The Difference Between Reputation Management and PR
In addition to guest posting on the UpCity blog, WebiMax is featured as one of our Top Public Relations (PR) Firms in the United States. Check out their profile here.
Many people in and out of the “know” sometimes use the terms “public relations” and “reputation management” interchangeably. While that’s understandable given the oft-intimate relationship between the two, public relations and reputation management are distinct from each other in some significant ways.
What Is Reputation Management?
To understand the need for reputation management, you must have a firm understanding of what reputation is. Put simply, reputation is a social construct that has existed nearly as long as the human race. Reputation is a direct reflection of the opinion that other people or entities have about a thing, whether it’s a person, business, group, or something else.
Over the years, reputation has played a crucial role in influencing society and what are considered cultural norms. In other words, the importance of reputation has been critical in countless instances where individual success has relied heavily on the opinions and viewpoints of others.
Considering the impact reputation can have on the success or even just society’s acceptance of something, it’s only natural that people recognized the need for reputation management as a service. In its early stages of development, reputation management was done entirely offline as the internet was centuries away from being created. Word of mouth, print media, and special events were some of the instruments used to manage an entity’s reputation in years past.
Businesses worldwide are now looking for corporate reputation management services as a branch of their overall corporate communication strategy. Public relations firms are rising to the challenge to ensure that companies are finding positive media relations and cohesive messaging.
A Look at Online Reputation Management
Although familiar tools like print media are still employed today to manage a brand’s or a person’s reputation, there’s now another tool that is arguably used more than any other to manage a being’s reputation – and that instrument is the internet. The internet is so pivotal in managing one’s reputation that a new branch of reputation management has evolved in recent years, online reputation management.
Whereas your character is who you truly are, your reputation reflects what others perceive you to be regardless of whether that perception is accurate. Particularly since Google was founded in the late 1990s, artificial intelligence has played a major role in shaping the reputations of businesses, individuals, and others based on information available on the internet rather than firsthand experiences with those entities.
Also known as rep management, impression management, and internet reputation management, among other names, ORM refers to attempts to influence people’s opinion of a person, brand, or another entity when they’re absorbing content online. While you have no control over what a person thinks about a given being, it is possible to manage what that individual sees online about that entity to one degree or another.
Instead of trying to change one person’s mind about an entity, ORM attempts to alter the opinions of many people at once by influencing information about that being on widely used platforms like Google, Yahoo, Bing, Yelp, eBay, and YouTube. Here are some of the things a person engaged in online reputation management might do to influence what others have access to on the internet as the information relates to a third-party:
- Create new, positive content
- Use SEO tactics to decrease the likelihood that negative content regarding an entity ranks favorably in SERPs
- Manage information published online about an entity
- Respond to negative comments or reviews
- Remove or “bury” unfavorable digital content
- Interact with users on social media
- Handle media outlets during crisis communications
The means used to manage a company’s reputation online may include a mixture of search engine optimization, influencers, or social media marketing. Companies with different audiences across multinational entities may also have different PR Firms that play a different role in online strategic communications strategy depending on the location-specific culture.
An Explanation of Public Relations
The Public Relations Society of America defines public relations as “a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.” While public relations can improve the perception of a person or business, the goal of this activity is to communicate with the public and inform people about certain, often very specific things.
Publishing press releases, speaking at press conferences, hosting functions like fundraisers, formally responding to a crisis, and more – these are all activities that are part of public relations. At its core, the goal of public relations is to create and promote goodwill between an assigned entity and an audience, which may be the public-at-large, a defined target market, an organization’s employees, or another group.
Comparing ORM and PR
Although public relations and online reputation management have some things in common, they are very different from one another. For starters, PR is forward-facing while ORM is more behind-the-scenes. You may see an entity’s PR representative in front of the cameras during a press conference, for example, but it’s unlikely you’ll ever know who is responsible for that entity’s reputation management.
Like advertising, public relations is a direct marketing activity. As such, PR is an activity that’s public and readily visible through any number of outlets. By contrast, ORM is a more promotional activity in the sense that it’s meant to elevate how people view an entity through means you might not even notice under typical circumstances.
Public relations addresses issues of the moment, whether they involve an upcoming event, the introduction of a new product or service, a recent happening, or something else. For this reason, a press release issued today may be irrelevant tomorrow or the next day.
Since it involves manipulating available data on the internet, ORM is usually more technically oriented than PR. While ORM can yield near-immediate results if something goes viral, online reputation management is usually intended to produce lasting results for and over the long-term.
Do You Need PR and ORM?
Even though PR and ORM are distinct from one another, the two complement each other quite well when they’re done right. In today’s increasingly connected global marketplace, it’s wise for most businesses and high-profile individuals to use both services.
If you question the need for PR and ORM, consider this – PR allows you to generate goodwill and establish a healthy relationship with the figurative, friendly dog at your front door. ORM, on the other hand, can protect your reputation from the hungry wolves who are standing by the back door just waiting to take a bite out of your currently intact public perception.
In a more literal example, PR empowers you to spread the word about something in a public, readily accessible manner. Whether that “something” is good, bad, or somewhere in between, ORM can prevent internet publishers and users from using the information you shared or content they created independently from your sources to damage the way the public views you and/or your organization.
As the song “Love & Marriage” says, “You can’t have one without the other.” And that’s certainly the case when it comes to PR and ORM in today’s digital world.