To professional services firms and business organisations, reputation means everything. And in the modern business world, it’s largely about the web.
Very often, clients are recommended to you either by existing clients or other contacts – in fact, it’s often your (good) reputation that helps you get new business. Or your general reputation in the marketplace (“they’re excellent at commercial developments”, “they’re the market leader in complex forensic accounting) is the final mental tick in the box to getting on the shortlist.
But what about bad reputation? Or perhaps people saying things about you that don’t fit your communications strategy?
In the internet age especially, it’s pretty easy to find anything out. Who goes to a meeting now without googling someone’s name? But the flip-side is, it’s also relatively straightforward to disseminate an inaccurate view about a person or organisation online. Twenty years ago, who would have printed out multiple copies of letters and distributed them? Nowadays, anyone can inadvertently (or not) forward a defamatory email or post a seemingly innocent comment to an online forum. There are a number of forums for complaints about and reviews of solicitors, as well as league tables for many professions and sectors.
It’s the same for consumer organisations, although on a bigger scale. I’ve been blogging since 2002, and something I’ve noticed in the last year is that large retail organisations (retailers, utilities etc) now have staff regularly reviewing their online footprint. I have online a small number of decade-old relatively benign, although critical posts, and it’s only in the last year or so that I’m receiving regular emails from “people who look after the website” or “social media managers” charmingly requesting that I remove the link to their site in the post. The motif of all these requests is a very “softly softly” approach, but they’re all saying the same thing: ten years ago we didn’t get the internet, but now we realise that it’s the first place people look, and we want to control what they find.
Depending on the scale of your organisation, you may choose to have a press clipping service, which will send you any mentions you specify across a broad range of press. At the very least, you can set up a google alert, which will let you know if anyone mentions you or your firm.
Your reputation is also affected by those who represent your organisation on social media – Twitter, blogs, Facebook if you have a consumer audience. The days of juniors writing articles that were approved by a partner before they were published are more than over. Today, it’s about empowerment and trust; anyone tweeting in your Twitter stream needs to understand the tone of voice of the organisation, and ensure they tweet professional, appropriate stories.
Managing your reputation is increasingly becoming an online issue, so best to keep on top of it.
So, three top tips for easy online reputation management:
- Set up a Google alert for your firm’s name, significant people, and perhaps key clients. You can do this here.
- Have someone in your firm, or an external consultant, review these every month or so, and take appropriate action.
- Trust; you need to empower the people who may be blogging or tweeting on your firm’s behalf. If you feel a quick chat is enough, just give them the direction. Otherwise, you may want to consider running some short Tone of Voice workshops to ensure that everyone is going in the same direction.