Businesses need to be more proactive when it comes to managing their reputations online, industry experts warned today.
Gartner predicts that criminals will routinely use the internet to extort funds from organisations by the end of 2010, threatening to damage corporate reputations by ensuring that routine online search requests return negative or even libellous results.
"If your business depends on a positive internet reputation, you have little choice but to explicitly manage that reputation online," said Jay Heiser, a research vice president at Gartner.
"The internet is like a bad-news Petri dish: negative information multiplies and spreads with frightening speed and becomes virtually impossible to erase."
Despite the plethora of resources available to assess and help manage reputation, from PR agencies and competitive analysis companies to identity verification services and content analytics tools, a comprehensive 'scan and alert' mechanism for the internet does not yet exist, according to the analyst firm.
"'Reputational' persistence is a unique internet phenomenon that traditional reputation specialists have never had to deal with," explained Heiser.
"The fact is that, where the internet is concerned, the only way to counteract persistent negative information is to overcome it with a greater weight of positive information. This means getting to grips with internet reputation management."
Heiser outlined the following recommendations for organisations seeking to proactively manage their reputations online:
- Understand the role that reputation plays in social and commercial relationships
- Work with PR and marketing to create your organisation's reputation management strategy
- Educate your employees in assessing reputation
- Look for new business opportunities in reputation enhancement
- Establish a policy against allowing your employees to place co-worker recommendations on peer reference sites such as LinkedIn or Ryze
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