Posted August 1, 2008 11:07 am by with 16 comments

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If you know me, you know I speak in analogies. I’m not quite sure why I’m always plucking them from the air–maybe it helps me to get my own mind around a concept–but I find myself coming up with new ones all the time.

My latest? The Reputation Round Table.

Speaking to a journalist recently, I wanted a clear way to explain why your reputation is no longer controlled 100% by you–you, being an individual or company.

The Old Way: The Board of Reputation

In the “olden days” your reputation was formed by a convening a meeting of the board of directors for your brand. The long, rectangular table had seating for you, your executive team, your attorney, PR firm, marketing folks, and maybe a single seat for your investors. The CEO/Chairman of the board sat at the head of the table, making the final decision on who, what, and how your reputation would be defined. Everyone at the table would be compelled to agree, and money would be spent to tell the world about your brand. All other stakeholders could only watch a live feed of the meeting–they took no active role.

The New Way: The Reputation Round Table

Fast forward to today’s Reputation Round Table. Much like the round table used by King Arthur and his knights, the table is, by definition, round–there is no head of the table. At the table you’ll find all of the above, but you’ll also find seated your customers, your employees, your investors, members of the media, and citizen journalists. Every voice is heard, every voice has an equal say in deciding your reputation. Each can exert equal influence, but neither has more say than the person seated to their left, or right. Your brand, your reputation is defined by what each person at the table has to say–it is not decided by any one individual.

Why am I sharing this with you? Online reputation management (ORM) is hitting its tipping point. I’m seeing it all around. More mentions in the media, more clients, and more companies offering ORM services. Yet, 99% of the world has yet to learn the importance of online reputation management. Hopefully the above analogy will cut through the industry jargon and allow you to explain–even to your grandmother–just what reputation management is.

  • Thanks for such a comprehensive explanation of the term ORM

  • I find that a lot of people define things like reputation for marketing people “the old way” in a way that some of the brighter marketing minds never actually defined it. I think the “old way” was just the more prevalent “bad way.”

  • You made good analogy by using round table for ORM.

  • Thanks…i didn’t know about ORM…good analogies…

  • Whether it is offline or online Reputation Management is just that. Managing one’s reputation. Round Table or Rectangular Table, all stake holders, if represented, will come to the same conclusion.

    Where online reputation management differs is that it is much faster than any other media hitherto. In the old days, one had time to repair or make amends or whatever. Today, that luxury does not exist.

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  • The internet is revolutionising the way business is being done on so many levels. The nice thing is the quick feedback that can show how effective one’s efforts are.

  • Nice analogy Andy. I don’t agree that every voice has an equal say though. I think that the loudest voice at the table has more influence. In other words if pr issues one press release but the consumers have 100 blog posts, they have the loudest voice and as such a greater influence.

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  • @David – Interesting point. I guess we each have an equal chance to be the loudest voice. 🙂

  • Interesting piece – online rep repair is going to be big business soon if not already. I recently found a character assination of one of my favorite Doctors in Yahoo local and I asked Yahoo to remove it which they did not. Then I asked for the contact info for Yahoo lawyers so I could investigate this like it was a case of stolen intellectual property. They sent me the snail mail address of their general counsel, told me they would cease to communicate with me because I mentioned “lawyers” and to this day they left the absolute blatant lies about the Dr. right in the top of Yahoo local listings. I have worked for many fortune 100 companies on Wall Street and the incredible stupidity right at the top of many of these companies is facinating.

  • @ David

    So often have I researched new products and not bought it because of what other customers have said.

    Marketing says what the company does in the nicest way when customers say it the way that it is.

  • I agree that it is something that gets thrown around way too loosely.

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  • Great discussion here!!!

  • Nice post Andy! You are correct about the “citizen journalist” title for sure…Online Reputation Management improvement is something that is and will continue to grow as an industry.

  • PS3

    Is reputation a life long thing? Sounds like a strange question but what say a novice to the web and blogging scene makes some mistakes along the way, those will be cast in internet stone, even when they learn the error of their ways?

    I for one would do things slightly differnt if I had my time again.

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