In both the personal and the business world, your reputation is just as important as your identity. In fact, your reputation can impact your public relations, your marketing, and whether or not your brand will ultimately be successful. This is doubly true in the digital age, where your reputation precedes your brand and can quickly spiral out of your control if you don’t take steps to manage your online reputation ASAP.
Today, let’s take a look at public relations reputation management. We’ll explore what reputation management is, how you can improve your repetition, and why you should focus on reputation at all.
The Importance of Reputation in Business
Before we break down what exactly public relations reputation management is, we first need to explore what reputation really means and why it’s important to your brand.
“Reputation” in this sense is the aggregate social understanding of your brand from both a professional and a consumer-focused standpoint. It’s what people think of your brand, not in terms of what you make or provide.
Your professional reputation may impact your relationships with vendors or companies in the same industry. Your consumer-focused reputation will affect how people see your brand and how loyal they are to it, particularly if your brand ever experiences a PR crisis. Reputation might just make the job of your crisis management team easier.
At its core, reputation is an intangible yet still important asset for your firm and it provides a number of major advantages if it is positive. These advantages include:
- More brand loyalty from your target consumers
- Better industry authority and trust. This can make establishing new relationships with fellow businesses or vendors easier
- More defense against PR crises or scandals
- And more
The reverse is also true. Organizations with poor reputations will face several challenges, including:
- More difficulty establishing relationships with quality vendors
- More difficulty curating a loyal, long-term audience of key consumers
- More vulnerability to PR crises and/or scandals
Put another way, your reputation can either help or hinder you, but it will always have an effect either way. Because of this, it pays for your brand to pay attention to its reputation and practice PR reputation management at least some of the time.
If this factor is always going to be active, you might as well do what you can to ensure it works for you rather than against you!
Is Reputation Important Financially?
In addition to the factors above, reputation also plays a key role in your financial health.
Businesses with high or sterling reputations have an easier time securing excellent vendor relationships, therefore benefiting financially from those arrangements. They also have an easier time getting new consumers and retain their target audience over the long term. All this boosts the bottom line and helps their brand succeed financially.
Reputation can hinder you financially as well, such as by making it so that you have to take contracts with expensive and subpar vendors, making it harder to draw new consumers to your brand, and more.
Bottom line: reputation is important financially and in other ways, so it’s important to know how to manage it for success.
What is Reputation Management in Public Relations?
Reputation management is exactly what it sounds like: the management of your reputation through the use of marketing efforts, search engine optimization, and other online or in-person public relations strategies and techniques. Reputation management is closely related to public relations, though they are not exactly the same thing.
Put in another way, your reputation is how people perceive your brand to be regardless of how it actually is or the accuracy of that perception. Because reputation is somewhat malleable, you can improve your public reputation through several strategies and tactics. This is especially true in the digital era, and when much of your reputation is influenced primarily or partly by online aspects.
Online reputation management (ORM) is especially crucial in this day and age. Given the sheer breadth of content produced every day, and the ability for anyone to spread a rumor or try to kickstart a PR crisis, companies need to be prepared for ORM strategies all the time in case they need to adjust their reputation or improve it when necessary.
Online Reputation Management essentially refers to:
- Attempting to influence the opinion of your brand or company
- Influencing opinions through primarily online efforts
There’s another big distinction to make in terms of reputation management. Instead of trying to change the mind of one person, reputation management and ORM both focus on changing the minds of multiple people simultaneously, including those who may be on the fence regarding your brand or organization.
How Does Online Reputation Management Work?
Online reputation management (ORM) can work in a number of key ways. Authenticity is a major part of all successful reputation management efforts, which means that your brand can’t simply create several fake or bot accounts and spam positive messages about your company over the Internet.
Instead, online reputation management typically involves subtle, progressive promotional activities like:
- Making new advertisements
- Removing potentially harmful content
- Technical PR
- Search engine optimization and focusing on specific, positive keywords
- Content creation and management
- And more
In many ways, online reputation management is more technical than traditional public relations, which is focused on basic communications between your company and the public or media news outlets. We’ll explore specific ORM strategies later in this guide.
Online Reputation Management vs. PR
We’ve broken down what online reputation management is. But how does it compare to PR or public relations?
In a nutshell, public relations is strategic, planned communications that help organizations build mutually beneficial relationships between themselves and the public. However, public relations can also involve mediating or mitigating damage from communication mishaps, mistakes, or company policies.
In other words, public relations involves both:
- Attempting to communicate positively with the public to foster long-term relationships
- Attempting to protect the company in the event of a PR crisis
In this way, PR and online reputation management are both intricately connected. ORM or even in-person reputation management can affect public relations based on what your reputation management efforts are.
