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Corporate Reputation in the 'Social Age' by John H Bell, Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide

Corporate Reputation in the 'Social Age' by John H Bell, Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide



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A good discussion on the implications of social media and the social web on corporate reputations. Well worth the read.
A good discussion on the implications of social media and the social web on corporate reputations. Well worth the read.

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Categories:Types, Research
Published by: Customs Street Advisors on Mar 24, 2009
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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Corporate Reputation in the “Social Age”
How is social media and Web 2.0 enablingconsumer citizens to learn about corporatepractices, speak out about business practices they do not support, praise those they do support,share this information with large groups of people,and start campaigns to change things?
 What Changes in the Social Age?
Social media and the technology behind it – Web 2.0 – hasorever changed how corporations “manage” reputation. At theheart o the change is the explosion o consumer generatedmedia ound in more than 150 million blogs, social networks,consumer opinion sites, video and picture sharing networks,and worldwide message boards. Corporate marketers andcommunications specialists no longer have even the illusiono “control” over the message. People are talking about theirproducts throughout the Web and carrying on their ownconversations about brand-relevant topics.
John heads up Ogilvy PR’sglobal digital practice,360° Digital Inuence,designed to manage brandsat a time when anyonecan be an inuencer andeveryone is inuenced innew ways. John and theDigital Inuence team heworks with in EMEA, havecompleted projectsor clients as diverse asLenovo, Unilever, Intel andSave the Children.John H. BellManaging Director/Executive Creative Director360° Digital InuenceOgilvy Public Relations Worldwide john.bell@ogilvypr.com
John H. BellManaging Director/ Executive Creative Director360° Digital InuenceOgilvy Public Relations WorldwideTel: 202 729 4166 john.bell@ogilvypr.com
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Corporate Reputation in the “Social Age”
Consumers have a louder voice due in part to easy-to-usemultimedia publishing tools and word o mouth distributionnetworks online. How can the experiences o isolatedComcast customers become so connected and amplifed asto jeopardize the reputation o the company? How can a singlecustomer/blogger start a wave that rocks Dell to this day? Howcan a consumer-created video o rats in a quick-ood restaurantin Manhattan spread like wildfre causing a brandwide crisis?There are at least fve meta-trends that aect how corporationsmanage their reputations today. More and more companies aregetting smart about these changes, investing in internal educationand bringing in partners who are closer to the social mediaphenomenon to help them evolve not just their communicationsor marketing but, oten, some o their core business practices.
Five Trends AffectingReputation Management
 1. Hypertransparency: Having 150 million bloggers(not to mention message board participants, socialnetwork members, etc.) means having thousandsof potential forensic accountants, social watchdogsand activists watching your company.
 As trust in marketing and traditional media shrinks, trust inpeer-to-peer recommendations grow. Many consumers – especiallyin mature media markets – are skeptical o the corporate imagesportrayed in advertising or through consolidated, biased media.They look or the real story rom people like themselves. Thegrowth in blogs and online communities has empowered thosewho examine the behavior o companies. They literally bandedtogether like digital orensic experts to reveal the alse pedigree oa memo that
Dan Rather
, CBS anchor, used in a story. That led tohis retirement (this was called “Rathergate”).
page  of 8
Corporate Reputation in the “Social Age”
When John Mackey,
Whole Foods
CEO, posted more than 1,000times on a Yahoo message board under an alias, it was the othermembers o that board who called him out (and, ultimately, TheWall Street Journal who reported it). You cannot hide much in thenew “power o crowds and technology” universe. A lot is possible with new technology. Virgil Grifths developed
to reveal exactly who was making edits in the vastcocreated universe o the world’s largest encyclopedia – Wikipedia.In the process, he outed many corporations like
 Astra Zeneca
.Employees there went into the Wikipedia entries related to the drug,Seroquel, and edited out negative statements. All o this was revealedrom ollowing the trail o IP addresses on computer networks.The dynamic o blogs – posts, comments, links – rewards thecontroversial. And plenty o bloggers are on the lookout orcorporate hypocrisy and ready to call it out. One o the by-productso the ever-expanding database that is the Web is our ability tofnd and compare any inormation. When
licensed theirRatatouille character to a vintner and put the image on the labelo wine bottles, the blog,
Two Knives
, called them out. She alsocalled out
or the Axe/Dove paradox and response.When
launched their environmentally made-over gas stationconcept, Helios House, in Los Angeles, they knew they would allunder green blogger scrutiny. While their ad campaign made asignifcant, positive impression on the general public, green punditsonline and oine remained on the ence regarding the substanceto their claims. To ensure the ull story behind Helios House madeit through, they identifed online inuencers and reached outahead o time to invite them to preview the site and get multimediainormation about the real nature o the makeover. It worked. Greenbloggers warmed to the concept and eatured stories praising BPnot accusing it o greenwashing.
Implications or Corporate Reputation Management
• Never assume you can hide inormation – someone or somethingwill likely fnd it.• Consumers demand openness rom the companies they buy rom,so be open. Openness means being straightorward and clear.• Be ready to reconcile contradictory business practices. Thoseconicts will no longer sit in the shadows o an annual review.• Don’t try insincere CSR. You will be called out online.

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