The Importance of Reputation Monitoring

Once you've built a reputation (either in the real world or online), people are going to talk about you, and it's important to know what they're saying. Proactive monitoring is needed to enable you to keep track of what other people are saying about you, so that you can react to an online PR issue before it snowballs.

Anecdotes are provided about one company whose monitoring of Internet traffic has enabled them to respond very quickly and avoid a major conundrum, as well as another whose failure to monitor such traffic put them in a jam they probably could have avoided quite easily.

Where to monitor depends on your firm, industry, and the way you do business. All companies should monitor newsfeeds and the blogosphere. A manufacturer might monitor various product review sites as well as any site where their product is sold that have a product rating system.

Many of these will be "false positives" - places where your company is mentioned in passing, or where the news is neutral or positive. It's good to know, but doesn't require a crisis reaction.

If resources are limited, determine which spaces are most influential in yoru industry, or most popular among your primary target markets.

You should comb for mentions of ...

  1. Your brands - Your company name and the names of your products/services. Include common misspellings as well as the correct name.
  2. Your products or industry - Sometimes, bad news about a product can harm an entire industry ("some brands of chocolate contain melamine" hurt Hershey's sales, even though their products were never in question)
  3. Your people - Especially your executives and spokespersons
  4. Marketing Campaigns - Look for key phrases from your marketing campaigns (how far did "priceless" parodies go before MasterCard react?)
  5. your competition - Knowing what people are saying about your competitors will tell you how you're doing, comparatively, and enable you to head off attacks when people assume that companies have similar practices
  6. Your weaknesses - If you are aware of a weakness with your company or product, even if it's a myth, monitor for it constantly.

Monitoring should be constant. If you aren't already monitoring, you've a lot of catching up to do, and you will have to monitor regularly. The larger the amount of material you find, the more time you will have to devote to monitoring. You should also consider how much damage can be done in how short a time. For some companies, it may be a task that consumes significant resources.

As for how to do the task, the next chapter picks up on that.