Online Reputation Management: How to Protect and Preserve Good Reputation in the Digital Space
A good reputation is worth its weight in gold, says the vernacular. And on a personal level, the reputation that ultimately stands behind good repute is relatively easy to recognize and maintain. But what does it look like in companies, and what does a good reputation consist of?
This question is not so easy to answer, because the facets of a good reputation are different for every company. Company- and industry-specific conditions play just as much a role as the perception of the products and possibly existing scandals in related fields.
The increasing spread of digital communication can also damage a company’s reputation more easily than before. Be it through a shitstorm triggered by the target group or a mishap on the part of a company, which is then made public on the social web. A current negative example: the chaos surrounding United Airlines. The speed of digital communication can be breathtaking – and problems can quickly become big.
Active reputation management is therefore indispensable and essential for companies to survive. In the following, I will introduce the topic, explain key terms and give some tips on how to protect a company’s reputation.
Terms and definitions: Everything about reputation management
The image aims at the “superficial” positive impression. Reputation is based on acceptance, trust and close relationships with the own target groups. Reputation therefore not only refers to the public image but also takes into account the perception and assessment of the company by the target group. It thus combines public and individual aspects.
Factors on which good reputation depends:
Compliance with established principles and standards
Conduct in crises and difficult situations
Stakeholders are internal and external groups within an organization whose behavior influences whether a company can achieve its strategic goals. Reputation establishes new or stabilizes existing relationships between a company and its target groups.
But what role does management play in the context of Reputation? It is important to consider the different forms of management, the different aspects of a good reputation and the associated risks with which it can be damaged.
In communication, reputation management stands for a strategy. This is applied in the event of a crisis in the context of PR and public relations. It is the main task of a communications department.
Reputation risk management
Reputational risk management is part of risk management. Potential risks are identified and evaluated. Based on this, measures can be developed or introduced to eliminate or at least mitigate the risk.
Online reputation management
This means observing and influencing the reputation of a company in the digital media, digital publications of various kinds. The reputation of a company can be considerably impaired by today’s search and evaluation possibilities on the Internet. Content on products, companies, and private individuals are easy to find. The user can quickly form an impression that is influenced by the user experience already made. So it can quickly happen that the own target group switches to the competition if there are too many negative ratings or comments.
A good reputation or reputation on the net is an extremely valuable commodity. It needs to be maintained, protected and built up. Since reputation risk management does not only require communication measures to be implemented but also management decisions to be made in case of an emergency, this management is not only a matter for corporate communication. It requires an all-round view that takes into account all internal and external stakeholders and their perception of the company.
To positively influence this perception, so-called reputation drivers can be used. These are the topics relevant to the company or special characteristics and competencies. But risks must also be taken into account. The earlier these are identified, observed, described and qualified, the faster the associated problems can be solved.
When is reputation management indispensable?
In general, building and maintaining a reputation is a permanent task. But reputation risk management is particularly important in the following situations:
- Change processes
- mergers and acquisitions
- Strategic marketing projects such as product launch, relaunch, branding processes
- Employer branding, campaigns
- New strategic orientations
Why do you need reputation management?
Reputation management has its right to exist at the latest when it is a matter of positively changing reputation in an acute current situation. It can also provide the following important services:
- It strengthens the effectiveness of communication and marketing. Measures in this area are based on the target group interests and expectations. These are also the subject of reputation management. In this way, it supports the uniformly strategically oriented overall appearance and the positive public perception of the company.
- It strengthens the importance of communication within the company and the corporate culture. Taking care of reputation also means developing a particular sensitivity for entrepreneurial action. Words and deeds must be brought into harmony to create a value-oriented attitude among employees. This has a positive effect on the interaction between the different divisions and delivers process efficiency in business.
- It promotes competitive differentiation. In communication and marketing, one strives for differentiation from the competition. Differentiation is particularly successful through positive characteristics. The focus on reputation can help identify drivers and risks. Corporate values and principles are therefore becoming increasingly important for differentiation in the market.
Challenges for Reputation Management
If reputation risk management is dealt with across the board in companies, and it is not a question of reputation management on the part of corporate communications, there are a number of challenges to be prepared for.
It is an interdisciplinary task that affects all areas of the company. Reputation risk management is more than just image cultivation. There must be a company-wide understanding: What makes a good reputation? Where can risks come from?
Every employee bears some responsibility for the company’s reputation and influences it with his or her own behavior/misconduct and performance.
In times of crisis, the management level is a role model and ambassador to protect the trust of the target group, credibility and company reputation. This requires strategic and operational leeway, but also support for and by the management. The organization of reputation risk management must be seen as a holistic task within the company. A structure must be created that defines the responsibilities and influence of reputation risk management.