Say that your company has been accused of releasing a product ahead of schedule, leading to a manufacturing flaw that has injured five different buyers of that product. Your PR team will need to answer questions and alleviate concerns from your core consumers, as well as present a unified front for press releases.
Your online reputation management efforts, meanwhile, could involve repairing your damaged reputation by quelling rumors that may spread in the wake of the PR crisis, removing content referencing the product, and so on.
In this way, both ORM and PR influence one another and can help one another. But they can also negatively impact one another if your team doesn’t know how to leverage reputation management correctly.
Differences Between ORM and PR
ORM and PR, despite their similarities, do have some major differences.
The best way to think about these differences is in time frames. Public relations is a communication activity that is both public and readily visible through all kinds of media outlets. In contrast, ORM is a promotional and long-term activity focused on future reputational gains.
With public relations, your focus is usually on short-term recovery or communications. With online reputation management, you focus on promoting your brand and elevating how people view your entity over years, especially through means that may not be noticed under normal circumstances.
- Public relations: short-term and immediate communication, especially in response to new developments
- ORM: long-term and progressive adjustments to how people think about your brand
The Role of Reputation Management
Now that you know what reputation management is and how it relates to public relations, you might be wondering why you even need reputation management or what role it plays in your organization.
Your organization will develop a reputation with or without you. This is especially true now that we are in the Internet era and that the reputation of a company can spread without its consent.
In other words, the message is going out one way or another. It’s much better for your brand to control or influence that message than to allow other, potentially harmful, actors to control the message for you.
In this day and age, many of your customers will come from Internet-based sources like online advertisements, your website, social media platforms, and more. They will be influenced by your reputation whether you like it or not. With reputation management strategies, you can influence:
- The first impressions people have of your company
- How people view your company after making a purchase
- How loyal people will be to your company after becoming customers
- Whether PR crises or negative rumors will affect individuals’ opinions about your company
- And more
All of these aspects can significantly affect how successful your organization is and whether it can withstand major PR crises or emergencies in the future.
If you have a PR team in your organization already, you also need a reputation management team.
Do You Need both ORM and PR?
Absolutely. Both PR and online repetition management are distinct practices from one another. But as mentioned above, they are very complementary and can even reinforce each other’s successes if they are done right. This is doubly true given the connected, global, online marketplace we find ourselves in.
Look at it this way:
- PR lets you establish goodwill with the public and have a healthy relationship with both your target audience and the public at large
- ORM helps to protect your reputation from PR crises, rumors, or bad actors that may wish to drag your company down for one reason or another
Both of these practices, therefore, are integral to ensuring that your online presence and brand identity are as solid and attractive as possible. You can’t ignore one or the other, in our eyes.
Furthermore, ORM doesn’t just let you recover from PR crises or prevent crises from occurring. Over time, ORM may allow your brand to reach new heights of success and popularity by gradually adjusting the way people think of your company.
How Can You Practice Online Reputation Management?
We’ve spent a lot of time breaking of the broader ideas behind online repetition management. But we haven’t gone into any detailed strategies for you to employ. Let’s take a look at how online reputation management is actually practiced.
Any good ORM campaign begins with in-depth market research. The research is important since it can tell you:
- How your brand is currently viewed (at least roughly) by both the general public and your target consumers, who you want to influence the most
- Where your company’s reputation is most vulnerable or most influential
- How your corporate reputation is currently evolving, for good or for ill
Only after research has been performed can your ORM team get to work developing a corporate strategy that will perfectly suit your business.
Search Engine Optimization
One of the most common ways to practice online reputation management is search engine optimization. Search engine optimization or SEO involves creating content or adjusting existing content to focus on specific keywords attached to your brand or its reputation.
Why? Keywords are one of the primary tools that Google and other search engine algorithms used to direct people to or away from your website. By emphasizing specific keywords, and by creating content that Google grades well, your brand will:
- Rank more highly for positively correlated keywords or search engine terms, especially those terms inputted by your target audience
- Rank above the competition, increasing your economic success across the board
Furthermore, search engine optimization is always flexible and modifiable. If your brand needs to adjust its target keywords because it wants to move away from a specific aspect of its reputation, SEO can help you do that over time by associating your company with new keywords.
Say that you stop offering a staple product and want to pivot into a new product line. Your ORM team can go over your existing content and optimize it for new keywords. With luck, people searching for your new products’ niche will be directed to your site in no time.
Of course, another major aspect of an effective ORM campaign is online marketing, including making online advertisements, podcasts, video content, and more.
Online marketing is crucial since ads are one of the most direct ways that consumers, both in the general public and those of your target audience, interact with your brand. If your online marketing is on point, odds are your brand will be pretty resilient against PR crises or rumors.
After all, online ads are persuasive by their very nature. If those ads are exceptionally persuasive, people are more likely to have a positive response to your brand when they see it, even if someone makes a negative assertion about your company.
