PR and Online Reputation: The Perfect Waltz

persons-768597_1280Every company is concerned about reputation management. It used to be the worry of big brands concerned about protecting their public image. But now social media and blogs have made it everyone’s concern—even small companies and individuals.

This has created new jobs: social media listening, brand reputation management, the comment savant, etc. The idea was to suppress negative feeds by pushing them lower in the search ranks.

Enter the PR professional. As a communicator, he or she is well suited to discover the root cause of the negativity—not just suppress it. After all, not all comments are unfounded, and the job of the PR pro is to find out the reasons.

Engagement helps brand reputation. A negative comment getting immediate feedback, concern and action shows some kind of learning. It means that the brand cares and is approachable to comments. The results can ripple across the cyber world.

Engagement helps brand education. PR professionals will be the first to declare that messaging can be tough, and sometimes the audience may only see part of it. Negative comments may actually reflect the ineffectiveness/incompleteness of the messaging. PR pros can use this as an opportunity to further reinforce the message. Keep in mind that this conversation is occurring in the public domain, and there will be others following this exchange, while making opinions about the brand as well. [bctt tweet=”Corporate transparency has made reputation management integral to #marketing”]

PR professionals can help with contingencies when your brand is attacked. Maybe it is an unwarranted charge by a vicious rival or simply a product that breaks down. Either way, your reputation is in danger of being sullied. A PR professional offers useful third party advice to steer the conversation in the right direction. Keep in mind that any loss or pain will be an opportunity for rivals; so advice that removes the emotion can help to gauge the current situation, understand risks, highlight the actions to be taken and measure the costs.

Recently, brand reputation went into the spotlight when disgruntled employees published their comments publicly. This will occur more frequently and does affect brand reputation, especially if the business is consumer-oriented. Here, the PR pro can offer useful advice on how to restrain the response and engage (or not engage) the commentator.

In the end it is about transparency. Corporate transparency has made reputation management integral to marketing. It is no longer enough to just suppress comments, but organizations (and individuals) need to address them tactfully and strategically. In some cases, converting that negativity into an opportunity can help the brand reputation immensely. It’s a job the PR professional was born to do.