Reputation management – Is your good business getting a bad name

When you get a spam mail do not delete it and take sometime to read it (do not reply or react). If you notice the content of the mails are mostly promotional about all kinds of business. The majority of spam mails is to do with breast enlargement or about male enhancement. Do not be surprised to know that these mail as they claim comes from bigger companies than you own.

Now that’s a bait!
Some people ignorant of the fact what spam mail are suppose to be tend to reply them. What tempts them to respond is something interesting, well! It’s the big names like MSN, Amazon or Paypal attached to this email.

Now that’s what we call bait – you being skeptical shoot an email to that owner only to know it was spam. Unfortunately the damage is already done, you have authenticated and confirmed your email address, and now the spammer has all sources at his disposal to flood your Inbox.

What is the point.
Well give it a thought! If the spammer thinks that using reputed companies like MSN, Amazon or Paypal is perfectly fine, what makes you think that your business is safe. As we all know burglars are always on the lookout for huge cache, and they en route their plans using smaller companies because they know with smaller companies it is always a win-win situation. If this situation is not handled properly, imagine the kind of damage your business will inherit, you may even close your shop.

How to shield
Now urgency has pounced on you, there is nothing as important, but to shield your reputation before more people gives it a bad name. This not only results in loosing business even your identity too.

Smart move, you want somebody to take responsibility and guard your business and personal reputation.

Reputation managers will then try to capitalize on the already done damage until such time your reputation is secure. This is probably the best option and least you worry about the reputation of your business.

Send out a strong message and let no one think about using your company’s goodwill to fill their own coffers in future.

CAT out of the bag- uncertainty remains at IIM !

India’s premier business school, Indian Institute of Management (IIM) and the glitches that happened on its first online CAT (Common Admission Test) has put a lot of aspirants in a state of limbo. While rumours are rife that there is going to be a written re-test in January nothing is clear yet. All seven IIMs had signed a 5-year contract with Prometric to conduct online CAT tests all over the country.

The first three days of the test had problems ranging from server crashing to hours lost in finger-printing and photographing, to a few getting more time for their test while others having PCs crashing mid-way. The fourth day had lesser problems but had its share of problems as well.

A recent update on the CAT website says, “The decision to conduct computerised CAT was taken unanimously by all IIMs. The contract for delivery of computerised CAT was awarded to Prometric, a world leader in computerised test delivery. IIMs were responsible for generating questions for the tests and Prometric was responsible for conducting the test…”

IIM Lucknow director Devi Singh said: “There is a certain level of output that is expected and everything will have to be reviewed. We will evaluate the entire experience of CAT 2009 after all this is over, and if problems pile up, everything concerning the 5-year contract with Prometric will need to come back to the table afresh. We will be professionals,” he said.

The IIMs are India’s pride and the focal point for multi-nationals looking to recruit the crème of the country. So there is a global reputation at stake now for the CAT but to be fair they have never had to deal with any  dent in reputation in the written tests that have been conducted all these years. So mighty is the IIM brand reputation and the national reputation it gives to India that this is an issue that need quick solving.

As for Prometric, after bagging this prestigious order itis now having to do some serious company crisis management of its own. This was the make or break deal, damage limitation should be the way ahead for them. Watch this space for updates on whether they will scrap the online tests all together or plough on with the decisions made.

Buying a company, how’s it’s reputation

Recently we’ve been contacted by people asking about how much it would cost to clean up a companies reputation if they bought the company? Here is a great article about what a reputation is worth to a company www.businessweek.com

What is the first thing any potential savvy investor or buyer going to do before they buy a company, is do some research.  Where is the easiest place to start?  That’s right, they Google It!!!  An investor will Google not only the company name but also the directors and the CEO, so taking measures to make sure your reputation is positive on the net is critical.    Not only are investors opinions important but also the public in general especially if you have shares to sell.

Often a company will make the mistake and monitor how their site is doing for keywords and forget about what people are saying about their actual company.  Customer service is more crucial than ever before and having terrible sales guys can hurt you in more ways than one.  You only have to see what’s happening with DotComChrome and how many people are complaining about their aggressive sales tactics.  It’s so bad there sales guys ask you to type in their company website in the URL bar rather than just Google dotcomchrome as their is so much negative stuff about them.

So if you are selling shares or looking to get investors make sure you check your online reputation first, if you don’t, it could cost you a fortune!!!

Who is Responsible for Reputation

Most commentators are agreed that reputation is a company’s single most important long-term asset,  so you would suppose that if you phoned a company and asked for the person responsible for managing their reputation they would know who to put you through to. Not a chance. Ask for brand manager, sales director, PR wonk, bills payable and you are through (usually to an answerphone). Ask a receptionist for the Reputation Manager and they are stymied.

