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Online Reputation Management, Part II – Determining the Voices that Matter in the Discussion

Online Reputation Management, Part II – Determining the Voices that Matter in the Discussion

It seems like it in “online reputation management week,” but
since I
last wrote about
this in Media Bullseye last Monday, I have stumbled upon
(pun intended) some additional discussions about this topic.

First, as is all the buzz in the blogosphere, Gina Trapani was receiving pitches at her personal email
address, and fought back against the spammers by listing their emails on a
public wiki.  Party foul. I think this is
petty, and Media
Bullseye conducted a terrific interview with Jason Falls on the topic
.  This underscores the fact that a robust
monitoring system is at the heart of any good online reputation management
program.  I would be willing to bet a
month’s salary that there are people on the Trapani “you’re dead to me” list
who don’t even know it – and should. 

The second online reputation
management “aha” moment this week occurred when I came across Kami Watson and Lee Odden’s
“Reputation Management in a Google World” presentation
posted on Kami’s
blog that makes some excellent points, among them that search engine rankings
imply reputation – and before something goes “bump” in the night, you can
strengthen your position by having a good Google page rank – for the terms that
matter.  I am going to amend my steps and
call “good Google offense” step one.  So
on to step #2.

Online Reputation Management Step #2 – Find out who matters
in the debate about your organization, product or issues

Back in my days working for large
agencies, before setting up a monitoring system, I would recommend doing a deep
dive into the information that clients sought out, attempting to ascertain what or who really mattered.  More often that not, I initially was told
“everything and everyone.”  After a while,
I got used to this response, and since I work in Washington, DC, to get clients
to “see the light,” I would liken it to the White House communication
operations.  They don’t respond to
everything that is said about them, but they know who the influential voices
are and monitor them carefully.  Note: the French disagreesee
my prior column
.  This analogy,
partially designed to flatter clients by drawing a similarity to their issue
and White House communications, usually worked. 
When it didn’t I had a lot of clips to sift through.

Figuring out who mattered in a
discussion or debate was a lot easier a few years ago when all you had to do
was get print copies of the major newspapers, then, a few years later, get a
Lexis-Nexis or Factiva account, but not anymore.  I know that I will be leaving some sources
out, but at a minimum, with the rise of all different types of aggregators, I
would do a deep dive into the online news sites, MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, TV
Eyes or VMS for TV and radio, and of course, the top-ranked blogs to divine the
voices that matter – those who have a direct impact on the stakeholder in your
company or your issues. If you are looking at international voices in different
languages, Moreover is an excellent source. I know that I am leaving things out
here, but would love to have your thoughts on other good sources of
information.  Comment form below.

So, who matters?  There is not a simple answer to this, but
it’s pretty easy for print:  circulation
and impressions.  For blogs?  It’s the most imperfect system out there
(like Winston Churchill’s quote on democracy), but Technorati’s authority
ranking is still recognized as a benchmark (or if you are a geek like I am,
check backwards links in Google).  Attack
sites?  If you have some bucks, you can
use a system like Nielsen Net Ratings or Comscore to get a sense of audience
profile.  If you don’t, as Kami and Lee
pointed out, Google page rank is still an excellent barometer.  After these, I would employ something like Tweetscan to do a look at who is saying things
and how many people are following him or her. 
This will get you started (until you have to explain to your client or
boss what a
“tweet” is

Some good research using these
tools will lead you quite a ways down the path of determining the voices that
matter in your debate.  In subsequent
articles, I’ll lay out what I believe are the additional elements of a good
online reputation management system:

  • Step
    #3: Aggregating all your feeds into one place (for storage, analysis
    tracking over time);
  • Step
    #4: Determining the threat or opportunity presented from a source that
  • Step
    #5: Deciding when -or if–to react to information;
  • Step
    #6: What to do when you have to do something; and
  • Step
    #7: Learning and the feedback loop.

Stay tuned!

Mark Story is a part-time, adjunct professor at Georgetown
University and a full-time communications professional at a government
agency in Washington, D.C. Prior to the government, Mark worked for 11
years in some of the largest online public relations shops in the world.

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