6 min. read

3 Steps To Gain Control Over Your Reputation

Reputation Management - Posted: Thursday, 28 December, 2017 - 11:11

Online reputation management is an instrument you can use to affect your audience's opinion about your organisation. But what is the added value of this? What do you have to do to take control of your organisation's reputation? In this blog we will outline reputation-related concepts and we will explain the various stages of online reputation management.

'Reputation' is a term similar to trustrespect or responsibility: everyone knows these concepts to some extent, but very few people can quite put their finger on it. Still, with regards to workability, it's important to provide a uniform definition. This way you can create realistic expectations of all (im)possibilities regarding corporate reputation management.  

Identity vs. Image vs. Reputation

Reputation is a term that is often linked to concepts like identity and image. What are the differences? There are no universal definitions, but we apply these:

identiteitCorporate identity can be described as the personality of your organisation. It includes everything your organisation is, does and appears to be. What do you stand for? What is your vision? Which standards and values does your organisation find important? What does your company culture look like? Corporate identity manifests itself in three ways:

    1. Behaviour (every behaviour of your organisation and its employees) 
    2. Communication (everything your organisation tells about itself)
    3. Symbolism (the visual appearance of your organisation)

imagoCorporate image is the way your stakeholders perceive your organisation's identity. It's the result of your behaviour, communication and symbolism, or everything your stakeholders hear/read about your organisation. Does your audience think of you as a forward-thinking organisation? Formal? Are you perceived as a luxury brand? Feminine? The sum of these brand associations form your corporate image.

reputatieCorporate reputation is similar to corporate image, but there is one important difference. Reputation isn't so much the perception of your audience, as it is their opinion on your organisation. Does your audience think you manufacture awesome products? Or do they think your organisation takes bad care of its employees? Or does your shipping leave something to be desired? The way people assess your organisation isn't necessarily based on personal experiences. Often, it's a result of what people have heard or read about your organisation (online).


Identity: clothing brand x is a brand that presents itself as a brand for young males.

Image: clothing brand x is perceived as a brand for the elderly. 

Reputatie: people are very positive about brand X. They have read that the product quality is amazing. 

Online reputation management 

In practice, your reputation is never an exact reflection of who you are or how you like to be seen. The way stakeholders assess your organisation is subjective to experiences and varies between groups or even individuals. Nevertheless, you still have a big influence on your own reputation. Reputation management means putting that influence to good use; reputation management includes all activities you undertake as an organisation to improve your stakeholders' opnion on your organisation. This is how you make sure they view your organisation the way you see fit. 

Online reputation management is the most important form of reputation management, because reputations nowadays are mainly formed and affected online. Through social media, a single complaint or compliment can be widely discussed and therefore almost immediately affect your reputation. This effect can be noticeable for a long time, because online messages - different from conversations people have at the baker around the corner - are in writing and retrievable through search engines. Reputations therefore have become way more changeable.

restaurant review 2012
A bad online review from 2012 is still retrievable in 2018. Even if the business has significantly improved in the meantime, this review keeps affecting the restaurant's reputation.

The stages of online reputation management

Online reputation management is the most effective way to improve your reputation. But how do you intend to begin? Good reputation management goes through these three stages:

1. Social listening and monitoring

Online reputation management starts with a good understanding of what's going on inside and outside your organisation. This can be something immediate as a negative FAcebook post which demands direct attention. But it can also be a market trend your organisation can anticipate to. The first concern is to be aware of these messages, trends, threats and opportunities no matter what. Only then will you be able to take control of the situation and deliberately decide to act upon it. Social listening  and these situations won't be so far advanced you can no longer affect them. Social listening makes sure these messages will no longer surprise you or take too much of your time. 

An example of a post that's not addressed to - yet still about - a brand. Through social listening you'll be able to include all brand related messages in your search. 

2. Managing and advising 

The second stage is managing and advising. In this stage you turn the acquired knowledge and insights from social listening into action. The content of these actions varies considerably. It could be a simple response to a message, but also a shifting focus in your communications policy. It could even affect marketing decisions, like where to open new stores. If social listening tells you that there's a demand for new products or branches, that's important input for your management. If you subsequently respond to those demands, you'll show your customers you listen to their needs and desires and you'll improve your reputation. 

3. Measuring

You always end your online reputation management with measuring. This way you'll find out the effect of the actions you thought of in stage 2. Is the number of positive messages increasing? Has the online discussion shifted towards the direction you had in mind? Well done: mission accomplished, on to the next! If this is not the case, you'll start monitoring, managing and advising again. This way, you'll keep going through the online reputation management cycle until you made the right call for your business. 

Make sure you embed these stages of online reputation management into your organisation. If you stay on top of trends and issues, you can be the captain of your very own 'reputation ship', guiding it towards the direction you envisioned. Whether that's starboard, port or straight ahead: Aye, aye, captain!