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Nov 18, 2013 (3 years and 6 months ago)

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Reputation Management

Proactive Strategies for a Reputable Volts Vagon


Josh Cronk

0651883























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Executive Summary


In this report, the importance of online reputation management will be brought to attention,
while a critical analysis of the benefits and detriments
of

hiring different types of reputation
management firms will be perf
ormed. Ultimately, the report comes to the conclusion that
reputation
management should be a primary concern for management to ensure the successful future of Volts
Vagon.


Recommendations will be made in this report to
hire a buzz management company

that

observes what
is being said

on the
web, while finding trends in that

information that can be useful in
managing reputation risk and preventing reputation damage. This report will also offer
recommendations to
implement a department within the organization

to ensure the safekeeping of our
reputation
. Their job will be to use the information gathered by the buzz management company to
implement changes in our company as needed. They will also be responsible for new measures
such as

creating social links on th
e internet between Volts Vagon and current and potential customers through
social networking means, hosting blogs, creating and managing innovative websites and working with
Google to ensure that the Volts Vagon name remains a reputable name throughout the

company’s
expansion in the electric vehicle industry.


It is essential that Volts Vagon is proactive in maintaining a good reputation by creating
resources to successfully bridge the gap between consumer and company and ultimately increase
customer loyal
ty.








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Introduction

Corporate Reputation

Many corporations believe that r
eput
ation is

the most valued organizational asset, and is

greatly
sought after as
an effective way to significantly increase
competitive advantage

for a
firm
(Gibson,
Gonzales, & Castan
on, 2006)
. The 1999 Turnbull Report
, outlining key internal controls for successful
companies, stated that

in

a corporation, “reputation [is] as financially meaningful as any other capital
asset in determining

[a company’s]

net value”
(Gibson, Gonzales, &
Castanon, 2006)
. With a strong
reputation, companies are

able to hire more capable employees, have a wid
er and more loyal customer
base, and

have easier access

acquiring

c
apital, ultimately leading to an increase in
c
onsumer

confidence
towards that company

(Wiedmann & Buxel, 2005)
.

Reputation is also something that develops and lasts
throughout the life of a corporation, cumulating all previous errors and successes while also alluding to
the longevity of the organization
(Scott & Walsham, 2005)
.
The Journal

of Business Strategy
observed
that
reputable
firms during

favourable

economic

conditions

would dramatically improve bu
siness and
would be more protected during
harsh

economic
hardships than the average firm

(Gibson, Gonzales, &
Castanon, 2006)
.

Online Re
putation Management

Online reputation management “is a space that’s hot and is heating up further
”, says Jeff Zabin,
a co
-
writer for a social media monitoring report
(Hoffman, 2008)
. Online reputation management is a
broad range of techniques that companie
s have beg
u
n us
ing

to examine what is being said about them
on the internet. These techniques can vary in the amount of time and resources put into managing
online reputation, and can have dramatic effects for the company. Zabin believes that executives ar
e
only now realizing the opportunities of using the internet to determine what customers’ perceptions are







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about a specific product or the company overall, and that it provides an “early
-
warning sign” for when a
company’s reputation is at risk
(Hoffman, 200
8)
.

Findings

In a
Chief Executive

magazine study, although 96% of CEOs consider corporate reputation a “vital
component of business success”, less than 20% have “instituted a method of measuring their
organization’s reputation”
(Nakra, 2000)
.

Reputation M
anagement Firms

In an increasingly online society, it is of critical importance for companies to be aware of every
option that will
increase
competitive advantage. These advantages are widely available through the
internet and can be managed properly with
personnel that can efficiently and effectively navigate
through the internet to uncover sources for competitive advantage. This is a very time consuming and
difficult task, and because of the incredible depths of the internet, a new industry has emerged th
at uses
their knowledge of

the

World Wide Web for profit. These companies
find ways in which to increase
positive organizational
reputation by
highlight
ing

pages

that reflect well on a company

and

bury
offending sites deep in search results


(Tozzi, 2008)
.

Search Engine Optimization

Search Engine Optimization may be the most popular type of online reputation management, as
companies want to highlight positive content by placing them high on search results, and push down
negative reviews past the first pa
ge of search results, as

“about 80% of searches go no further than the
first page of search engine results...” according to Blake Cahill, SVP of marketing for Visible Technologies
(McClure, 2008)
.
ReputationDefender

is one of the most popular companies tha
t offer search engine
optimization services (SEO
s
). CEO Michael Fertik claims to

have an 85% success rate
on
the







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approximately

1,000 cases

they have taken thus far
(Mayor, 2008)
. The MyReputation product of
ReputationDefender

scans the internet (from sourc
es such as social networks, websites, and new
s
sources) to find information on

a particular client. This information is then compiled into a monthly
report, in which clients can select content that they want removed, and ReputationDefender can assist
in re
moving

it or

making it more accurate


(McClure, 2008)
.

These services, although sometimes
effective, can also have large costs associated with them.

