We all know reputations take a long time to build and can be destroyed in a very short space of time by a lack of judgement or misguided actions and I'm not talking about the young executive who throws her name away at the office party after having one two many tequilas.
Today some clever digital natives from a company called Quirk showed us how they track and measure the reputation health of companies on the www. They spoke about about how a company or brand's online reputation can spread faster through www than traditional media channels and unlike a newspaper or a radio report which is transient or thrown away, thanks to Google it will live forever. You can't delete stuff disgruntled customers may have blogged or posted comments about, although I'm sure there are many companies out there that wouldn't mind if some hack created a virus to erase the damming evidence against them? Despite SA's online penetration lag, local companies should be tracking www and formulating strategies to deal with negative online noise. I enjoyed having some robust discussion with the passionate Quirk team around the influence of a blogger out there versus a journalist in traditional media. This was an interesting debate. If a blogger has an avid following who hang on every word blogged and said blogger trashes your brand, could they do more damage than a respected columnist or editor of a major newspaper or magazine who does the same? Interesting thought. In terms of our business, I reckon traditional press will do more damage to us right now than online, mostly because the Internet has not nearly reached the scale yet of our national press in terms of eyeballs. The press in SA also enjoys very high levels of credibility among South African communities. However, what I will concede is that popular bloggers can be exceptionally powerful in their persuasion of their dedicated audiences, who in turn tend to be key influencers in society and this is a critical consideration. If a person trusts and believes everything you say, they will act on it. We have tracked some fascinating blogs rating us a great bank to do business with versus other banks. but we have also been at the butt end of some unforgiving remarks that have needed addressing. The noise out there is growing as more and more flock to the web and given brand reputation is a business imperative, we frankly don't have a choice, but to get in there and be a part of it.