When Cheryl Conner interviewed Don Sorensen for Forbes (“Top Online Reputation Management Tips for Brand Marketers”), her goal was to inform marketing executives who “fail to understand how poor reputation management can damage their company’s sales.” It made sense to talk to Sorensen, president of Big Blue Robot, who has been involved in ORM for over a decade.
Today, ORM is a booming business. Conner estimated it is a $5 billion industry, with hundreds of PR firms – including hers and Sorensen’s and places like Five Blocks – working to protect the interests of companies wanting a polished, professional online image.
In the interview, Sorensen warned readers against making a million-dollar mistake: “Many executives don’t consider the potential losses in sales, press coverage, hiring ability, and more until long after the damage is done.” He advised that brand trust can be eroded by a tarnished corporate leader whose reputation sullies the entire enterprise, a negative news story that turns into a runaway reputation crisis, or even a malicious entity seeking to profit from a company’s ruin.
Clearly, Sorensen is right that ORM is a crucial corporate concern. According to a survey by Forbes and Deloitte, more than 4 in 5 companies see ORM as a major strategic risk factor, and are taking steps to address it. Even more compelling is a Nielsen survey; it discovered that than more than half of media-savvy consumers said they’d dropped pursuing business with a company after finding negative information online.
So what can business leaders do about it? Sorensen’s list of tips focused on proactive marketing strategies to expand and strengthen the online brand: search engine control, social media participation, branded blogging, and YouTube production. He also emphasized continuous monitoring and swift reaction to potential threats.
When Conner asked Sorensen about the idea of developing in-house ORM teams, he agreed that internal teams can handle proactive basics. However, he asserted that outsourcing brings in a breadth and depth of experience that in-house teams cannot match. That’s why firms like Sorensen’s and Five Blocks have built such powerful businesses. They are equipped to handle this in the most powerful way.
Both Conner and Sorensen have a financial stake in outsourcing, so they may be biased. Notably, Sorensen’s list of tips did not include simple self-monitoring measures like using Google Alerts to watch for negative brand mentions. Nevertheless, he had sound advice about hiring ORM professionals, whether as employees or consultants: “You should ask what kind of tactics will be used to improve the online reputation.” He also suggested that prospective employers request proof of past successes.
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