Category: online reputation

The Beauty of Roaming Airport Bookstores

I have always had this habit of roaming bookstores looking out for gems – books for my collection. And occasionally I have found something worthwhile.

Yesterday was no exception. Whilst at OR Tambo airport in Johannesburg, I was roaming one of the bookstores when I saw a really interesting little book with punchy advice regarding Social Media.

Check it out – so far well worth the purchase: Sonic Boom – How to Master Business Social Media by Jeffrey G Itomer.

I already found items in the book I should IMPLEMENT.

Quote – “SOCIAL MEDIA IS THE NEW COLD CALL.”—Jeffrey Gitomer

“What’s your company’s social media policy? Probably shortsighted. Business social media, or social networking, has become more than a global phenomenon. When combined with your online presence and online outreach,it’s a global business phenomenon and a revenue generating phenomenon.”

Looks like an interesting and practical read…..

Your Crisis Communication Response Plan is Due for Maintenance (And/Or a Rewrite)

537104_41065708Any crisis communication plan that hasn’t been updated or tested in at least the last six months is fundamentally useless!

If you haven’t dusted off your plan lately, now’s the time.

The rapid evolution of citizen journalism and the collaborative Web has changed the way companies & countries need to watch for looming crises, assess the reaction to crises, and respond.

Citizen journalism, of course, is nothing particularly new, but the speed with which messages can circulate today – through the use of mobile phones, camera phones, Blackberry, Twitter and the Net-have changed the dynamics of how a crisis unfolds.

In fact, it now even has the power of getting a momentum on its own and assist in revolutions, such as what happened in Tunisia and now Egypt. Take a look at this article Egypt: The camp that toppled a president and click on the word blogger in the photo.

There are two factors at play when a story hits the Net. The first is the number of people influenced by what the person is writing, either in a mail; a tweet, a web forum or in a blog. The second is the attention paid to the spreading story by the media, which is often compelled to pick up the story and mainstream it, which makes it visible to all those people who don’t have access to the internet.

Many crisis communication plans these days don’t include specific strategies for using the Net and other forms of online communication. Have you considered and can you use the technology to use when there is a social media crisis via the Web? Do you know when and how to respond to a particular stance by a blogger or a nasty tweet? Should you even respond?

Unless you have a strategy in place and know how to use various tools and technologies you will be at a disadvantage.

Here are some questions that you have to consider:

  • How often do you monitor to determine your organisation’s name in forums, e-mails, online discussions or even in Messenger? Have you considered using online tools like Google Alerts, Cyber alert and SNS Analytics that can assist you with the process?
  • Do you participate in online networks like Linkedin and others? Since social media is about being part of a conversation, the building of trust starts long before the issue of a statement.
  • Where do you keep your plan? Hopefully you have a copy on your smartphone, in Dropbox, on the web and at home for real-time access.
  • Can you update stakeholder (audience) details in real-time? Do you make use of online address books/contact databases? You may want to consider using Gist or Plaxo for this.
  • Can you communicate with your audiences directly? How quickly can you get messages to them using social Media tools like Twitter, e-mail and SMS?
  • Have you considered using outside 3rd party experts, social media & crisis communication management experts to assist you with an independent analysis before a crisis hits?

With the emphasis today on speed, any strategic crisis communication response plan should include prioritization of audiences (stakeholders), honesty and transparency (levels of disclosure), concern for victims, and avoidance of speculation and selection of appropriate spokespersons.

But the new focus should take into account the era of the 24-hour news cycle or what David Meerman Scott calls the ‘real-time’. A Company has nanoseconds available today to respond to bad news or rumours.

That’s no joke. That’s for real and if your crisis communication response plans are not based on the ‘real-time ‘ principle it is not worth a tweet.

Don’t wait. Dust off that crisis plan before a crisis finds you.

P.S If you want to rewrite or benchmark your crisis plan, these resources can be of assistance:

What type of Reputation Management Consultant are you?

j0382674So, Sir! You are a Reputation Management Consultant.

Yes, but then asks a clued up client “’Which type?’’

How do you respond? What do you say? What is your elevator speech handle? (An Elevator speech handle is what you should say to someone about what it is you do for a living, between two floors in a high rise building – Short, sweet and succinct)

Which type are you, and what is your focus?

The same misconceptions arises in the Crisis Management industry. As a customer with a need, who do you consult?

A Crisis Management consultant or a Crisis Communication consultant? This distinction is important as it will influence your decision on which consultant to use.

