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1 It ain t slander if it s true. Reputation management in a social networking society Reputation Management in a Social Networking Society 1 dna13.com white paper

2 The evolution of communication technologies and the ways in which consumers are using them is forcing corporate leaders to reinvent the standards and methodologies they use to protect, manage and nurture their most important asset their brand reputation. Technology enables instant access to massive volumes of information and news. Print, radio and television media continue to claim a large informationhungry audience share, although their business models are greatly strained. Overtaking them are Internet-based news and information sites, which deliver information faster and more directly. Consumer-generated media channels and social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, blogs and other applications are carrying availability, volume and quality of information to a whole new level. Consumers have gained full control of what they see, read and hear. In this splintered media universe, consumers have gained full control of what they see, read and hear. These technology applications give them power not just to have information delivered to the device of their choice, but to share it instantly, along with their unfiltered opinions crossing channels, devices and other barriers. Such is the setting in which corporations now operate. Every move they make is subject to the scrutiny of a sophisticated, powerful global audience. What to do? There are solutions. Just as consumers use technology applications to empower themselves with knowledge and control, so can corporations in their bid to sustain and grow their brand reputation and value. The purpose of this white paper is twofold: 1. To highlight how consumers are using best in breed communication technologies to shape and control conversations that have the potential to destroy corporate brands. 2. To review the latest in brand reputation management standards and technologies that are helping businesses today increase their bottom line performance, while at the same time mitigating potential risk to their reputation. Those were the days The requirement of brand owners to address challenges imposed on them as a result of developments in mass communication is not entirely new. In the past century in particular, advances in technology and the emergence Reputation Management in a Social Networking Society 1

3 of new channels to reach consumers have compelled corporations to change how they think and act about their relationships with customers and stakeholders. Beginning in 1900, journalist Ida Tarbell wrote a series of articles for McClure s Magazine about the Standard Oil Company and its owner John D. Rockefeller. Initially, Rockefeller consented to interviews for what he believed would be a positive profile. The stories published however, led to federal antitrust legislation against the company and to its eventual break-up in The impact of these stories damaged the reputation and brand of the Standard Oil Company, and that of its owner John D. Rockefeller, irreparably. When the articles were published, Standard Oil figured the best response was to ignore them. This was a strategy they would regret however, for no amount of philanthropy to mitigate the Tarbell stories could restore the loss of trust in the company or Rockefeller s personal reputation. The impact of these stories damaged the reputation and brand of the Standard Oil Company, and that of its owner John D. Rockefeller, irreparably. New channels, new challenges The dazzling volume of content challenges even the hardiest consumer with information overload. As the 20 th century unfolded in North America, corporations that typically used newspapers and magazines had to re-think their paradigm to follow their customers. To that end, brand owners followed (or led) their customers first to radio, then to television, and finally to close off the century, the Internet. Each new medium required corporations to develop a highly specialized advertising model to promote their brand reputation and value, and an equally strategic adjustment in the methodology they had in place to respond to consumer reaction. With the emergence of each new channel, the challenge of corporations to stand out in target markets has become more significant and complex. Companies had to determine and invest in more cost-effective channels, and focus on nurturing these brand relationships based on confidence. The paradigm for the consumer changed too, providing a fresh avenue to new information. At their best, these media deliver as much intelligence as the average consumer could ever want. At their worst, the dazzling volume of content challenges even the hardiest consumer with information overload. Reputation Management in a Social Networking Society 2

4 A one-way street Except for the Internet, traditional mass media channels print media, radio and television have one major thing in common: they essentially offer one-way communication. Making headlines has been comparatively uncomplicated and unsophisticated. Corporations had virtually complete control of their brands and invested appropriately to build and sustain loyalty with their customers. If no easy mechanism is available, consumers will still find ways to make their voices heard. If they felt the tone of an entertainment program they were advertising within was too risqué for their customers, they threatened to pull their sponsorship. For the average consumer of mid-century North America, the impact of this power was deep. Their impressions of everything from politics to what products they should own were often shaped through the lens of brand owners. From Chevrolet to Betty Crocker, many of these brands were an integral part of the popular culture. This is not to say that corporations did not suffer setbacks, failures and damage to their reputations and brands. The lessons learned at the expense of Standard Oil were well taken. Brand owners now recognize instinctively they must cultivate and nurture their reputation. Successful companies know that even if consumers don t have an easy mechanism to voice their objection to a product or service, they will still find ways to make their voices heard. And, worse yet, they will stop buying. The dividing line If the problems experienced in the early 80s were taking place today, the behavior of consumers and the company s efforts to restore its ailing reputation would be very different and the outcome unlikely to be the same. Consumer generated media and social networking sites such as Facebook, YouTube and Twitter represent a distinct dividing line between the one-way flow of traditional mass communication channels and a fully interactive environment. The networks and communication structures that corporations once dominated have been overtaken by a critical mass of vocal consumers who are keen to share their unfiltered opinions, and are empowered to do it instantly. Millions of conversations In this Web 2.0 setting, today s enterprise has to be nimble and smart to keep up. The best ones are figuring it out: they are making necessary adjustments to their planning, operations, capitalization, and production, and are moving forward. Today s enterprise has to be nimble and smart to keep up. Reputation Management in a Social Networking Society 3

