Friday, April 3, 2009

Reputation Monitoring or Brand Management?

In another effort to tie some issues together for my social media students, I’ve just prepared a presentation on Reputation Monitoring and Management. I’m not a PR specialist, but it seems to be an important topic to include in a social media course. In the process of putting this presentation together and focusing primarily on Web 2.0, I learned some things and formed some opinions.

When I began, I had a vague idea that the lines between PR and marketing were blurring. That perspective strengthened as I worked through the story line of this presentation. It seems clear that both disciplines use the same tools, especially for monitoring (listening). They both have responsibilities for managing. Does it make sense to say that the responsibilities of marketing lie in the area of brand management and the responsibilities of PR lie in the area of reputation management? It seems so to me.

Another clear theme that emerged is the large—and growing—effort required to monitor the diverse and ever-growing channels of communication. Just one example is that a year ago, not many of us paid much attention to Twitter. It has grown rapidly as a significant channel with business uses and implications. Even I have TweetBeeps set up for myself and for the organization I work with.

In my recent posts on metrics I recommended using behavioral metrics from the platforms themselves in the absence of integrated metrics solutions. I started on reputation management from the same perspective. I quickly realized, however, that the issue is different. As much as we look forward to metrics that integrate social platforms, metrics are by definition aggregations. Monitoring requires assessing individual communications; aggregations are relevant in the same way.

The more I thought about it and the more I looked, the more I began to see a process. The basic idea was confirmed by students who are engaged in monitoring. It’s possible to monitor one or two channels that have relatively low volume in what’s essentially a manual fashion. That could include RSS feeds and filters, but what it implies is a labor-intensive effort to deal with (respond, etc.) to relevant communications and to understand the strategic implications of the stream of communications. As the number of channels and the volume of communications grow, it becomes an impossible task.

The graphic represents a series of steps that make sense for learning and growth in social media channels. The presentation has details on tools available at each step, some examples and an interesting case history of NPR’s transformation to digital PR. The tools are just a representative sample of the many tools available. The issue is a strategic approach to reputation monitoring, not emphasis on the tools themselves.

I liked the metaphor of the ostrich with its head in the sand as the ending. What is being said in the communications ecosystem is being said. We can’t change it. We can, however, listen, deal with issues that arise, and establish relationships with our customers and affinity groups.

Two questions:
1.Can we afford not to do RMM?
2.How can we do it in the most cost- and strategically-effective way?

Your thoughts?


Ailsa said...

I am reminded of a recent post on Seth Godin's blog entitled "First, ten" ( It's about the idea of marketing your product (or service or whatever) by starting with 10 people who believe in it. They in turn will "recruit" ten new people each, etc. etc. etc.
I am wondering if this is a good paradigm for reputation management. It's certainly a paradigm for PR, spreading the message in a viral manner, but reputation management is different. In a way, where PR can be viral, reputation management can be a lot more like damage control.
However, and this is why I thought of that post, if you use "First, Ten" for your PR, your reputation management efforts may be greatly reduced!

Mary Lou Roberts said...

That is a very insightful addition to what I wrote. Thanks, Ailsa!!!