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By yash badiani | 24 Jul 2015

Online Reputation Management is still a bit of an enigma to most businesses. While still in its infancy, the fact that reputation counts for a lot and can majorly influence the fortunes of a business, is already beyond doubt. In a Reputation Survey conducted by Reputation Institute, only 16% of business leaders across many countries and industries revealed that they were completely confident about their abilities to manage reputation. This percentage is not shocking when you consider that the niche of Brand Reputation Management is in its nascent stages and an area which requires a special set of skills. This skillset covers numerous functional areas and concepts, including Research, Training, Communication, Data Modeling and Management issues.

However, what is amply clear is this –

Reputation Management is no longer an option, it is a necessity

The best way to handle it is what needs to be studied closely.

Understanding Core Concepts of the Reputation Economy

The first thing to acknowledge and prepare for is that it is a new world out there. It is a more complex, nuanced environment where the character and entity you project as a business has a crucial effect on the growth and fortunes of your company. 78% of companies agree that reputation is a major market force at the present time given the massive inroads made by mobile internet and social media. To better understand the nuances of this new reality, it is important to grasp a few factors –

  • Reputation as Input – The correct way to approach reputation is not to think of it as a result of your astute management of strategies. Rather, it should be perceived as input for the development of strategies. Companies that have things the other way around are likely to be not as effective with Brand Reputation Management.
  • New Competencies – It is imperative to understand that building fruitful relationships requires new competencies, most of which involve working with people outside the organization.

Why you should care

When it comes to good Brand Reputation Management, there are a number of tangible benefits that should provide enough compelling reason for companies to take it seriously. These include –

  • Achieving competitive differentiation (as pointed out by 60% of respondents)
  • Being able to acquire and retain top talent (49%)
  • Being able to partner up and collaborate with policy makers and opinion leaders (43%)
  • Improving Crisis Management and Recovery (37%)
  • Reducing Risk of stricter regulations (28%)
  • Supporting entry to new, unexplored markets (24%)
  • Being able to charge premium prices (18%)
  • The Way Forward – Reputation Management Essentials

According to findings from the survey, there are a few essentials of Reputation Management that most companies need to make a priority over the next few years. Some of the more important ones are –

  • Enabling more business value from marketing and communication efforts that are already in place
  • Mapping the present reputation landscape to have a concrete idea of opportunities and risks
  • Integrating the needs and requirements of stakeholders into touch points and communication
  • Developing a blueprint to map out how to approach and organize for optimum management of reputation

Required Competencies

In this fragmented, complicated world, it is imperative that clear responsibilities are placed with the appropriate people in the organization regarding Reputation Management. Robust Brand Reputation Management is what will likely be responsible for the success of businesses over the next decade and it is important to deploy targeted responsibility. Research data indicates that the bulk of this responsibility rests squarely on the shoulder of the Public Affairs and Corporate Communications department, with small stakes for Corporate Strategy and Branding, marketing division and the CEOs office.

When it comes to competencies, there are four core areas that have been identified by the survey. These are –

  • Developing Business Rationale – The ability to take stakeholder viewpoints and use it to bring the business case to life. This can be done by an integrated company purpose and aligning leadership to accept impact of reputation on business.
  • Developing Strategy and Intelligence – The ability to accurately analyze Big Data and find a connection between perception research and strategy. It involves roadmap building to monitor progress on Reputation Management initiatives and defining clear metrics and KPIs.
  • Accountability and Management – The ability to facilitate and expedite Reputation Management strategies, and ensure organization-wide adoption. This involves managing reputation across departments for a cohesive adoption of strategies.
  • Integration – The ability to seamlessly bind company narrative across channels and markets in context to specific areas of business performance metrics. This is driven by inculcating transformational changes in the way business is done and activating corporate narrative to align reputation with operational success.

The ability to adapt, integrate new concepts and focus properly on new realities is what is likely to influence the success of businesses in this new day and age. The use of Reputation Management Software can largely simplify Reputation Management for companies and also provide consumer insights that are otherwise not available.  Over the next decade, how companies manage reputation is sure to be instrumental in deciding their fortunes.