Six months to a year worth of services from
Elixir Systems, another search engine marketing firms, can cos
t a large company $15,000 to $100,000

(Hoffman, 2008)
. Services for smaller corporations begin at $1,000 per month, and large organizations
can cost tens of thousands of dollars every year
(Tozzi, 2008)
.


Blog Altering

Blog altering is another form of on
line reputation management. It involves hiring an agency to
pay bloggers to post favourable things about their company on their blog, or in some cases, having
people in the organization falsifying who they are online and posting positive reviews to give th
e
impression that the company is more reputable than it actually is. This technique is widely seen to be an
unethical approach, but the companies claim to be writing blogs that are
simply

honest
. Internet
Reputation Management, a company formed in 2007,
cl
aims that they only “ask bloggers to be
truthful...We don’t want anything to be over embellished”
(Tozzi, 2008)
. ReputationHawk is a company
that runs blogs that promote their client, but CEO Chris Martin claims that they do not pay bloggers to
post on out
side sites
(Tozzi, 2008)
.

Buzz Monitoring

Buzz monitoring is a way of

observing and

interpreting comments made about ones company by
consumers in blogs and chat rooms
(Fisher, 2008)
.
Biz360 is one of the more popular buzz monitoring
services available.

Th
eir
service

aggregates, measures, and analyzes content from both social and







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media sources to help
their client
be
tter understand their audiences”
(McClure, 2008)
.

There are several
options available to a company that receives this type of information.

Th
e company can determine

the
impact of
a current marketing campaign, can determine how their public relations attempts are being
received

by stakeholders, and also determine the success or failure of

a product launch

or

corporate
event
. Every article found
by

a

buzz monitoring service

is

labelled as either a negative comment, neutral
comment, or positive comment
(McClure, 2008)
.
Biz360 offers monthly, weekly, or quarterly reports,
while also allowing the client to view a “dashboard report” every hour
(McClur
e, 2008)
.

The obvious
downside to employing these services, however, is the cost.
An annual subscription to Biz360’s service

can cost anywhere from

$20,000 to $100,000
, depending on the amount of articles being monitored

(Charski, 2001)
.

Analysis

Search E
ngine Optimization

Search engine optimization is an effective way for large companies to manage the amount of
web content
containing

their name.

Google has stated that as long as companies refrain from using
“manipulative techniques [to get] positive cont
ent to rank highly”, they have no problem with
reputation

management

services
(Tozzi, 2008)
.


The downside to these

service
s

is that some people consider it unethical to alter what people
see about
companies

on the internet. Chris Martin, CEO of Reputa
tionHawk, has found that 95% of
people who use search engines “typically view the top 30 listings and disregard the rest”
(Hoffman,
2008)
. Therefore, it is a question of whether it is an ethical practice to consciously alter what is in the
top 30 search re
sults for a company.
ReputationDefender has received some

negative

public

feedback

from bloggers for attempting to have negative posts removed, this outcry ironically appearing on a







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Google search of ReputationDefender
(Hoffman, 2008)
. Therefore, the questi
on is whether or not
companies are willing to have their reputations managed by companies that are unable to manage their
own reputations. Volts Vagon CEO M.J. D’Elia has been on record as stating in the Corporate Code of
Conduct that: “Maintaining
[a]

rep
utation [of conducting business with the highest standards of moral
and ethical behaviour] is vital to our company’s success.”

This would suggest that altering search results
could very easily “lead to an erosion of customer loyalty”, suggests Jeff Zabin
(
Hoffman, 2008)
. Beau
Brendler of Consumer Report Magazine cautions that “If a newspaper or a consumer rights organization
has done an investigation into a company, and a SEO then does something to bury that information, that
is harmful”
(Hoffman, 2008)
.

B
log Altering

“The impact of ignoring the blogosphere can be significant,” says Tony Priore, CMO and head of
product development at Biz360. He notes how messages can easily flow from an individual
who starts
his own blog to millions of people who could be i
nfluenced by that one blogger
(McClure, 2008)
.

However, the obvious ethical concerns counter the benefits of falsely planting positive blogs.
The most damage to a reputation can be done by deceptively trying to alter a reputation. If consumers
were to find

out that false blogs have been planted by the company, customer loyalty could be severely
and irreparably damaged.

Buzz Monitoring

Brian Johnston, director of corporate media relations for computer network manufacturer
3Com, has high praise for Biz360, s
tating: “They are
as comprehensive as anything is right now...We
understand where we are and what our profile is faster than ever before. We’re able to see trends that
we’ve never seen before.”
(Charski, 2001)








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Janet Eden
-
Harris, CEO of buzz monitoring soft
ware company Umbria

Inc.
, uses the example of
their client Nike to reinforce the advantages

of observing trends without unethically altering
information. After a sexual assault charge plagued Lakers star Kobe Bryant during the 2003 NBA season,
Nike was con
sidering the ramifications of resigning Bryant to a shoe deal after his reputation damaging
e
xperience. Nike employed Umbria
to find information on whether people were as negative towards
Bryant as the media was, or if resigning
him
would still benefit the

company. Umbria found plenty of
negative blog content surrounding Bryant, but after analysing trends discovered that Nike’s target
market of young men had far less negative feelings toward the NBA star. With this information, Nike
resigned Bryant
(Hoffman
, 2008)
. This decision was ultimately a good one, as Bryant has since become a
poster boy for the brand and won an NBA MVP award in 2008 before winning an NBA championship in
2009, positively reflecting on Bryant’s several signature shoes from Nike. This c
ase shows how gathering
information while maintaining ethical standards has had great benefits on companies.

