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Why would I ask someone else to manage MY online reputation? Part 3

This is the final segment of a 3-post series on Online Reputation Management (ORM). Part 1 talked about what reputation is, and more importantly, what it isn’t. Part 2 shows how ORM is more than just damage control. This segment is about involving people to take ORM beyond the traditional custodians of public ignorance (euphemistically called information asymmetry).

 

“You can’t build a reputation on what you are going to do.” – Henry Ford

But you CAN do something to build a reputation. And you ought to do a LOT to safeguard the reputation you’ve already built. So let’s play this little game I just made up. Make a list of words that strike you as being synonymous to your reputation. Chances are you’ll end up with something that looks like the bio of St. Peter. (Hint: Character is who you are when nobody’s looking.)

Alan Kelly has this incisive and direct view on the role of PR in reputation management. [Read Ego goes Solo – What Matthew Freud’s manoeuvres say about the future of PR – on The Economist]

Mr. Freud’s not-so-novel insight that the future of PR lies in reputation management is evidence of his grounding in selling but not in science. Reputation cannot be managed much less measured, not credibly. It is a proxy of the PR industry’s constant search for euphemisms of a publicly less palatable purpose – influence for competitive advantage.

Let’s be honest and fully transparent on this: To manage a client’s reputation is like me and my wife managing the love of our marriage – or hiring a consultant to do it for us. Both are abstract. Both mean different things to the involved parties. Both are a shared responsibility, not a problem to out-source. And both are derivative of other good works. That this escapes the attention of PR industry fathers is testimony to our mastery of hyperbole and malpractice of craft.

The custodians of public ignorance viz. erstwhile Media, PR, Politicians and, believe it or not, our hallowed Educational Institutions are becoming redundant. Internet enabled information percolates through the weave of the social fabric empowering all in its wake. Going forward, the value of past ‘information hoarders’ is diminished; information will extend its reach through the simultaneity of devices, platforms and content. Context will rule supreme and will become a currency that the ‘ruling classes’ will find difficult to control.

And the current Social Media revolution is all about context. It is about communities of interest, purpose and practice. These communities combine nicely with with the viral effect of the Internet to propagate information that others can easily build upon. Crowdsourcing is a great example of how we use technology today to collaboratively create and manage information. No command and control here.

Therefore if company ‘A’ is looking to manage its online reputation, it must understand how people think and not just what they can be made to think. This is a big shift from the ‘push’ marketing mindset that has created several brands. It doesn’t matter what company ‘A’ tries to tell the world, what really matters is how the world receives the information. Everybody looks at why you are trying to say something. If you try to defend yourself, people wonder what you are trying to hide. If you don’t, YOU have to keep wondering about what they are thinking.

Brian Solis calls it “The beginning of the end of Social Media 1.0

Consumers want to be heard. Social media will have to break free form the grips of marketing in order to truly socialize the enterprise to listen, engage, learn, and adapt. You can’t create a social business if the business is not designed to be customer-centric from the outside-in and the inside-out.

The end of Social Media 1.0 is the beginning of a new era of business, consumer engagement, and relevance.

ORM is less about tools, techniques and SEO. Welcome to the brave new world of ‘value, engagement and relevance’. And of course reputation. Credible and honest.

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Sunil Malhotra

Sunil doubles as Chief of Creative and Culture at Ideafarms. An Entrepreneur, a Consultant-at-large, an avid reader and a passionate speaker has a key objective to bring design-led user sensitivity to the Information Technology business. His belief in individual talent and an interdisciplinary mix provided the impetus to his founding Ideafarms. You can also follow him @SunilMalhotra