Thanks to Christian Pieter Hoffman for his article “Holding Sway” in the most recent edition of Communication World.
Prior to the advent of social media, marketers and corporate communications managers felt they had control over the brand and all messaging related to the brand.
As the Internet and social media has grown, ownership of the brand and the messaging has changed — after 30 years in marketing, I think it’s for the better.
Christian provides five key challenges (I see them as opportunities) for reputation management:
- Networking and openness. Evolving from private to public communications has meant that everything is now out in the open. I think this is a good thing in that it puts a human face on a company and allows the company to show the people and stories behind its brands. Blog posts are a great way of doing this as are corporate pages on social media sites. Empower your employees to tell their stories. Empowered employees lead to empowered customers.
- Speed and disintermediation. Social media facilitates the sharing of information among a wide audience through networking, rating of data quality and relevance, recommendations and linking. Companies need to be present in these networks in order to monitor and quickly react to ongoing developments. You also learn if you are providing information of value by how much it is being shared.
- User control and participation. Companies have every chance to establish themselves as relevant, trustworthy communicators by being present, active and receptive to the social web. Once a positive online reputation has been established, communicators enjoy a level of attention and credibility that far surpasses any ad or press release. Messages from a credible, trusted source will be willingly and quickly shared among other network participants.
- Differentiation and niche building. There is a notable distinction between the traditional “millions reached” and the new “thousands influenced.” Comcast learned that providing customer service via Twitter not only enabled them to generate higher levels of customer service, it also improved the brand’s image since all of its actions were made public and were able to be followed by journalists, customers and prospects.
- Transparency and measurability. By employing blogs and social network profiles, companies can invite fans as well as critics to provide immediate feedback in a public forum that is easy to oversee and analyze. Problems can be rectified and prospect/client needs/wants fulfilled.
While the Internet and social media may have changed communications, I think it’s a change for the better. Less “spin” and more integrity and transparency is “all good” for those companies that were doing it the right from the beginning.
Perhaps this new era of transparency will prevent more Enron’s from occurring.
How has the Internet and social media changed your communications strategies?