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What is online reputation management exactly?

This is Day 1 of our new series: 30 days to a better online reputation. Be sure to subscribe to our blog so you don’t miss a single important lesson![divider]

“Conversations about our brand are happening everywhere, and with the internet as the great equalizer, it doesn’t matter if you know the brand intimately,
or if you’ve had just one bad experience, it will be heard.” Sir Richard Branson

Day 1: What is online reputation management?Over the next 30 days, you’re going to take your online reputation from zero to hero, but before you dive in to the necessary tactics, it’s important to understand what online reputation management is, and isn’t.

In Radically Transparent: Monitoring and Managing Reputations Online, my coauthor, Dr. Judy Strauss, and I spewed thousands of words in our effort to explain the concept of online reputation management. That was waaay back in 2008. Thanks to BP (oil spill), Tiger Woods (affair), and United Airlines (breaking guitars)—to name just a few–we now live in age where most people have at least a superficial understanding of the need for online reputation management.

Just in case you call a large rock “home,” and you’ve come out from under it just to read this, here’s a new definition of online reputation management in just one sentence:

A deliberate effort to increase the number of positive internet discussions about you, while limiting the damage of any negative ones.

Easier said than done, right?

Notice that online reputation management is not solely about manipulating what shows up on the first page of Google. Certainly, managing the search engine results is a vital part of online reputation management (we’ll cover that on day 18), but there’s so much more that goes in to building a great reputation, which you’ll explore over the coming days.

Why should you care?

Why should you care about your online reputation? Well, if you’re a farmer in Elbonia* perhaps you don’t need to worry about what people are saying about you online. And indeed, there are many individuals and companies that are blissfully unaware of their online reputation, and likely won’t ever read this. For the rest of you, a single statistic might just get your attention:

90% of us trust the recommendations of others (Source: Forrester Research)

Notice, this is 90% of anyone else. Not just friends or family recommendations, but the recommendations of any random stranger that happens to have a computer connected to the internet. With the rise of social media, you and I have placed our trust in the endorsements and critiques of complete and total strangers.

Is that fair?

Ask any business owner with a 1-star Yelp review, or an individual with a Klout score of 15, and you’ll probably get “no” for answer. However, just because your reputation is now being decided by anyone else, but you, doesn’t mean that all is lost. You’re going to learn how to build, manage, monitor, and repair your online reputation. How well you succeed will be determined by one very important factor.

Your character.

How’s your tree?

Were he alive today, our 16th President of the United States of America, Abraham Lincoln, wouldn’t make for much of a theater critic, but he might just find his calling in the field of reputation management. To this day, Lincoln has one of my all time favorite quotes on the subject:

No, this is not a botany lesson. Instead, it’s one of the most important lessons you’ll learn in your 30-day quest for a better online reputation. Your reputation will only ever be as good as your character. Sure, just as hand puppeteers can contort their fingers to display a bunny shadow on a brightly lit wall, so too could you manipulate your reputation to be something other than your true nature. But, how long would you be able to hold that pose? It wouldn’t be long before your audience realizes that you’re not a cute, fluffy bunny after all, just a bunch of knuckles and finger nails.

It’s the same with your reputation, but that’s something you can use to your advantage! As we explore different tactics for improving your online reputation, keep in mind that by simply being a better person, a better company, a better non-profit, you’ll automatically start to improve your reputation.

Take care of your tree, and the shadow will take care of itself.

Not just for company brands

What reputation are you trying to improve? Your personal name? Your company brand? Your products? Your…..?

As you make your way through the upcoming lessons, try not to get caught in the trap of thinking that some of the advice only applies to company reputations, or skip a recommendation that you feel is aimed at individuals. I’ll be sure to point out any strategy that works better for personal versus corporate reputation management, but, for the most part, the two are interchangeable. In fact, on day 2, you’ll see just how closely personal and company reputations are entwined. What is important is that you actually do something with the lessons you learn.

Don’t wait for a reputation heart attack

My good friend and fellow reputation management practitioner, Tony Wright, is constantly imploring his clients to be proactive in their reputation management.

“Trying to improve your online reputation during a crisis is like trying to eat healthy food during a heart attack.”

When facing a full-blown reputation crisis, is precisely the worst time to try and improve your online reputation. You need to start right now! Today is the day to start improving your online reputation, while things are calm, you have the resources and time–and you’re not trying to put out reputation fires. As we work through the next 30 days, start making notes of strategies and tactics you can implement immediately. Don’t think that you can put off taking control of your online reputation simply because you don’t foresee any upcoming issues with your online reputation.

You don’t want to be the farmer in Elbonia whose tree catches fire while he’s eating a Big Mac and large fries!

 

*Yes, I am big fan of the Scott Adams’ Dilbert comic strip.