WebPR and ORM - blah blah blah conversations

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Are you involved in the conversation? Do you know anything about WebPR, blogging, or Online Reputation Management? How the modern-day consumer interacts with the Internet has changed the public relations arena forever. To survive you need to be clued up on what this means. Chapter 10 will detail how WebPR, Online Reputation Management and social media can strengthen your company's presence, build your brand online and drive traffic to your website.

Online Conversations Are Happening All Around You

Online conversations are taking place every day in the form of consumer generated media (CGM). This Internet content is constantly evolving, sparking new ideas and inspiring people! Although public relations has traditionally focused on the media as written by journalists, the most trusted sources for modern consumers are ordinary people reporting their experiences.

The use of social media (blogs, forums, etc) has provided the consumer with a voice that easily reaches other Internet users and elicits their responses - a voice that allows them to contribute to the already noisy conversation around them.

Companies need to both listen and respond to this growing conversation. Coming up, we will be looking at methods to monitor your brand on the Net, to attract the attention of consumers and to monitor their responses without overstepping the mark. Remember - people like to be listened to, they hate to be silenced.

First the Listening: Online Reputation Management

The days of letters being written by disgruntled customers expressing their disappointment are long gone. Brands, these days, often don't even know that their customers are disappointed. Is it because they're not expressing their feelings? Not by a long shot!

Consumers are expressing their views more than ever, they're just doing so via a different channel - they have moved online. Smart brands are watching consumer generated content and listening to what their customers are saying. But the rest haven't woken up to the fact that 'listening' is vital - and not doing so can undermine a brand's very survival. So LISTEN! Monitor the Internet for conversations about your brand. After all, you can't react to something you don't know is happening.

Web2.0 and Consumer Generated Media

The Internet is increasingly populated by content generated by consumers themselves in the form of blogs and forums. This shift in the way people interact with the Internet - and the control they have over its content - contributes to the phenomenon known as Web2.0.

If you are successful at getting your message and your product out there, people will start talking about you. Microsoft has declared that blogging has done more for the company's image than its entire marketing spend.

In a survey by Forrester Research, 25% of consumer respondents said they trusted the opinions of fellow consumers above all other forms of media referral or advertising. News travels fast. Blogs and forums encourage responses from readers, which are posted instantaneously. Positive and negative opinions can be confirmed and passed on by fellow consumers within hours.

Consumer Generated Media is therefore very influential but cannot be bought.

How Online Reputation Management Works

Online Reputation Management (ORM) is a vital component of any PR strategy because people talk about your company online - the good and the bad! This can make or break your business. Keeping your finger on the pulse of what is being said by putting the relevant damage-control strategies in place and capitalising on positive comments is imperative for the survival of any business in today's hyper-connected world.

ORM involves monitoring the Internet for conversations about your brand and even your competitors' brands. This is necessary because while it's impossible to 'control the conversation', you can influence it if you are already a part of it.

Quirk's ORM tool comprehensively gathers online mentions of a company and channels them to a dedicated team to measure the relevance, credibility and impact of each mention. A company's ORM strategy can furthermore be broken down by category keywords to monitor the performance of individual business lines. ORM allows you to identify strengths and weaknesses in your offering - both against each other and against competing business lines.

By gaining awareness of brand attacks and service problems in real time, you are positioned to respond. By identifying groups of customers who have had the same complaint and indicating that the problem is being addressed, ORM can stop a potential haemorrhage of customers.

Depending on the seriousness of the attack and the credibility of the source, news of what has been said should travel to a different part of your organisation. For the most serious cases, senior management should be alerted. Less serious mentions - as well as praise - can be forwarded to marketing or PR departments for information and to drive budgets.

In cases such as Dell Hell and Kryptonite, failure to respond to product problems that had been identified and demonstrated in the blogosphere cost the companies millions in lost goodwill and revenue.

Heavy-handed or dishonest responses are guaranteed to make the situation worse. Bloggers must be responded to on their own terms - transparently and honestly but also quickly.


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