Yes, I said forget about reputation management. It’s a bold statement for sure, especially since many businesses make it their sole purpose to “manage” your online reputation.
So then, what is this article all about? Well, I want to give you something to think about. I want to share with you my opinion on reputation management and why I think we’re using the wrong term to describe a concept that has been around since before the advent of social media.
What we’re really talking about is situational awareness.
First though, let’s define reputation management for those who might be new to the term. Wikipedia defines it as, “the process of tracking an entity’s actions and other entities’ opinions about those actions; reporting on those actions and opinions; and reacting to that report creating a feedback loop.”
Another online definition explains it as, “actively monitoring the Internet Reputation of an individual, a business, or a brand. Online Reputation Management can suppress negative results by pushing those negative results down further as to decrease their visibility.”
That second definition in particular is interesting, because it talks about suppressing negative results. Well, guess what? Negative results happen. It’s a part of doing business. Not everyone is going to like you and your brand. If you simply try to cover that up, something will look strange and people will start to notice.
So, instead of trying to cover up the negatives, be aware of them and respond accordingly to show that you’re listening, but let your audience define your brand as they see fit. The first instance in which you try to suppress something solely in the interests of “reputation management” is the moment your brand loses authenticity.
Therefore, I propose that we forget about reputation management in the sense that it involves trying to track down and destroy the negative things being said about our brand. Instead, let’s use our situational awareness to be mindful of what people are saying, and then change our actions so that the positives increase and the negatives decrease.
You see, social media cannot make your product, service, brand, business or organization any better or any worse by itself. It merely amplifies your message in a way that was never before possible. If you’re selling widgets and your widgets suck, then social media won’t save you. Make better widgets.
If you’re a tax accountant and you keep overcharging your clients, all the reputation management in the world won’t help you either. First comes business integrity and authenticity. Figure out what your message is and stick to it. Define yourself and your brand. Then, once you have your ducks in a row, use your situational awareness to see how people are responding to that message online and adapt as necessary.
In the end, I hope you get my point; situational awareness is a much better tool that reputation management, or at the very least, it’s a much better way of describing what we’re trying to do. You and I don’t own the message anymore. Get used to that. Social media put that power in the hands of our audience. Therefore, it’s useless to try to control the message.
Instead, be authentic in everything you do, be ethical in your business practices and deliver value to your customers. As Zig Ziglar once remarked, “You can have everything in life that you want if you just give enough other people what they want.” Live by those words.