This is a vital decision, because PR consultancies tend to deal with the communication challenges only, whilst Crisis Management consultants tend to deal with the whole Siamese twin. (I call a Crisis a Siamese twin because I do not believe that you can separate a crisis into its reality and perceptual parts) and ultimately offers more comprehensive services.

In the same vein, it is important for companies to decide what type of Reputation Management consultant, they want to deal with.

The proliferation of online or internet reputation consultants have created this misconception about reputation management consultants, i.e that they are either Social media experts or are just another PR consultancy.

I am here to set the matter straight.

There are three types of reputation management consultants available today. They are:

1. Online reputation management consultants;

2. Business reputation management consultants;

3. Personal reputation management consultants.

Online Reputation Management consultants focus on internet reputation and predominantly social media tools and usage. The 3rd one – Personal Reputation is often taken care of by PR consultancies, Image specialists, Coaches and counsellors that can assist a person to not only change their behavior but for instance, act out a plan to improve their personal position or standing in a community or workplace.

The 2nd one, Business reputation management consultants provides far more comprehensive services, including management consulting, advice, strategic planning and capacity building in the organization. The skills needed by these types of consultants I wrote about in my blog post – The Skills needed by a Chief Reputation Officer –

Traditional PR consultancies tend to gravitate between Nr 1 and Nr. 2 – however their focus is different, and deals more with communication, marketing & perceptual challenges.

Thus, it becomes an important decision of whom you want to work with. Do you need only a communication solution? Do you need help with a blog attack or a bad presence on the Net, or do you want to change your position on the World’s Most Admired Company survey rankings?

When you want to put a skylight into your home, do you obtain the services of a General Handyman or do you enlist the services of someone who specialises in installing skylights?

Because reputation is a very complex asset and risk, and can be affected by so many issues and peculiarities, the use of a business reputation management consultant should be preferred, because not only do they understand the nature and value of reputation and communication, they also understand people and organisations as complex systems.

So, just like going to restaurant, choose your service provider and dish with care!

Learn How to Think like an Activist


Many managers cringe when they hear the word activist. Because, activists as a stakeholder group can potentially damage an organisation’s reputation if relationships with them are not carefully built, understood and maintained.

I have always been intrigued how in movies, psychologists trying to track a serial murderer, try and become that person. They study that person’s motives, habits, appearance, background, etc. So, One of the best ways is to learn to be an activist yourself. By learning to become an activist, you will prepare yourself to handle potential reputational crises and campaigns against your organisation.

The Graduate School of Business at the University of Cape Town call this the immersion principle. Immerse yourself until you fully understand all there is to be an activist.

Trouble is that these days, activists are no longer a plural word. A single person today has tools at their disposal to start a one person crusade. Technologies such as Blogs, Twitter, Facebook and other social networks have increased the potential power of an individual, and companies should prepare themselves for online campaigns and other means of mobilisation.

Here then is a link to a free online course called The Virtual Activist – – The course needs updating, but if you are a Twitter user, Facebook or MySpace follower, then you will learn a lot from this course.

The Virtual Activist illustrate why the communications efforts of social activists, including nongovernmental organizations, are so successful. Activists provide their supporters with both information and strategic and tactical tools. The combination of information and tools empowers people to take action, including communications or PR activities.

To further equip yourself, I can recommend the following site which should bring you up to speed: with the latest Social Media tools and approaches.

Want to Learn how to Defend and Protect your Organisation’s biggest Asset & Risk?

What: Reputation Protection & Defence Master Class
2 – day Master Class on how to protect and defend an organisation’s reputation. It covers from Reputation Risk, Crisis Management, Crisis Communication & Online Reputation issues.
When: Wednesday, October 14, 2009 (all day)
Where: Hotel Apollo, Randburg, Johannesburg

Bram Fischer Drive
Johannesburg, Gauteng   South Africa
This event is a must attend for PR & Communication Managers, Corporate Affairs, Compliance Officers and Risk Managers.

Complaints no longer a Customer Service Issue but a Reputation Issue

In the not so distant past, complaints were regarded as a customer service issue and the responsibility of the Customer Service department to solve.

But no longer.

Social Media such as blogs, Twitter, Facebook and mobile phones have changed the potential impact of a negative experience into one that could potentially be harmful to not just a brand, but also the reputation of the organisation. It is now a Reputation Manager issue.

Let’s look at how the process of complaining have evolved.

