Not sold on online reputation management

If your company isn't tracking what's being said about it online, at least you're not alone. Most global executives haven't figured it out, either. A new survey by PR firm Weber Shandwick of 950 senior executives in 11 countries found that most don't see the value of engaging bloggers during a crisis. Monitoring online media and communities isn't on their radar, either:

Perhaps business decision-makers around the globe believe that companies should concentrate on fixing the problem and understanding what went wrong before turning their attention to correcting online conversations. This is not surprising since our research also reveals that only a minority of companies pay attention to online coverage of their company’s reputation. (emphasis added)

Dr. Leslie Gaines-Ross, Weber Shandwick’s Chief Reputation Strategist

The survey deals specifically with actions companies can take to recover their reputation after a crisis, and I have to agree with their top choices:
  1. Announce specific actions company will take to fix the problem (76% Always/Usually)
  2. Establish early warning system (76%)
  3. Establish specific policies and goals demonstrating corporate responsibility (73%)
  4. Make sure legal team approves all statements (72%)
  5. Issue regular public progress reports addressing the problem (771%)
  6. Disclose quickly and publicly what happened(71%)

Here's what they're missing: online reputation is part of a company's early warning system (#2). As we saw in the Hasbro example, a crisis may not be an "Internet" problem, but online sources may provide the company's first warning. Other high-profile bad-hair days have migrated from the online conversation to media that those executives do notice. Why would you voluntarily miss out on the opportunity to catch it before it's a front-page crisis?

You can decide whether it makes sense to engage bloggers in a crisis. It might make more sense to stay out of the conversation sometimes; it would certainly be harder to engage them once the crisis starts. But we've seen the examples of PR crises that started online before moving to a broader audience. Whether you choose to engage bloggers or not, you need to pay attention to what happens to your brand online.

Once you're there, let's talk about why you should care about things that stay online, too.


About Nathan Gilliatt

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  • Voracious learner and explorer. Analyst tracking technologies and markets in intelligence, analytics and social media. Advisor to buyers, sellers and investors. Writing my next book.
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