Never has online reputation management been so important. John Q Public now has the power to affect the reputation of your brand. Like it or not, the Internet is now one of the most powerful public opinion platforms available. Never before has word of mouth had so much impact as quickly as it does online. That means your business must respond faster than ever before.
One must keep in mind that public relations, online or offline, is that it’s public relations. Traditional PR by trade focuses on maintaining a company’s relationship with its various publics, much different than marketing and advertising. Publics by definition of traditional PR is people who hold some stake in your company. Think employees, stockholders, consumers, community groups and so on.
Now anyone can weigh in any time they’d like online. And the effect it’s having on brands and their publics is mind blowing. To ignore this shift of power, in how your brand and reputation can be enhanced or greatly damaged, is not something to ignore.
Public Relations In the 21st Century
And over the years, thanks to people who believe that public relations is a management function, the profession has developed into something much more than just propaganda and the ability to sway public opinion. PR, by trade, is based on research and methodologies that aim to upkeep the relationship between a business and its various publics.
The global information age has forced PR to conform to changing technology, identifying new strategies to deal with our publics. The Internet is dramatically changing the way we view and practice PR. We now have the capability to identify where people are talking about our brand and respond accordingly, directly to those who matter.
Content Marketing Is Crucial To Effective PR
We also have the ability to publish enough content to dilute out negative commentary, if we choose to do so. This is a proactive practice as companies are doing everything they can to get both sides of the story out in an effort to manage overwhelming public opinion online.
Online Reputation Management Strategy
Today, there are a multitude of tools and resources that give us great opportunity to identify potential public relations problems online. But those tools should just be part of a greater PR strategy. Social media and reputation management tools are crucial elements. But even before you obtain a clear understanding of public opinion and before you even communicate, the most important thing to work out is your PR strategy.
And it’s not necessarily about ensuring your online reputation is perfect. It is about how you react to situations and engage with your publics. People make mistakes and corporations render bad service at times, but how they address these issues speaks volumes.
The traditional PR strategy model can still apply to your online efforts:
- Define the problem
- Plan the strategy
- Take action/communicate
- Evaluate through assessment
Social media and review sites and the ultimate PR communications tool. They allow you to respond to your publics in real-time. Before this was only facilitated through press releases, press conferences and the like, all of which didn’t offer the personal element social media allows. When utilized correctly, you can build loyalty and personal relationships with your publics like never before.
PR Best Practices & Online Interaction
Businesses and publics online are replacing the traditional journalist role in the dissemination of information. Only this time, it’s not objective. But it’s our duty as businesses to carry on the role of traditional PR to serve our publics and solve problems that arise between our business and its community. Like marriage, you have to work at it.
PR is as alive as ever. Companies, small and big, must learn and embrace the methodologies of PR, as a it is crucial business process if they are to survive.