All professionals, especially those who conduct business online, can be subject to bad publicity. All it takes is one negative comment on a blog or website with the right (or wrong) mix of traffic to drive your reputation into the ditch. If you haven’t heard of or are not doing Online Reputation Management (ORM), here are the basics and why this is something you need to start doing now.
This is the first part in a three-part series on ORM.
What It Is
ORM is the process of following online references to a brand, company, person or service while having a plan in place to deal with any negative feedback. You can think of it as a three-step process, although they may not always occur in this order:
- Monitor – Maintain an ongoing system for researching and keeping track of public perception.
- Evaluate – Consider individual feedback, as well as the source, outlet, reach and timing, to come to a decision about the risk.
- Act – Comment, rebut, draft a formal response or simply ignore what has been said, based on your evaluation.
ORM is typically considered to be a mix of marketing (including SEO) and public relations. There are numerous firms offering ORM services, although it’s something you can do on your own for free.
Why You Need To Do It
Let’s say you have years of experience, a solid client base, and great relationships with your clients and colleagues. You recently bid on a huge design project with a well-known company and won. One of the other candidates, who was not awarded the job, is resentful. Not only did he put hours into the process, but a friend within the company essentially guaranteed him the job.
Upon discovering that you were awarded the work, the other candidate publicly attacks your character, work ethic and values in his very popular design blog with over 5,000 readers. Unbeknownst to you, one of the top Google results for your name is now this scathing post, which at this point has 35 comments from people who don’t even know you, agreeing with the author. Anyone who Googles you will now see this potentially before they reach your own website.
It takes you two weeks, a drop off in normally steady inquiries, and a call from a long-term client asking for details on the situation for you to discover this post. At this point, you have no way to know how much business this has cost you, but you are quickly scrambling to find all references to this post, and trying to do damage control.
If you had been monitoring your online reputation, you wouldn’t necessarily have been able to avoid this situation, but you could have done a few things immediately to defray some of the damage. The most important part of online reputation management is being aware of what’s being said about you, to whom and why. It also requires that you do it consistently and have a plan in place when action is necessary.
Part II of this series will provide a list of free tools you can use to manage your online reputation, and Part III will discuss what you can do when you are the subject of bad PR. In the meantime, here are some resources where you can find out more about ORM:
- Radically Transparent: Monitoring and Managing Reputations Online (Andy Beal and Judy Strauss)
- Online reputation management is hot — but is it ethical? (Computerworld)
- Fighting a Bad Online Reputation & Keeping a Good One (WebProNews)
Do you monitor your online reputation? Do you think it’s necessary?
- Online Reputation Management: 16 Free Tools
- Online Reputation Management: How to Handle Negative Publicity
Image credit: CJLUC