Reputation Management: When Your Business is Disparaged Online

The following post originally appeared in my regular column at

Yes, we’ve come that far. The theme of internet reputation has even spawned a genre of jokes. Forbes’ Susan Adams has aligned the steps to take to protect your personal reputation online.

But what do you do when it’s your company that has gotten slimed and maligned unfairly in the press or on one of the prevalent consumer feedback sites such as Do you fix it? Can you fix it? Do you need to hire a pro?

It’s interesting that “Reputation management” has evolved from a catchphrase to a science to an actual industry. Has anybody run a search on reputation management agencies lately? Prepare to be buried—you’ll get at least 25 pages of Google results.

The industry divides its clients into two categories: 1) Proactive – the people and companies such as celebrities and major consumer brands who are actively seeking reputation protection, and 2)Reactive – the folks who are in the agency’s office because they’ve just been smacked with an incident.

(While the crisis firms may smile to see the Paula Broadwells and Monica Lewinskys of the world at their doorstep, as someone who’s appeared on the air in follow up to our clients’ occasional PR [mis]adventures, I can assure you it is not for the faint of heart. )

As any brand that’s been dragged through the internet mud can attest, it’s a dirty business, and there are far too many businesses affected to count.

As public-facing feedback forums gain increasing audience and traction, there’s an important lesson emerging: Consumer forums can be your company’s best friend or worst enemy. If you’re not proactively monitoring the tide of opinion, it may be too late to save a sinking brand.

While reputation management as an industry may not yet have de facto appreciation, the issues it addresses can instantly command your respect. Even if your business is too small for a reputation management department or program, the principle behind the science is one every company ought to master: Communicate.

When an issue happens, and ideally well before an issue can happen, your business should make the effort to communicate accurately, often and well. With this goal in mind, here are six tips to help you manage your venture’s reputation online:

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Author: Cheryl Snapp Conner | Google+