Thanks to Patrice Cloutier’s very handy delicious list of crisis comms articles, I came across this on online reputation management. I’ve heard these ads on the radio, of all places, for companies that will fix your online reputation problems. I always thought it was a little trickier than signing on to some website or some remote service. But there seems to be a whole new industry growing aimed at throwing a bunch of good stuff at the search engines in order to bump the bad stuff that may have cropped up down the rankings a ways.
Now it looks like they are even going to subject this to algorithms or automated processes through a dashboard. The dashboard for monitoring and reviewing all the comments and reviews about you online is much needed and available from multiple vendors. This promises to go further than monitor and report. It promises to: “help our clients make sure that the positive reviews and constructive feedback shows up when our clients are searched, and that the false and inflammatory comments are suppressed in searches so no one can find them.”
I’m getting uneasy about all this. One thing that is helpful on the Internet is the ability to quickly find out what others are saying about a company. And sure, when I do that, I take it with a grain of salt knowing there are a lot of cranks out there and sooner or later the best company is going to thoroughly tick off someone. But, I have some confidence in my ability to filter through all of that and get a good general idea of the company and whether or not I should put my confidence in them. Knowing now that the bad reviews can be “suppressed” and the good reviews elevated by algorithms designed to manage the algorithms of the search engines, well, I’m getting a little queasy about the whole online reputation management thing.
What concerns me is not only that I will be able to trust the Internet less and less to tell the truth about companies, brands and reputations. But I’m also bothered by the quick fix notion that these online reputation management companies are peddling. Hey, if I provide thoroughly crappy customer service and everyone who does business with me hates me, no worries, I’ll buy one of these reputation dashboard thingies and it will fix the whole thing.
I consider myself a reputation manager for my clients to some degree. But this is not the way I would go about fixing bad reviews. I’d try to get to the source of the problem, find out what’s going on to generate those bad review, try to rectify the situation with those affected and try to make certain that the customer service or product failings that generated them are fixed.
I’m thinking that many are going to opt for the quick fix.