5 The down-side for corporations in this era of social media is the volume of conversations that can take place good or bad about their brand. How can they listen to the millions of conversations that can take place about their brand over so many media channels? The prospect seems impossible. Break and re-make Technology has changed the rules, so the paradigm for reputation protection must be remade. Traditionally, the job of monitoring and protecting a company s reputation has been the domain of corporate communications and public relations teams. This has been the accepted paradigm for two or three generations. But technology has changed the rules, so the paradigm for reputation protection must be remade. Companies who recognize the challenges of managing their reputation are beginning to pull down the barriers that have traditionally separated their organizations vertically-built groups and are assigning them with reputation management responsibilities. Corporate communications, marketing, media relations and customer relations roles are increasingly interrelated and beginning to merge. A crisis management issue for a corporate communications employee may also be an opportunity for the customer relations group. Trends identified by the media relations group could be used to deliver more effective marketing or advertising messages. No opportunity to build brand reputation can be wasted. Take it further Smart enterprises are tapping into Web 2.0 opportunities (and risks). Removing vertical organizational barriers, new teams are emerging organically to subscribe to and feed Facebook and Twitter accounts, post videos about their issues, products and services on YouTube, and write and contribute to others blogs about their ideas. (Companies) must use the same Web 2.0 tools their customers are using. The reality is that even when companies do not have a presence on, or participate in, Web 2.0 media channels, conversations that may make or break their reputation can and will take place in their absence. It is understood now that they must use the same Web 2.0 tools their customers are using. They must be conscious of the conversations and prepared to act quickly and strategically. Reputation Management in a Social Networking Society 4

6 New tools for new times Companies are increasingly investing in specialized Web-based applications that bring their internal teams together to effectively monitor, interpret, analyze and report on the traditional and consumer generated conversations taking place about them. Such applications and associated services are helping to support the paradigm shift taking place in the way corporations manage their brand reputation. With some variations, these tools have common characteristics. They must possess:» A safe and secure online environment. Teams within corporations have access to sensitive corporate information. When they are sharing and exchanging information online, they must be confident that they are doing so in a safe and secure setting. In this setting, roles, rights and access can be assigned.» A collaborative workspace for all team members. Distributed teams require a collaborative space, not just for their internal teams, but for their external providers like public relations firms to enable faster messaging approval and strategy adjustment buy-in in times of crisis.» One platform and one window. Software-as-aservice technology providers now have the ability to deliver information to a single dashboard. The conversations in print, TV, radio, online media, social media, blogs and discussion boards all arrive in one place to be reviewed and analyzed.» Search and monitoring functions. Issues don t always emerge fully formed. Often they take weeks or even months to develop. A good webbased tool allows its users to track past stories and conversations as well as emerging ones.» A cost-effective price point. With the potential for millions of conversations to take place all at once, traditional ways of cost-per-clip monitoring would be cost-prohibitive. Technology tools must make monitoring and analysis efforts costeffective and practical.» Flexible architecture for media content integration. Given how rapidly new media channels are opening up (where was Twitter a year ago?), any technology adopted by a company must be flexible with media monitoring feeds, databases, and metrics.» Real-time alerts. Technology tools must be equipped to deliver alerts in real-time. Early warning systems are essential.» Expert packaging. Applications that support monitoring media must be able to transform it into professional quality summaries. If it can t be scanned, read and absorbed quickly and easily, it will not be an effective tool.» Reporting and analysis. Applications must have the capacity to report on and measure earned media and coverage on Web 2.0 media channels.» Easy to deploy. Companies have enough headaches. They don t need the hassle of having to integrate new technologies and applications with existing ones. They need tools that are fast and easy to deploy online. Reputation Management in a Social Networking Society 5

7 Live and learn The most important lesson we learn about reputation management is that a company s brand is at the mercy of mass communication unless strategic investments are made to listen and analyze media coverage. As media channels grow and become more complex, companies must be vigilant to the threat of attacks on their reputation, and they must be constantly reviewing and reinventing their brand protection methodologies. Communication technologies and channels will not remain static. Successful companies of the future will not only understand and have embraced these technologies and the power of human nature; they will use this understanding to their advantage. A company s brand is at the mercy of mass communication unless strategic investments are made to listen and analyze media coverage. They will pay more focused attention to media coverage about them on both traditional and Web 2.0 channels. They will bring down the barriers within their organizations and use their experts to rally around, protect and build their reputation. And they will do this not just in times of crisis, but every day. About dna13 dna13 is a leading Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) business application for brand and reputation management. As the global leader for on-demand software for real-time reputation management, dna13 provides complete visibility into global reputation. It enables communicators to monitor and listen to what is being said about their company in both traditional and online media sources, securely align team members to plan the synchronized delivery of messages, and engage with key stakeholders to develop and nurture valuable relationships. Visit dna13.com for more information. Reputation Management in a Social Networking Society 6

8 2009 dna13 Inc. All Rights Reserved Worldwide

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