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What is your Company’s Reputation Worth?

You’re a company that is occupying all the right places online. You have a website, you blog regularly, you tweet, and you make sure your company controls profiles on all of the major social networking sites. You’re doing what you can to make sure that you are where you need to be to create brand awareness and interest in your products.

But how do you manage all these corporate communications? How closely do you monitor online representations by and of your organization?

Earlier this summer, online microblogging site Twitter found itself at the centre of a lawsuit where Chicago-based Horizon Realty Group took action against a former tenant for having tweeted about mold in her apartment. Horizon insisted that the allegation was false, and launched the suit in hopes of clearing its name.

Beyond the interest created in seeing the first Twitter-centered lawsuit come about, the story picked up considerable press after Horizon Realty representative Jeffrey Michael was quoted in the Chicago Sun-Times as saying that Horizon is a “sue first, ask questions later kind of organization.”

It is more important than ever to acknowledge the potential severity of reputation risk given modern technologies that spread information faster and farther than ever. A customer with a complaint, legitimate or not, can spread the word far and wide with a few clicks of a mouse. How you respond to negativity or criticism is crucial. Your response is equally susceptible to spreading quickly and far; something you can use to your benefit, or you can mismanage to your loss.

What can an organization do to manage reputation risk in a hyper-connected world?

One: Understand the Importance of Reputation

  • Educate all employees to understand that their actions affect the public’s perception of the organization. It is integral that we all understand the value of reputation as an asset, and how easily it can be put at risk.
  • Understand the expectations of the public and of your stakeholders. Policy and procedures should be in place to guide all responses to any comments made about the company and/or its employees.
  • Communicate the means by which the public can voice concerns, such as providing a specific email address, phone number or mailing address. Being receptive and responsive when something good or bad is said about the company will work in your favour. Shooting the messenger often backfires.

Two: Manage Public Relations

  • Ensure complaints are dealt with properly. You may not be able to change someone’s mind, but how you respond to their concerns can at the very least show that you stand behind your company and that you are concerned about your customers and the public.
  • Learn from all complaints. What can you change to make sure a complaint doesn’t happen again? What can you change about your response to decrease the reach of a negative comment?
  • Monitor and analyze complaints to attain valuable information. Complaint trends may provide advance warning that things may be going seriously wrong.
  • Ensure emergency response planning is in place – including emergency response communications planning. In this day and age, how you communicate with the public after an emergency is more important than ever. How you respond can make your company stronger if you do it right.
  • Provide updates to the media about important events, issues, etc. that have arisen.
  • Establish a website or other media that provides information to the public.
  • Pick your battles. If someone says something negative about your organization to a relatively small portion of the public, it may be better to not strike back.

We work and live in a time when what we say and how we react to what is said about us can reach millions in a matter of minutes. How are you managing reputation risk in the Twitter age?

photo from user steakpinball via Flickr Creative Commons

Topics: value of a reputation companies reputation importance of a reputation managing public relations