Want to crush a competitor in search results? Want to save your own brand online? Perhaps you'd like to simply cause that great article languishing on page five of Google to get more attention - you saved all those children in Africa after all! Reputation PR (Reputation Public Relations) is an often technical for of public relations that can be used as a shield, or as a sword, depending on your needs.
The best example of this is seen in the political realm. Three weeks before the election something shows up in search results that is devastating to a candidate. Someone is promoting it heavily because every time someone Google's that politicians name, this bad thing shows up at the top. Who do you think did that? How did they do it?
In the example above, timing is everything. Three weeks before an election isn't enough time to fix the problem. Sure, the candidate can put out a press release. But the damage is done. Their message has been muddled. They are on the defensive.
The same thing happens to corporate stock. Reputation PR is used as a sword by short-sellers to cause market panic. The short sale that occurs drives the stock price down, and the short-sellers win. How is this done? It's the dark side of reputation management.
Most cases of reputation PR are for good causes. At Reputation X we look at each prospective client and decide not only if we can help them, but also if they deserve our help. Examples of using reputation PR for positive purposes include:
PR professionals understand reputation. Traditional PR firms are relationship-based. They know the journalist at the Wall Street Journal, the journalist trusts them and may listen to their pitch.
Online reputation PR is more technical. It's about influencer outreach, technical development of search engine friendly properties a brand can control, AB testing messages that resonate at small scale and then ramping up for review management purposes. Online reputation PR uses SEO, as well as traditional public relations, content management, and software to manage the entire online profile. This can include Google knowledge panel development, Wikipedia, ratings and reviews, best-of lists, video, slides, and much more that often falls under the heading of technical public relations.
Unlike traditional PR, online reputation PR involves a heavy dose of search engine marketing, social marketing, review management, and TLC applied to every facet of the online marketing mix. As the web continues to fragment, processes and knowledge are always evolving to tackle new paradigms. Contemporary public relations is based on a cross-section of IT, content creation, outreach, inbound pursuits, social media, and search listing rankings. The rules dictating each one of these change almost daily.
What is reputation? Your reputation is an intangible asset based on your actions, values, relationships, and behaviors. It’s judged both on its own and in relation to your competitors. A good reputation is consistent; established on a solid foundation and set up to continue in the long-term. It holds significant power to improve your business, bring in new prospects, and defend yourself against your competitors.
Your company has a lot to lose from a bad reputation, and a lot to gain from a good one. From restaurants to airlines, consumers are willing to pay more for companies with solid reputations.
According to one study, companies with good reputations outperformed those with poor reputations on every single financial measure over a five year period. With your perceived image being so closely tied to your revenue, can you afford not to pay attention to it?
A bad reputation can be due to something as small as a single negative search result. In fact, a single negative article can result in a 22% drop in new leads. Sometimes a competitor will apply SEO (search engine optimization) to another companies bad news online. That often makes the bad news rise if the content is relevant to the company they're targeting. Bad news tends to stick in search results too. This is due to a number of factors, one of which is negativity bias. The tendency for people to be drawn to negative content.
Well, it depends on how it's used. Reputation is an intangible asset that is at the mercy of the public whims. But the public gets its information from search results and other media like word of mouth and social media. Using technical public relations to change the message online often changes public opinion, especially when done over time. Can it be abused? Yes, take a look at the 2016 US Presidential campaign and the things that were said about Hillary Clinton.
Can it be used for good? Yes, take for example a client of ours who had endured public violence at school. His search results defined him as a victim, and that was how he'd be seen for the rest of his life if Google's algorithms had their way. We changed that. Now he has a clean start.
Photo credit: Anush Gorak