A Complaint normally arises when there is an imbalance between a customer’s expectations and reality. Karl-Sven Erikson called this the Moment of Truth experience. The time when a brand and its values become real to the customer.

So this is how a customer would have complained:

1. Customer complains to Company (by telephone, face to face or by letter)

2. Company responds to Customer (typically by letter, e-mail or SMS)

3. If the complaint is ignored, he or she would write again or write to one of the complaint sections in the local newspaper, where their story might be published (Examples – The Star and Beeld newspapers)

4. Some would write and get their story mentioned on websites like

5. Based on how the complaint is dealt with, the Customer is either delighted (and may then tell their friends and colleagues in person) or dissatisfied (and will also tell their friends and colleague, but this time a very different story)

With social media, the traditional complaint pattern has been disrupted quite severely. Rather than a private exchange between Customer and Company, the first few steps are public from the very beginning.

j0423020 From the minute the customer wants to complain their thoughts, experiences and attitudes (whether justified or not) are public knowledge. Complaining on a social network or via Twitter on a mobile phone, now changes the complaint from a rather private and contained experience to a public and widespread affair.

Years ago the experts cited figures that one dissatisfied person could affect 6 people, then the ratio increased to 20 and now I read somewhere the actuaries worked it out that one dissatisfied customer could affect at least 81 others. This on top of the story that we are only a sixth removed away from each other. Today people have the tools with which to damage, if they chose to do so – see my article, The Tools exist to do Damage (

As you can see, it is no longer about responding to a single complaint, but to how to manage an attack that can damage brand reputation. It is now bigger than just a customer service issue.

Blogs, and social media more generally, are a great way for people to distribute their dissatisfaction and thoughts about their experiences. They can get it seen by a large number of people who can link to it, comment on it and reproduce it on their own sites.  Very quickly a company has a story that is no longer private and is also no longer contained. Other people have linked to or reproduced the complaint on their own sites and forums. Some publicly and others in places that even companies cannot see.

The ripple effect can be dangerous.

How does a company know who might be reading the negative story? How do they know how many other people might react negatively?

So, how should a company protect itself.

1. Educate your staff about the danger of negative complaints and its impact not just on the brand but on the reputation of the institution. Show them the influence circle, so that they will clearly understand that every single complaint is serious.

2. Improve your monitoring of negative messaging. Ensure that you have good web and traditional media monitoring processes in place. Make sure that you encourage internal communication about delays, potential problems, snags and behavior, so that potential complaints can be minimised.

3. Develop a policy and procedure for responding to complaints – face to face, written and social media. Here is a very good article that was written about the subject, which includes a great process diagram developed by the US Air Force – that might help you.

It is essential that your company develop a response procedure that embodies transparency principles, caring principles, the values of the organisation and social media practices.

4. Create avenues for customers to communicate their thoughts and experiences DIRECTLY to the company and ensure that you listen and respond appropriately. Recently President Jacob Zuma had a hotline installed into his office to deal with issues of negative service delivery. He has nearly a hundred staff members attending to the volume. A Bold step, criticised by many, but definitely a step in the right direction.

One of the biggest lessons in Crisis Management can be used here. Bad things happen to good companies. Organisations make mistakes, BUT IT IS HOW we respond and DEAL WITH THE ISSUE that often can make the real difference.

This difference needs to be carefully defined and implemented.

Social Networks poses serious Reputation Risk

Social network poses real reputation risk, a report by audit firm Deloitte has revealed.

The results of Deloitte’s third annual study Ethics & Workplace Survey, which examines the reputational risk implications of social networks, reveal tension between employers and employees around the use of social media. According to the survey, conducted on 2,000 employees and 500 top executives in the United States, 74 percent of respondents said they believe online social networks make it easier to damage a company’s reputation.

“Online social networks, which enable individuals communicate and share their knowledge and opinions with others, are constantly developing. With this strong phenomenon, the lines between individuals’ private and corporate identities are gradually disappearing,” said Sibel Türker, partner at Deloitte Turkey.

“Individuals have a right to communicate on online platforms, but this can sometimes create negative results that might affect the reputation of corporations and brands. The new Deloitte survey, which reveals the aforementioned concerns, will offer a broad perspective for executives.”

Risks for reputation:

Among the respondents of the Deloitte survey, 74 percent said they agreed that online social networks, such as Facebook, Twitter and Youtube, bear certain risks to brand reputation.

