In a 2009 article on his blog, Steven Pressfield (writer, creative extraordinaire) writes about his first job creating copy at an ad agency. And the #1 lesson he learned from that job is, to quote Pressfield, “Nobody wants to read your s**t.” Although you may think that you’ve just written the most amazing Trident commercial ever—no one cares. At the end of the day it’s just gum, or detergent, or floor wax. And most people are too busy with their everyday lives to even bother watching your genius commercial, let alone pay any attention to it.
But, he continues, the idea that your work doesn’t matter to anyone else is one of the most important things to learn about being a writer—that the only way people are going to stop and listen to what you have to say is if you can think like them, offer them something they’ve never seen before, and do it in a way that speaks to their experience.
Although Pressfield is talking about writing, his words could be applied to just about any profession, including reputation management. Think about it: in reality, no one cares how many links you’ve built, how many social profiles you’ve created, or what kind of infographic you were able to get to rank for a branded term. If the link to your client’s Facebook page moves up one slot in the SERP, the world does not stop.
So what do people care about? And why does that even matter to reputation management professionals?
Doing reputation management, you have to think about two audiences, your clients and the people who will be searching for your clients’ names online. Clients just want results. They don’t really want to know how you did it, they just want to be able to search their name online and see that no bad press comes up in the SERP. And users who are searching for your client’s name online don’t care about how search engines work, they simply want to see a fair and balanced result when they search. They just want access to actionable information about the brands or companies they looking for.
In essence, both clients and users want to feel a sense of relief. Clients want to be relieved that they don’t have to worry about their online reputation, and users want to be relieved that they don’t have to go to the second page of results to find the information they’re looking for.
As such, the job of an online reputation manager is not so much about numbers and ranks and algorithms as it is about creating a positive feeling in those that you work for and those that will see your work. This is perhaps the goal that we lose sight of as we go about our daily activities.
Keeping our eye on the fact that no one cares about what we do—as long as it is helpful and useful—can help us focus our daily efforts and prioritize our strategies. The next time you’re in the middle of a campaign, ask yourself, “Is someone go to care about the result of what I’m doing right now? Is this going to make my client and their users feel relieved?”
No one may care about what we do. But if we care about what they want, we’ll be able to build better reputation strategies, execute better campaigns, and ultimately, be more successful at what we do.