Conclusion
s

&
Recommendation

As effective as some Reputation Management firms can be, it is also
difficult to determine
whether hiring a firm woul
d be a wise course of

action for a small company such as Volts Vagon.
Another issue in dealing with these services is the ease of being unethical in a reputation management
approach. Blog altering is the most questionable option for firms to boost their on
line reputation.
Although it can benefit a Google search result, it can also have disastrous consequences should the
public find out
. Leslie Gaines
-
Ross, Chief Reputation Strategist of the public relations firm Weber
Shandwick, warns that companies using r
eputation management services “have to be willing to be
totally transparent” with their customers, as to not jeopardize consumer loyalty
(Hoffman, 2008)
. For
this reason, it is suggested that Volts Vagon avoid any temptation to deceivingly alter blog conte
nt now
or in the future.








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The remaining obstacles with search engine optimization and buzz monitoring is the us
efulness
for a company of such

small size, and also the possibly large costs associated with the hiring and
maintaining of a reputation managemen
t company. With a company of only approximately 400
employees

and 2007 sales of only $9.5 million dollars, it may be unwise to hire a search engine
optimization firm because of the large costs and the lack of online knowledge of our company. Another
reason

to avoid hiring a search engine optimization is because of the reputation that
Volts Vagon

has as
a new, revolutionary and innovative company. The only real reason for negative feedback for a company
that is this new would be isolated incidents from consu
mers that haven’t had positive experiences with
their
Moxie
. This could be managed by making sure the
Moxie
continues to be produced with the
highest level of quality, as well as being assured that the
VivaCity

is a quality and reliable vehicle. For this
r
eason, it is not suggested that Volts Vagon explore search engine optimization companies until the
predicted strong growth of the company over the next five to ten years.

Kathleen Martin states in her
Channel Insider

article that a few thousand dollars in
vested in
proactive Reputation Management “can go a long way to building and pro
tecting your brand and
business

(Martin, 2009)
.
An Empirical Study o
n

Corporate Reputation Management in Germany came
to a similar conclusion. It was recommended in this study

that reputation be proactively managed by
implementing an integrated reputation management concept, creating specific programs to satisfy and
also exploit unused customer groups. This integrated management concept would

accurately define
reputation objec
tives, and implement these objectives with regard to all corporate activities


(Wiedmann & Buxel, 2005)
. Therefore, this report recommends that Volts Vagon adopt a reputation
management department as a sub
-
department of the public relations department, foc
using on
monitoring reputation by hiring a buzz monitoring firm to report customers’ thoughts from the web,
while proactively seeking new and cost
-
efficient ways of managing and increasing reputation. Cost
-
efficient ways i
nclude but are not limited to: S
ub
scr
ibing to Google news, allowing us t
o see when and







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how often
Volts Vagon

is being searched for on Google
(Jantsch, 2008)
; Creating a LinkedIn profile and
Facebook page, serving as marketing tools for Volts Vagon as they can simultaneously inform thousand
s
of people on new products and services by simply updating
our

‘status’
,

and allowing customers to have
questions answered and concerns reported directly to the company
(Jantsch, 2008)
; Creating a company
blog with Google Webmaster Central Blog, making a
very easy and effective way of gathering immediate
feedback on what people like and do not like about our company
(Hoffman, 2008)
; Signing up for
services

like Yelp, InsiderPages, CitySearch, and JudysB
ook
, which

allow
Volts Vagon

to create a profile
where

c
ustomers then
rate us and

write

positive

testimonials

(Jantsch, 2008)
. Although these methods
are relatively cheap or free, they along with a buzz monitoring firm such as B
i
z360 can be important
resources to protect Volts Vagon’s most valuable and long
-
l
asting asset.

















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Works Cited

Charski, M. (2001). Buzz meter [Electronic version].
Interactive Week

, 8
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2009 from Business Source Complete database.


Fisher, L. (2008). Buzz monitoring [Electronic version].
Marketing Di
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,

10. Retrieved October 19, 2009

from Business Source Complete database.


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relations [Electronic version].
Public Relations Quarterly

, 51(3), 15
-
18. R
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2009 from Business Source Complete database.


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26. Retrieved October 18, 2009 from Business Source Complete database.


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October 21, 2009 from Business Source Complete database.


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Channel Insider

, 1
-
2.

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