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The Green Sheet Online Edition

July 12, 2010 • Issue 10:07:01

Digital reputation management

By Peggy Bekavac Olson
Strategic Marketing

In today's world of instant information and communication, having a strong and positive digital reputation is vital. You are defined by what appears in search engine listings, social media sites, blogs, wikis and more.

Regardless of whether the information comes from a competitor, an unhappy customer, a disgruntled employee, a media news site or an anonymous posting on a message board, false or misleading information can devastate your company's reputation.

Your company's digital reputation is the aggregate of all the information and viewpoints on the Internet made by multiple stakeholders, both inside and outside your firm. Each piece of content can be seen and heard worldwide and has the potential to damage your brand in an instant.

Potential customers, employees, investors and many others use the Internet to find out as much as possible about your company. Typically, the first information they see and impressions they form result from a search-engine query. Potentially damaging listings can hurt your credibility and result in lost business. You must monitor and manage the flow of information about you and your company to protect and enhance your corporate image.

It's not just about finding out what others are saying. You need to have some type of digital presence; otherwise, it's hard to counter any negative press your company may receive.

If you're not actively involved in communicating, your company's reputation will be left to what others say about you. So what will people see when they use the Internet to investigate your company, including you and your executives?

A case in point

When I was launching my new company, Strategic Marketing, last fall, I decided I should find out what information was on the Internet about me. I knew that my name would surface in search engine listings since I previously was responsible for marketing and communications activities for TSYS Acquiring Solutions.

With some curiosity, I sat down at my computer, launched my browser and googled "Peggy Olson." Immediately, the following appeared:

    "Peggy Olson - LinkedIn. New York Area Advertising at Sterling Cooper ..."

    "Peggy Olson on Twitter - Sr. copywriter at Sterling Cooper. Rising star on Madison Ave ..."

    "Peggy Olson | Facebook. Friends: Don Draper, Pete Campbell, Joan Harris, Bert Cooper, Roger Sterling, Paul Kingsley, Ken Cosgrove ..."

I thought that there's another Peggy Olson out there and we're in the same line of business. She works in New York on Madison Avenue and is really active with social media - how cool! I've got to find out more about her. I quickly scanned the next search engine listings, which took my breath away:

    "Ambitious adwoman Peggy Olson of Madison Avenue firm Sterling Cooper had an affair with a co-worker resulting in an illegitimate love-child."

    "Peggy Olson Copywriter Sterling Cooper Madison Avenue, New York, New York ... 'I'm Peggy Olson. And I want to smoke some marijuana.'"

I looked again and the rest of the page was filled with even more information about the Peggy Olson who works for Sterling Cooper. There was a lot of unflattering information out there about Peggy Olson, but none of it was even about me.

And then I realized that Sterling Cooper's Peggy Olson is a fictional character in the AMC television series "Mad Men." Realizing this, I had a good laugh.

I continued viewing the "Peggy Olson" listings on the second page, where I finally found information about me, and it was accurate. It primarily consisted of my name and contact information mentioned in various TSYS press releases.

How many people researching me and Strategic Marketing would confuse me with Sterling Cooper's Peggy Olson? How could I compete with the Hollywood PR machine behind "Mad Men" in managing and elevating my digital reputation?

Reputation monitoring tools

Google, Yahoo, Bing, Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace, Twitter, Wikipedia and more - it can be overwhelming. How do you go about digital reputation management? A reasonable approach is a proactive, tactical communications plan that can be easily executed and repeated for reactive digital content monitoring using some of these Internet tools:

  • Google: Create a comprehensive Google alert notifying you via email or RSS feed of news stories on the Internet about you, your company and your executives.

  • Blog posts: Use Technorati.com to search for posts about you, your company and executives. Technorati.com indexes millions of blog posts in real time and surfaces them in seconds.

    Subscribe to RSS alerts so that when someone blogs, you find out right away. If you have a company blog, use Technorati.com to find out and log other blogs that link to yours.

  • Discussion boards: Use Boardtracker.com to get instant alerts from discussion threads citing your company's name, your name or the names of your executives.

  • Twitter: Use Search.twitter.com to locate any tweets using your company's name, your name or the names of your executives.

  • FriendFeed: Use this real-time feed aggregator to consolidate updates about you, your name, your brand name and your executives from social media and networking websites, social bookmarking websites, blogs and micro-blogging updates, and any other type of RSS feed.

  • Trackur: Access this pay-as-you-go social media reputation monitoring service to track information about you, your company and your executives on the Internet and receive positive, neutral or negative ratings about the information.

Counteracting misleading information

Finding damaging information is only one step. Getting rid of it is the next one. Following are some ways to resolve and repair issues related to your digital reputation:

  • Use comment sections on blog posts and articles to clear your name.

  • Contact webmasters and bloggers about removing content if you can prove that the posts are wrong.

  • Use search engine optimization (SEO) tactics to optimize your own positive content and elevate it above negative listings.

  • Hire online reputation management experts to help do the work for you.

Ultimately, it's best to nip negative or extraneous content in the bud using one or more of these methods, before it takes on a life of its own.

I have made some progress in elevating my digital reputation and presence by doing the following:

  • Using the name Peggy Bekavac Olson professionally to distinguish me from all the other Peggy Olsons of the world, including Sterling Cooper's Peggy Olson

  • Creating a Google personal profile with my name, picture, company name and description so it now appears at the bottom of the first search results page when I Google "Peggy Olson"

  • Filling out my personal and company profile on LinkedIn and Facebook so more information appears in search engine listings

  • Using SEO tactics to enhance the position and ranking for Strategic Marketing's website

  • Informing social media sites of the fictional character situation and the misconceptions it produces.

    Although I never got formal notification, profiles of Sterling Cooper's Peggy Olson on Facebook and LinkedIn, along with her thousands of "friends" and "contacts," have mysteriously disappeared. Search engine listings for these social media sites have also been replaced.

  • Submitting monthly articles for The Green Sheet, including this one, which appear online and get picked up and ranked by the search engines' bots on a regular basis

All in all, I've come to realize digital presence and reputation management require ongoing attention and nurturing because search engine rankings can change quickly, even as frequently as daily or overnight.

So what steps are you taking to manage and enhance your company's digital reputation, or are you just hoping that what's out there on the Internet is accurate and portrays your company in a positive light?

Recognize that protecting and enhancing your company's digital reputation is more important than ever before and vital to your business success. end of article

Peggy Bekavac Olson is the founder of Strategic Marketing, a full-service marketing and communications firm specializing in financial services and electronic payments companies, after serving as Vice President of Marketing and Communications for TSYS Acquiring Solutions for more than five years. She can be reached at 480-706-0816 or peggyolson@smktg.com. Information about Strategic Marketing can be found at www.smktg.com.

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