The online reputation management dilemma

Some time ago a wedding planner contacted our company in order to improve the traffic to her website that had been previously developed by a third party. The individual was complaining about the fact the she was not receiving online service requests. Before even looking at her website, we performed a quick search and we found out that the individual’s name was associated with a dispute about copyright infringement. It occurred to us that the most likely cause for her poor online sales was this bit of information, which raised serious questions about this person’s business ethics.

Online reputation management has become a major concern for both self employed professionals and companies. A negative review about one’s services or products can have a catastrophic effect on current and future sales. The term “reputation management” is said to have been invented in 1997 by public relations firm Shandwick. With the advent of social media, online reputation management has become an important corporate PR tool. Websites such as Ebay and Play, allow their members to rank merchants, whilst Linked In allows its subscribers to recommend other members’ services through positive reviews.

The growing concern about the “online buzz”, has led to the creation of online reputation management companies that, by using various methods, can “clean” a company’s reputation. This is achieved via different tactics, including the creation of false social media profiles to post positive comments about a company (this is a technique often used by cinema distribution companies to counter negative reviews).

Whatever strategy a company suffering from negative online reputation decides to employ, company directors should never forget that the best way is always to pre-empt. Good customer care practices and attention to the quality of the product / service offered, are the best ways to ensure that one’s reputation is not at stake. This is even more important in small environments such as Malta, where news and information tend to travel faster than in larger countries.

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