Public relations used to be the best way for a company to manage its reputation and image publicly. A lot of PR consisted of positive press releases and pictures of your organization helping sick children or helping rebuild a rundown community center. But those days have changed. Whereas PR mostly focuses on relationships with major news outlets and putting a positive spin on your company news, less people are reading newspapers nowadays, and more people are using the Internet to research companies. Instead of PR, many companies are now focused on reputation management—creating a positive online image for their company.
Online reputation management is the new PR in the sense that reputation management is about influencing the kind of information users see when they search your company name online. Creating a good reputation management campaign involves many principles of SEO and knowing what kind of online content to promote, why, and how.
To look at the issue of old PR vs. new reputation management in more detail, let’s compare some characteristics of both.
1. Longevity of information
The old PR industry focused a lot of attention on the news cycle. What print publications can you get in? How many people read it? Can you get on CNN, the Today Show, etc.? Old PR focused on cyclical media. Places where your company could make a big splash and then be forgotten about in the space of a few minutes or days. But today’s information stays on the Internet almost permanently. Thus, reputation management is about controlling what information is most accessed and most widely read when a user is looking for information about your company. In today’s online culture, a company can’t rely on the short memories of the public to forget bad press or embarrassing mistakes. It’s all available forever on the Internet. Making sure the best stuff floats to the top is the job of reputation management.
2. Publisher reputation
When trying to get a reputable publisher to do a story on your company, the publisher has a responsibility to their readers or viewers to put out balanced, well-researched information and news stories to protect their own reputation. But today, publisher reputation is almost non-existent. Any fly-by-night, anonymous website can start up at any time and publish complete lies about a company and there is no reputation to uphold. That’s why reputation management is necessary for any large company. Because anyone can publish anything on the Internet, anyone can read it too—and believe it. So, it takes skilled reputation management to massage reputable, positive press and information to the top of a Google search, rather then let anonymous review writers dominate your online image.
If you’ve ever worked with a PR firm, you’ll know that they’re always talking about the connections and relationships they have with certain journalists or publications. Part of the PR game is to form relationships with prominent people in order to get your company news published in large, targeted venues. On the Internet, the only relationships that really matter are links. That’s why a lot of reputation management is based in SEO. SEO strategies used by reputation management seek to promote content that will benefit your company and move it to the top of a Google search, pushing negative reviews and information off the first page.
PR and reputation management are fundamentally two different things. And since more people are searching the Internet for information about your company than scrolling though microfiche of old news stories, reputation management is a valuable asset to add to your public image arsenal. That is not to say that a company should completely forgo PR in favor of reputation management. Rather, reputation management is quickly becoming just as important, if not more important, than PR for the benefit of your company name and image.