With the importance of reputation management being recognised increasingly across the online sector, this week Igniyte explains the trends it believes will shape reputation management in 2015.

The importance of online reputation management

The rise of the digital era has seen online reputation become a matter of vital importance. Data from Deloitte’s 2014 global survey on reputation risk reveals that 87% of the company executives surveyed believe that reputation risk is more important or a lot more important than any other strategic risk facing their firms. In a world where reviews, bad press or social commentary can see search results populated with a series of negative content, individuals, corporations and brands are coming to recognise the effect their online presence can have on their reputation.

This has spurred the rising importance of online reputation management, which uses strategies such as online PR and content creation to rehabilitate an individual, brand or businesses online. The industry has been in existence for a few years, but companies are having to catch up on the methods used and associated legislation in place to showcase their business effectively online.

Demand for reputation management to increase

The rising recognition of the power of online reputation should see the demand for reputation management services increase in 2015.

A recent poll by econsultancy shows “a 16 per cent growth in demand for online reputation management services from PR agencies over the past 12 months.” Igniyte predicts that as individuals, brands and companies strive to take advantage of the plethora of benefits of the Internet and social media, this trend will continue into 2015.

A recognition of the need to own and control the highest ranking links in the search engines

Growing evidence shows that companies are beginning to be concerned about external content appearing high in the search results for their name. The increase in authority of review websites, popular press and social media assets has resulted in a variety of information showing when researching a company or person. With position one of the search results receiving 25-50% of clicks – this traffic is often directed to a company website. The remaining clicks on that page are now converted by companies and brands in particular so that all opinion, websites and links lead visitors to owned digital assets or positive stories. PR needs to be optimised and companies are spending more on online content that ever. Data from the Content Marketing Institute showed that 92% of marketers surveyed employ the use of a content marketing strategy; up from 91% in 2012, and this number grew throughout 2014. Ignoring search results is no longer an option, for companies and brands of any size.

Recognition of the ranking power of publications

The PR industry has always been focused on maximisation of coverage. Now, there is a need for ensuring exposure within the search results. Which publications rank highly? Why do some stories rank and others disappear? PR is as important as ever, but the shift in priorities has been speedy. What is the point of spending time gaining coverage – if it isn’t ranking online? Coverage and ranking are of equal importance and 2015 will see more companies realising this and PR companies having to re-think their strategies and contacts.

Knowing your legal rights online

Social media in its current form has been growing in popularity since 2006. And, for the last five years, companies and individuals have been investing much time and money into creating their social presence online. Companies have been fighting among themselves to gain audience share on the variety of profiles and platforms alongside users flooding in to use social for all aspects of their life. Social media has now entered a phase where terms like “caution” and “risk” are mentioned. But what does happen if opinion goes sour, or personal threats are made? Review sites have grown with popularity. In the travel industry, the review platform, TripAdvisor is seen to be the first place to research holidays.

Policing the content on external forums and reviews websites has become an industry in itself, and with anyone (in most cases) being able to post anything about anyone. Understanding the terms and conditions of the websites themselves alongside changes to legislation is something all companies need to be educated in.

Google Spain and the ‘right to be forgotten’ – the myths and the facts

A landmark ruling made by The European Court of Justice in May 2014 hit the headlines. ‘Right to be forgotten’ led many people to think it was now possible to have content removed from the Internet.

The ruling was actually made in relation to data protection legislation and regarding a document online, which highlighted an outdated financial situation of a member of the public. The court agreed that the content was now “outdated” and “irrelevant” and Google was responsible for removing the said content from the search results.

Shortly after Google made available an online form whereby people (European Union citizens only) could submit links to be requested for removal. Article 29, released in November 2014, relates ‘right to be forgotten’ search results to Google.com, potentially broadening the ruling from European sub-domains such as Google.co.uk. So far, Google, the search engine giant, has been implementing the ruling only in sub-domains.

The reality of this removal process is that any removals made are subject to a criteria based on the law and also whether things are of public interest. There are plenty of myths surrounding high profile individuals using this procedure to “remove themselves from the Internet”. This is not the case. In the UK, for example, press are allowed a certain amount of freedom in terms of reporting on current events. In the main, these stories would remain online. The tool is in reality used as a way of protecting personal data online and ensuring that personal information about individuals (for example financial information) is protected.

Reputational risk to become increasingly prominent factor in communication campaigns

Long gone are the days of “any PR is good PR”. The increasing recognition of the importance of reputation management will no doubt see reputational risk become an increasingly prominent factor in communications strategies and related campaigns for businesses in 2015.

Risk of negative exposure is now top of the agenda in terms of any communication going out for a business. The fallout of negative publicity can see the wrong press remaining in the search results for years. The online audience loves a bad story and this means traffic to the wrong sort of content. These cautionary tales coupled with the increasing prominence of reputation management should see reputational risk factored into communications more thoroughly than ever before.

A vital tool for safeguarding reputation online

In other words, the rising recognition of the importance of reputation management should shape it in a number of ways in 2015. These trends will see reputation management become a vital tool for individuals, brands and companies who are looking to safeguard their reputations online.

Contact Simon Wadsworth on email: simon@igniyte.co.uk or phone: +44 (0) 203 542 8689 for more information about online reputation management.

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