Reputation On The Line
22 September 2007 Andrew Jordan
With bloggers influencing corporate reputations, CEOs are looking to manage the rumour mill with blogs of their own. However, it could all backfire, warns Andrew Jordan of Reputica Ltd.
The CEO blog is a well-established phenomenon in the US, with up to 70% of large companies having one. And their UK counterparts are catching up. Blogging, for those not yet in the know, is the internet equivalent of writing a diary, but with each entry being available to millions of readers.
The online world is undergoing a revolution, fuelled by consumer-driven-content sites such as MySpace and YouTube, which allow users to post their videos, pictures and views. Where the internet was once all about downloading, we are now seeing a culture shift and people are creating data like never before.
THE NEW CONSUMPTION DYNAMIC
This new world of online opinion – also known as 'citizen journalism' – is changing how individuals interact with companies and their brands, and how they purchase and form perceptions. And traditional PR and marketing urgently need to adapt to this emerging trend. A recent survey showed that 94% of consumers value opinion as highly as advertising when selecting products.
Ultimately, this is shaping how reputations are built, altered, improved or destroyed. While corporate reputation is becoming an essential component of success, the online effect of public opinion can create worldwide fame and notoriety in a matter of minutes, and can destroy a brand in a matter of days.
So, even if you don't 'live' in the world of blogs or have never visited a chat room, you can't afford to ignore them. There is no 'truth checker'. Blogs can be anonymous – and dangerous.
BLOGGING YOUR OWN VIRTUES
This phenomenon isn't limited to the under-25s. It was estimated that by the end of 2006, 70% of large companies in the US had an official blog, often contributed to, if not owned by, the CEO. But is the CEO blog a valuable part of the citizen journalism phenomenon? And, more importantly, is it a valuable part of a company's PR or marketing strategy?
A well-regarded blog is an immensely powerful vehicle for the marketer, providing candid and succinct views on topics of the day to a large audience, and at very little cost. However, this can be diluted when the originator is a CEO. People are more willing to trust their peers than corporate leaders. And herein lies the problem. While CEOs are increasingly feeling a need to take part in the blogosphere, their very existence calls into question their objectiveness, which is a founding principle of blogs.
Most companies have corporate communications policies and programmes that are carefully monitored, and corporate blogs are therefore perceived by many as being as controlled and biased as formal corporate marketing. The blog's subject matter and tone can be just as problematic, as CEOs bear the expectation that their communications should cover serious industry issues.
So, does this polarised approach to corporate blogs have a material impact on the reputation of either the CEO or the corporation he or she represents? The answer is a resounding yes, but not necessarily because of the information contained in the blog itself.
Blogs spawn commentary, opinion and views from those that consume them. And the background chatter can be as potentially damaging as the breaking of a corporate scandal.
The CEO considering contributing to a corporate blog should carefully consider its impact on company reputation, as the desire to use it as another marketing channel could seriously damage the very opinions that the CEO is attempting to augment.
Your reputation is your most valuable asset. It can take years to build and seconds to destroy. Don't let citizen journalism put it at risk.