A search for “reputation management” will yield over 77 million results on Google, fairly enough to grasp knowledge on the subject. The term refers to management of a company’s good image in the market. A favorable reputation means brand loyalty and new customers, leading to increased sales and revenues. Traditional reputation management depended mainly on Public Relations (PR) through newspapers and magazines. But in the age of internet, is print PR as relevant as it was before? This is where online reputation management comes in.
The need for online reputation management
It is so easy to spread personal opinions about a product today. Internet users simply need to log in from a device, type a few words and hit ‘Go’; their opinion is up for the whole world to see. This has proved to be a boon for businesses that are looking for a positive buzz about their products/services, but there are a few risks too. Sometimes customers share their negative experiences online, which quickly snowballs into a big issue and costs the company a huge number of potential customers. Humans are biologically prone to believing bad news/ negative experiences more quickly than positive ones (Heath, 1996). Therefore, negative online reviews from customers, clients, employees or even suppliers have to be tackled swiftly by companies to avoid a disastrous outcome. For this purpose, a business engages in online reputation management.
Definition of online reputation management
Online reputation management refers to the management of a company’s/ brand’s image, perception, and reputation online. This management can be done by the company’s employees or can be outsourced to other businesses specialising in online reputation management.
What do online reputation management people do?
The functions of an online reputation management team are pretty straightforward. Their main task is to locate negative comments about a product/company on popular search engines or social forums and remove them. They perform the following tasks:
- Build/ manage online reputation: At this stage, they will focus on creating a company’s image by developing online content, posting PR articles online, performing SEO (Search Engine Optimisation), and post rave reviews about the product on Facebook and Twitter. Their goal is to create a positive word-of-mouth for their client.
- Remove negative comments: They hunt down undesirable content about their client and take measures to make them invisible. Making them invisible does not mean removing them. It is almost impossible to remove negative reviews from reputed websites like Yelp.com and TripAdvisor.com; instead what they do is, create fake positive reviews in huge numbers so that the negative ones are pushed down.
- Repair reputation: It is perhaps hardest to repair a damaged reputation. Online reputation management teams in this case use extreme measures to bring a company back on track, like posting shining reviews on all social media platforms, complaint boards, product review websites, etc. Sometimes they encourage genuine positive feedback from customers, like distributing free products, inviting disgruntled customers to stay at hotels for free, offering attractive discounts on the products, etc.
- Offering consulting: Online reputation management team can also offer their client consulting to develop strategies for managing dissatisfied employees and winning back their disgruntled customers. They may also recommend suitable software to efficiently monitor terrible rants & reviews about the company/ product online.
Online reputation management is relevant for a number of reasons. In the age of such intense competition, one has to be very careful about what is being spread online regarding their offerings. In my next section, I discuss about which companies need to opt for online reputation management.
- Heath, C. (1996). Do People Prefer to Pass Along Good or Bad News? Valence and Relevance of News as Predictors of Transmission Propensity. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Vol. 68, No. 2, November, pp. 79—94, 1996. ARTICLE NO 0091. Available at: http://faculty-gsb.stanford.edu/heath/documents/Good%20news,%20bad%20news-OBHDP.pdf