Corporations are sometimes obliged to struggle against the incidents that damage corporate reputation. Online debates, suggestions and criticisms affect enormously a substantial proportion of the news on global brands.

Some 15 percent of the executives surveyed said they are prepared against reputational risks related to the use of social networks, while 58 percent said they are aware of the issue and are discussing measures. Only 17 percent of executives surveyed said they have programs in place to monitor and mitigate possible reputational risks.

Some 60 percent of business executives said they believe they have a right to know how employees portray themselves and their organizations in online social networks, while employees disagreed, as 53 percent said their social networking pages are not an employer’s concern.

The survey also showed there is no easy answer on what kind of attitude business owners and executives should pursue in the face of the current environment. It is not easy to overcome the risks in this field via certain rules or policies. The Deloitte survey showed that even well-defined corporate rules will not change the attitudes of around half of the participants. Therefore, it is important to secure the cooperation of employees through value-based cultures, according to Deloitte.

There is of course another side to the use of social networks said Deon Binneman, international speaker and consultant on Corporate Reputation. The use of social networks can be seen as an engagement tool which should be included in a strategic stakeholder communication plan.

He also said that it was vital to educate and train employees in the importance of reputation (individual & company) so that there would be a clear understanding of reputation as an asset and a risk. If the use of social networks are seen as a strategic tool, then many alternative measures could be dreamed up.


1. Can an employee comment on the CEO’s Blog?

2. What about an internal Twitter messaging service, so that we can improve cross-flow of communication?

3. Does the organisation have a listening capability? One that scans internal chatter and monitor online conversations?

All social networks have done is to radically transform the way employees and stakeholders can communicate. Now organisations have to close that transformation process by radically chnaging the way organisations and employees think, act and participate.

This idea was proposed long ago by the author Joyce Wycoff in her brilliant book, Transformation Thinking. This book offers innovative techniques to promote creativity, problem-solving and communication in organisations.

Online Reputation Management is eveolving into a specialist function and Reputation Mnaagers across the Globe should get up to speed with the latest developments in this field.

Who is Responsible for your Organisation’s Online Reputation?

Who is responsible for your organisation’s online reputation? Is it the Public Relations Department, Corporate Affairs or IT?

Question 1If it is predominantly IT there is a danger involved. The danger is that IT people tend to worry about technical aspects whilst there is a definite need to factor in stakeholder engagement, user experiences & strategic communication angles in online reputation Management.

Who manages the organisation’s Facebook presence? Who advises management about blogging and other social media strategies? What about access to your website by the visually challenged?

Online Reputation has become such an important priority that there are now companies around the Globe that specialise in it full-time.

Although many definitions of ORM abound, this one comes close for me. Online Reputation management is “the practice of consistent research and analysis of one’s personal or professional, business or industry reputation as represented by the content across all types of online media”. The aim of Online Reputation Management is to increase your overall web presence in positive way.

Example – When last have you googled your own name or entered it into a variety of search engines and analysed the results?

Online or Social media comprise a loosely defined collection of blogs of all sizes and interests, and cyber-space gathering spots such as Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, the list is endless – and growing.

Traditional media like newspapers, radio and television have seen their income plunge as advertisers follow their customers to the web.  As information consumers have moved to the web to gather news, opinion and data – increasingly through their cell phones or PDAs -  the influence of traditional media has declined while that of the bloggers and other social media commentators appears to have increased.

Recent research from Burson- Marsteller reports that in the US alone, there are now 20 million bloggers, some 2 million of whom are paid something for their efforts and almost 500 thousand of whom blog full time for a living. To put that in perspective, more people in the US make their living as bloggers than as computer programmers or firemen.

This means that a growing though not yet dominant element of the population is forming its views based on sources which are not traditionally filtered or necessarily expert. In addition, the demographics on social media participation are shifting: in the US, 52% are women and 45% men. Women over age 40 are the fastest growing segment.

Even in Africa, they are working on becoming connected in a big way.

I read an article that stated: ‘’This wave of information, data and opinion –with its correspondingly receptive audience, both feeds and benefits from the trends towards multi-stakeholder dialogue in corporate communications, particularly as individuals seek to inform themselves and make up their own minds in the post crisis era.  Corporate communicators should develop a better understanding of how social media participants choose and sustain affiliations, form opinions and make their social or economic decisions through these channels’’.

ORM is a vital management process in building reputation with stakeholders and should be part of your Stakeholder Reputation engagement strategies and strategic communications plans. Are you clued up?