The headache (and opportunity) of managing your company’s online reputation


In a world of instantaneous information flows, managing company reputation is ever more fraught.

An interesting article in Techworld titled How to manage your online reputation goes into the issue, describing how pharma firm GlaxoSmithKline had one of its trademarks hijacked by a dodgy company. The piece goes on:

“Reputations are more visible – and more vulnerable – than ever before,” says futurist Ross Dawson, who cites reputation as one of the key themes for 2012. So what can you do to ensure that your organisation is remembered for the right reasons?

The article then suggests some strategies, including this quote from me:

“If companies are illegally using social media sites, for example by misusing brand names, the first port of call is to ask the social media site to close the infringing account. Social media services want to avoid problems, and if there is obvious abuse they will take action,” says Dawson.

“You do need to be careful with this approach and only use it when it is legitimate. For example the social media furore Nestle experienced about its use of palm oil from rainforest areas came only after it asked YouTube to take down a Greenpeace video by saying it infringed its trademarks.

“If you can identify the infringing company and it is based in a country with a strong legal system, you can issue a cease-and-desist notice and otherwise take legal action, though in many cases this isn’t viable.”

“If there are no legal or other direct remedies, while it is frustrating it is often better not to take action. Drawing attention to what might be a small issue would just make the problem bigger.”

There is far less control than ever before in corporate reputation. Yet there are possible responses.

More importantly, the best way to manage potential negative reputation issues is to build a highly positive online reputation, which among other things can crowd out negative attention. Reputation, by its very nature, cannot be neutral. It is only either positive or negative.

From my 12 themes for 2012 deck, here is what I said on REPUTATIONS EXPOSED:

Reputations are more visible – and more vulnerable – than ever before. Beyond Wikileaks and its imitators the powerful amplification provided by social media means more shocking secrets than ever will be brought to light, with media organizations, corporations, and governments caught naked. While reputations can and will be trashed in moments, the rise of increasingly accurate reputation measures will also make visible the best companies and talented individuals.