An ORM campaign isn’t just about making new stuff. It’s also about removing content when necessary.
In the earlier example about switching from creating one type of product to another type of product, your ORM teams may decide to remove certain types of content like blog posts, webpages, or text about that older product.
In this way, your brand will be less associated with the old product over time and people won’t be able to find the old product when they search for it. This can subtly change your reputation and help your company be seen as a producer of whatever new product you have decided to make.
- Content removal can also be helpful to:
- Quell rumors
- Remove evidence of poor decisions in the past that your company may want to move away from
- And more
All of this can help the PR side of things by eliminating evidence of issues that may be brought up during PR conferences.
The flip side is also true; your ORM campaign may involve the creation of positive content like videos, blog posts and guides, and much more.
Every piece of content you put out, from a candid tour of your office to a big marketing push, influences how people see your brand and its broader reputation. Your ORM team, therefore, may decide to create content explicitly to adjust or improve your reputation.
Say that your company isn’t seen as very authoritative or very reputable when it comes to the safety of its products. In that case, your ORM campaign might involve the creation of an in-depth safety guide and tutorial for a new product.
As word of this guide spreads, your reputation will change and people will be less likely to injure themselves with your product over time.
Developing New, Controlled Web Properties
The more web properties, like websites, subsidiary blogs, and more that you control, the more control you have over your online reputation. Your reputation, after all, is significantly influenced by the look or “feel” of your brand and all of its branches.
Thus, your ORM campaign should involve making sure that all of your sites, social media profiles, and more are tailored and consistent to present a unified, positive image. This will almost certainly positively impact your reputation in no time.
Re-targeting Content as Search Engine Behavior Evolves
Google and other search engines routinely change their algorithms and automated behaviors. As a result, online reputation management is an ongoing process, rather than something you can do once and then leave alone.
Your reputation must be adjusted and managed according to search engine guidelines and protocols so your brand isn’t caught off guard when a new, up-and-coming competitor in your industry suddenly ranks more highly than you for the most important keywords just because Google adjusted how its search engine algorithm looks for those keywords.
Ongoing Content Promotion
Lastly, an ORM campaign should include an ongoing content promotion, ideally with content posted at regular time intervals. Posting content at regular intervals helps cultivate a reputation for consistency and stability, both of which are great for retaining a consumer base over the long term.
What is Reputation Management Theory and How to Use It?
There’s a broader strategy you can leverage with your ORM efforts and it revolves around understanding reputation management theory.
In brief, reputation management theory states that:
- Many aspects of your online reputation will be too crowded to control
- Therefore, you should focus on the elements of your online reputation or brand identity you can affect to get the most bang for your buck
For example, say that there’s an individual in your company at the center of a PR scandal. They have a relatively common name like John Smith. If you were to Google John Smith, you would find tons of results and at least hundreds of thousands of different individuals with the exact same name.
It would be nightmarish and ultimately impossible for your online reputation management team to try to influence how people see the name John Smith or whether they mentally connect the name John Smith with your employee.
Instead, it would be wiser for you to focus your efforts on your brand, the exact rumor PR crisis event, or other elements that don’t have as much Internet focus.
You can take this concept even further and leverage it for proactive success.
Reputation Management Theory Example
Say that your company’s name can be shortened to an acronym, like CANO, LLC (imagine whatever name you like for the letters). Your reputation management staff, upon googling the acronym or looking for the acronym elsewhere, might find that there are other organizations, subjects, or even scientific topics that share the acronym.
This is called “contesting the namespace”. It essentially means that there’s too much busy traffic on the Internet with a single subject for any one organization to make much of a dent in how it’s viewed by the public.
Your online reputation management team wants to improve your reputation, however. So instead of focusing their search engine optimization or other online marketing efforts on CANO, they pivot and start optimizing for keywords in the company title, as the full, first word of the name or other major topics of your brand.
In this way, they save money by not wasting time and effort trying to influence the reputation of everything named “CANO” and instead only try to improve the reputation of your brand by focusing on its distinguishing aspects. These distinguishing elements can include:
- The products you make
- The people you hire
- The name of your products
- Your company’s history and accolades
- And more
By using reputation management theory, your corporate reputation will be more manageable and, more importantly, improvable!
Need More Help with ORM and PR Strategy?
Ultimately, online reputation management is a very difficult thing to master, especially at first. But with the right assistance and enough experience, your brand will become more popular and your company will become more resistant to potential PR crises or emergencies.
Want to get a leg up and get started improving your business’s online reputation ASAP? Murnahan Public Relations is a locally-focused agency that can help your company in the Fort Worth area with online reputation management, public relations, and more. We’re well-versed in all aspects of reputation development, and correction as needed. Contact us today for a consultation and let’s get started!