In truth, it is really only the business theorists who worry about reputations, within the company there is no evangelist or guardian for reputation. Companies are generally much more obsessed with their brands, and in the case of large companies whole directorates exist to police this entity. Directorates flanked by asinine designers and mid-level liberal arts graduates and a separate and expensive cohort of lawyers.

Some companies might argue that this is the responsibility of the CEO, but few chief executives spend time or have metrics for assessing and tracking the reputation performance of a company. The absence of metrics may be what make reputation management unloved: it is just too metaphysical for any jock manager to be able to get their heads around. I mean, nobody built a reputation around being a reputation manager in the way they do as brand director.

You could make an argument that reputation is an output of a company and in some sense not measurable, but then so is profit and every analyst in the world looks at that.

One of the issues facing a reputation manager is that reputation as a concept is seen as related to brand management and is subsumed with that “discipline”. This is a shame as brand management tends in practice to have a narrow view of the business and rarely considers how reputation is changing across time and in intensity. Brand managers also see reputation as a function of brand – look after the brand and the reputation will after itself. How wrong: you can rebrand but you cannot rerepute – in fact does not even exist. Yet rebranding is so often an attempt to fix broken reputations rather than broken brands per se.  As a builder would say: you can’t paint a wall falling down!

Companies need to get serious about their reputation and the discipline of reputation management. They need to establish some tracking and they need to separate it out from brand management or public relations. All the activities of the enterprise impact upon reputation – what other people think about you.  A truly great reputation is an oak forest – it takes a long time to grow but is difficult to cut down. You can lose a tree but it does not end the forest.

Worm in the Apple

Apple’s reputation has always been good thanks to the passionate advocacy of the Mac Fan Boy club who respond vociferously to any public criticism of their god. Regardless of the poor performance of the iPhone, they are hysterical in their support of any and all Apple products. The result is that few of the problems that arise with Mac products – broken screens, overheating batteries, poor reception are properly aired in the media. According to techcrunch, that may be about to change as the tech community begins to return back to Microsoft.

Partly this is down to fashion. As Apple has moved mainstream, it has begun to lose its cool among techheads and the silicon valley internistas. Now everybody has an iphone or Macbook, it is no longer cool to be seen sporting one. Much better a linux netbook and Android phone.

My experience is that many of the people I meet who use iphones complain like hell about them. People who use ipods love them without ever being aware of any other products. For many consumers, an ipod is the only portable music player – a walkman without competitors. That says more about the cluelessness of the competitors whoc are still struggling with the combining of hardware and software.

When it comes to the reputation management, apple’s fans have been the reputation managers for the company. Apple itself always seems secretive, paranoid and slightly nasty. The problems facing Apple are threefold in this area:

  1. what happens when the company has to manage its reputation and not rely on its fans
  2. what happens when things like appstore do not rally such a lot of money losing developers
  3. when competitors finally get it! or android enables the hardware guys to produce phones that match the slickness of the iphone?

To date negative comment about apple gets drowned out by fans… when the fall silent.. then it will be interesting.

Our Malign World

Companies often focus their brand efforts on customers and potential customers, ignoring other potential stakeholders who can be equally vociferous in their criticisms.

Brand promises need to apply equally: consumers, employees, suppliers and business partners. In fact depending on your industry there could be many stakeholders to consider. If you are an oil company or mineral producer, local enviromental communities can have a major impact upon your reputation. Witness the recent connection between Shell and their operations in Nigeria.

If you have a product recall, consumers will complain, but a sacked employee or unpaid supplier can be even more vehement attacking your reputation.

The problem all companies face is that stakeholder access to channels for complaint is proliferating fast – blogs, forums, social networks, twitter, and personal web projects. In the past stakeholders had to engage with journalists and persuade news organisations to cover their story. Today, they publish and you are damned.

What can you do?

  • Monitor
  • Work on your management processes: if you always pay your suppliers late then you are simply inviting criticism. If you sack employees unfairly, they have every right to complain.
  • Investigate complaints so you can demonstrate that you are serious about being a good organisation.

Forums can be a nightmare for reputation management

We had a case recently where a PR company decided to tackle some negative comments about a client on a popular negative forum.  The backlash was immense and completely back fired.

Here are the main reasons for not tackling forums.

  1. Forums are traditionally places where people like to complain, the last thing they want is someone to defend the company, their attitude is you can put your positive info some where else.
  2. You can’t control the content on a 3rd party forum site so its really risky, any thread you begin will start out positive but will quickly attract negative content.
  3. Last but not least, the most important reason, by adding more content onto these types of sites you encourage Google to rank it higher.  Especially if it attracts more people to attack the company and add even more content.

The PR companies  intention was good, but you cannot apply the same methods you would use in publications (Traditional PR) to the Internet as you will get hammered.

Also sites like Wiki and  Facebook can bite you if you are not careful and incorrectly set up.