are frequently victims of online attacks. Unfortunately, there are numerous companies that are not prepared for such a crisis. That is why it is vital you have a digital crisis management strategy prepared before you become victim of reputation damage.
You must watch your brand 24/7. Use social monitoring tools like Google and Yahoo! alerts, Technorati, Blog Pulse, Monitter, etc. Use these monitoring tools to know what is being said about your brand, and take necessary actions if needed.
Communication is the only means to get closer to your audience. Answer any of their inquiries and convince the contrary if they have negative opinions. If you choose to ignore what customers are saying about you, they will start to question your company’s integrity. Do not let issues go beyond control. Respond to matters quickly, even if your answer is “We are looking into it”.
One negative conversation could potentially lead to other discussions around similar issues. Therefore, as you respond to the negative feedback, it is vital that your messaging is consistent every time. You do not want to compromise your reliability by sending mixed messages.
Many companies experience brand damage due to employees’ social media activity. Regardless of whether your company encourages its employees to get involved in social media, they are bound to do so during their personal time. Unfortunately, even when engaging in social media platforms on their own, employees can inadvertently cause severe brand damage.
To protect your online reputation, it is important to develop and implement an employee social media policy that outlines the do’s and don’ts of online engagement. It is imperative that your employees understand the power and consequences of social media involvement.
It is wise to seek the expertise of a public relations firm if you need more thorough details and information concerning online crisis management. But if you do not have the resources to work with an external firm, here are some tips to consider:
Hire a “crisis management team” - You may opt for some of your most trusted employees who are willing to work diligently to supervise and manage any social media issues 24/7.
Listen to the responses to your response - Listen, respond and act. Then listen again. This will help you plan your next step. Your audience will make it clear if more details are needed.
Update frequently - You should keep your audience informed about the latest updates you have brought about. Don’t keep saying “we are working on it” and never inform your viewers about the modifications. Your audience will appreciate the fact that you have kept your word and you are working to bring changes and improvements.
Reach out to your brand representatives - It might be a good idea to ask a few of your loyal customers to respond to an issue. This often offers more credibility than just giving a response from your company. However, be sure their messages are truly authentic and that they too are consistent with your company’s messaging.
Online reputation management is rapidly becoming an important strategy for organizations. You may still not believe in social media or its power to influence buying behavior, but your company should start paying attention to who is saying what about your brand online.
Reputation management is not only about monitoring – it’s about taking action and this is not always easy. It requires persistence and a strong-willed determination to succeed. Online reputation management is critical because a bad reputation can cost your business millions of dollars in lost.
Remember, communication is the key to maintaining and improving your image on the Internet. Online reputation management through monitoring, analyzing and influencing online communications can help prevent the loss of business and ensure the ongoing success of your organization.