Sue Rizello prescribes a six-pillar strategy for taking control of corporate reputation in social media.
Communicators are official owners of the organisation’s reputation. That is not always easy, because reputation isn’t something we control. Instead, it consists of beliefs that other people have about us. These can influence whether people listen to what we say – and whether they believe us. They influence whether we can gain the partners we want, whether investors buy or sell shares, how easily we can both recruit new staff, and retain them.
Today all organisations, big or small, local or international, are increasingly aware that their reputation online is critical. But the online world is enormous – and getting bigger every second. It is a huge job to just stay aware of what people are saying and thinking about you, let alone take corrective action.
Most PR professionals are trained in techniques to influence the opinion of formal stakeholder audiences. Fewer are trained to monitor and manage what happens in the less formal online world. Today they are expected to know not only what mainstream media and official organisations are saying, but informal channels too. That means not just bloggers but anyone who chooses to voice an opinion via social media.
PR people need new skills, including understanding how search engines work, and using social monitoring, management and measurement. And it means taking an even more structured approach to publishing news and opinions in ways that give anyone who writes or talks about you the correct information, delivered in interesting and easy-to-use ways.
It can seem an awful lot to juggle. It may help to consider six essential steps to managing reputation online. If you address them one by one, they can create a system for being more informed, more prepared and more in control.
1) Keep your ears open – utilise the amazing range of automatic digital alert tools that exist to monitor what happens not only in news media, but also on social platforms and blogs
2) Listen for the right things – make smart decisions about what to search and listen for, so you are not deafened by meaningless noise and swamped by too much information
3) Be seen in all the right places – optimise all your own publishing to make it easy for Google and other search engines to find
4) Think like a publisher – create an editorial presence which includes news that is optimised for social media and search, adds valuable opinion and insight, and provides rich and easy-to-find information for commentators
5) Be socially strategic – plan and organise your social content and presence to support your organisation’s strategic goals, then identify and develop dialogue with allies and influencers
6) Plan away problems – anticipate and avoid common social pitfalls and errors, first by learning and then putting best practices and processes in place so you never face them
Put all six elements in place, and you will have the tools at your disposal to promote your organisation in a proactive way online. Even better, you will have a system that will alert you much sooner if reputation problems are brewing online. You will develop a circle of positive commentators and influential online allies, who can balance negative comments or even act as defenders. And you will be seen as a confident and capable owner of your organisation’s reputation in a changing world.
Sue Rizzello is a senior communications professional with 20 years' experience in marketing and PR, both agency and in-house. She trains ISOC courses including Reputation Management in Social Media, a one-day universal course on how to shape perceptions and conversations online using monitoring, search and content strategies. This article draws on content from that course.