No Reputation is a Bad Reputation

no reputation is a bad reputation David PRSome businesses do well operating “under the radar.”  During my career I have met many executives who have purposely kept a low profile, avoiding publicity as they focus intently on their business and their market.  The strategy sometimes makes sense when companies face large logistical and operational challenges that supersede public relations and marketing.  Some executives also shy away from PR because they don’t want to draw the attention of potential competitors.

My experience is that this only works up to a point.

In recent weeks, I have encountered several companies that are facing significant online issues.  One is a a great company that took flying beneath the radar to new extremes.  The company has thousands of employees and multiple offices, appears to be very successful and yet has almost no online presence.

Using the old strategy of “lay low so we don’t invite competition” worked fine until the company faced-off with some nationally known competitors who used their low profile against them.  A few negative articles and blog posts threw a sure-thing contract into jeopardy.  The first information you see about the company online is negative information, and a lot of folks researching them don’t go any further. “All of a sudden,” the executives realized that no reputation actually equates to a bad reputation.

The second company suffers from a similar fate.  The owner is successful and known within the right circles around the world as a masterful businessperson.  However, like many executives, he tried to keep a low profile online, perhaps as an attempt to control his image.  Somehow, this idea of avoiding the internet as a way of controlling your image still pervades.  As in the prior example, it might work for a little while but if something bad happens – a social media misstep, a rogue blogger pops-off or a major crisis hits – then the company is in no position to respond to the negative online reputational hit.  In this example, one aggressive blogger is causing major damage.

I see similar situations when it comes to PR.  Business owners sometimes steer clear of public relations until they are ready to make a move.  I have met dozens of executives over the years who would tell me that PR is a good thing, but they will call me when they need me.  Typically, I wouldn’t hear from them until they were ready to make an acquisition, raise capital or plan for an exit.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m always open to assisting companies in transition, but today I don’t think it makes sense to wait, particularly given online reputation hazards.

Build your presence now. My usual advice, here.  Optimize your website for search results, build out company pages on main social media sites and claim your online review site listings.

Start planning for the transition earlier. Think about your communications strategy well in advance of making an announcement.  We in the PR field know how to sign non-disclosure agreements and help lay out your plan for implementation later.  Don’t wait until the last moment to organize your announcement.

Monitor and be ready to respond.  Assess your online presence and put a monitoring program in place. This can be as simple as setting Google alerts to more comprehensive media monitoring systems.

More and more, your online reputation is your overall reputation.  Many great companies, like yours, have spent years building it.  Don’t get derailed due to inaction.  No reputation is a bad reputation.


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