Reputation Management in the Digital Age

As news was breaking that Tesco’s beef was tainted with horsemeat and the supermarket chain was removing it from its shelves, the social media team tweeted ’It’s sleepy time so we’re off to hit the hay.’ Scheduled tweets can be damaging in more ways than one when it comes to brand reputation. The lesson here: saving time can be costly.

Communications are fast and companies need to keep up

Being prepared to engage in timely communications is not a new phenomenon. What is new is that instantaneous communications across social media tools means that reputation management is now a 24/7 responsibility, and companies must be prepared to respond swiftly and honestly in a crisis.

In this fast-paced digital world, there is no longer time to prepare a communications plan once a crisis or issue of any magnitude has hit. Proactive online reputation management is an essential part of any company’s communication activities and must involve the multitude of media channels available. Social media strategies need to focus not only on building brand reputation but in protecting it from negative bloggers, defamatory content and the like. The battle is intense and the rules of engagement have changed.

The new rules

In The 10 News Rules of Crisis Communications, Agnes + Day, a crisis intelligence firm, highlight:

  • Communications are a two-way street – audiences want to engage in the debate and contribute to the dialogue
  • Listen to what others are saying (and not saying) and who they are saying it to
  • Live in the now – audiences expect responses in real-time and will react favourably when accommodated
  • Informative is the only way – if you are not informative, others will be
  • Adapt communications for different platforms and audiences, and monitor them closely

What can we do?

At Appetite, we understand reputation management and help our clients to develop a ‘social confidence’ when engaging with their audiences. We stress preparation, speed, honesty and credibility as the critical factors in building online reputation success. Here are our top 3 tips to help manage your reputation in the digital age:

  1. Get involved. Establish a voice and be part of the conversation by leveraging social media channels. Taking the plunge can be a little daunting, nonetheless a smart decision to help build your online reputation. If you don’t build it, others will.
  2. Gain trust. Sincere and credible content goes a long way. Listening actively to your audience and responding in real time demonstrates that you truly understand and care about the concerns of your stakeholders.
  3. Be flexible. Adaptability will help you to respond quickly and decisively. Although messages should be carefully considered, in the social media world fast beats perfect as taking too much time to craft a response will only cause more damage to your brand’s social reputation.

Starting to build your own social reputation now will stand you in good stead in the event of a future crisis.