Online Reputation: The New Public Relations Frontier
Public relations efforts are normally put in place to enhance a business’ reputation. With the rise of social media and customer review sites, public relations efforts have shifted gears to focus on businesses’ Online Reputation Management. It was actually a public relations firm called Weber Shandwick who claims to have coined the term reputation management back in 1997. The concept was initially intended to broaden public relations outside of traditional media such as TV, radio and print.
Having been in public relations for over a decade, I have seen the merger of public relations and online reputation management. In addition to traditional PR vehicles such as press releases and newswire services, there are other ways to push influential content across the web:
Creating influential content can give you a feeling of control over your message and brand. But what happens when you lose that control? The general public has now become a world of professional bloggers and critics with the ability to publish content across the web –about YOUR business. The types of content they can publish include:
- Negative comments on your social media sites (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter)
- Poor comments on your blog
- Negative reviews on customer review sites (TripAdvisor, Yelp and Angie’s List)
Online Reputation Management allows you to relinquish some of the control and improve your image in the public. The most powerful tool you can have is to be aware of what is being posted and the ability to respond quickly. In public relations terms, we call this rapid response and crisis management.
In addition to responding quickly to negative content, it is important to continue to spread positive messages about your company. Here is my number one tip:
Post rich content daily and treat all your customers as if they were members of the media.
Try to post daily on on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook. Remember, you are not just engaging in the community and with your customers, but with the media alike.
For example, a business posted product information on Facebook and it caught the eyes of a freelancer for major newspaper. The freelancer ran a story on the company, which then led other community newspapers to follow suit. This is what we call free press and it all stemmed from a simple Facebook update.
More recently, a discouraged dining customer wrote on a restaurant’s Facebook page about her discontent with the new owners. The owners quickly responded and invited her back for a free dinner. The customer was delighted and returned to the restaurant. Turns out she was a local food blogger and featured a post on the restaurant the following week.
As a business owner, you should be concerned with your online reputation and how you manage it. Remember, the people who engage with your business online are more than just customers; they are members of the public media. You never know when a little post or tweet will land you front-page coverage.
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