E-REPUTATION MATTERS FOR ENTREPRENEURS
The digital marketing consultant Charlotte Prieur writes about e-reputation, one of her favorite topics. Prier has a master’s thesis on how to restore a company’s reputation after a scandal, giving the subject a modern twist with the focus on strategies to restore a company’s e-reputation after scandals in social media.
In this article, she gives us insights on why e-reputation has been taken seriously by entrepreneurs.
Reputation goes online
Let’s start with a little reminder of what reputation is, then we can extend it to e-reputation. According to the Cambridge Dictionary, reputation is “the opinion that people in general have about someone or something, or how much respect or admiration someone or something receives, based on their past behavior or character”. Here, we will focus on what can be controlled, which is behavior.
Before getting into more details, I would like to define « e-reputation ». It is a new terminology, invented in the early 2000’s, as Internet gained popularity. According to Castellano & Dutot (2013), e-reputation is an “extension of reputation […] with a larger and more lasting scope of influence”.
The main characteristics of e-reputation are immediacy, ubiquity, accessibility and time persistence. The internet is now accessible all over the world, as well as the online content about a company.
Why to care about e-reputation?
If you think that e-reputation is a concern only for big companies, you couldn’t be more mistaken. Big firms are more likely to be hit by a scandal as they have well-known brands. However, in the online world, your company is almost as much at risk as any other corporation.
First, let me explain why reputation is so essential. Only in the 1980’s researchers explained the relation between reputation and sales: if a company has a negative reputation, even if not directly related to the product, customers will avoid buying the values that the company represent.
A bad e-reputation is even harder to overcome, due to the time persistence and to marketing tools such as Google News and Google Suggest. As an example, after Volkswagen emission scandal, for months, the first research suggestion on Google related to the name of the manufacturer was “Volkswagen scandal”.
New doors to be open
On the other hand, a good reputation brings diverse positive effects. We can mention the increase of market value, the decrease of marketing and distribution costs, the ability to increase prices, the avoidance of over-regulation and the ability to survive in hard times.
Beyond that, employees will feel in a better place to work, managers have more tools to attract and keep talents, investors are more willing to support future decisions, access to new markets is easier and media coverage tends to be positive. Many opportunities are awaiting in the corner.
Do you accept a piece of advice? Be aware of your own reputation as a top executive. Your name is directly linked to your company, as well as Bill Gates is related to Microsoft, or Steve Jobs to Apple. Therefore, never underestimate the power of your own reputation for your company.
Better safe than sorry
More and more companies are bound to face a scandal in the upcoming years. Clearly, it is related to the growth of online customers and the relevance of social media. If a company have a good reputation before a scandal, customers tend to give more credibility to excuses and have an easier time forgiving.
Thus, it is important to monitor search engines and social networks. To start, search « name of your company + anything bad that comes to your mind ». That will give you an overview of where you are now and what to expect.
Once this basic analysis is done, you have to identify the most serious risks. After auditing the data, look for solutions. Is it possible to stop the propagation of negative opinions? Are there actions that can be internally taken to eradicate e-reputation risks?
If the answer is positive, execute those actions as soon as possible. If the answer is negative, start imagining different strategies depending on scandals that may hatch. Doing it takes time, but it is time well-spent! If you don’t have resources to do it internally, consider hiring public relation agencies or freelancer crisis-consultants.
Finally, keep in mind that reputation, as well as e-reputation, takes time to be build. It doesn’t happen overnight. For e-reputation, determine which social networks your company should communicate on and define a strategy. Choose an editorial line, a calendar and build an active and engaged community. It will be your best advocate in times of doubt.
As Chron wrote in 2014, “the biggest downside of marketing communication on social media is that managing a page requires time, a certain degree of effort and a certain degree of knowledge”. Always keep in mind that reputation takes years to be build but seconds to be destroyed.
I hope that this article opened your eyes to the opportunities held by e-reputation. It doesn’t have to be all threats and worries. Besides being highly valuable, building a community can be fun! Moreover, nothing beats interaction with customers: it will help you to understand customers’ needs, to adapt the business model, to understand your market. Indeed, e-reputation can be risky, but what isn’t?