Protect Your Brand
This same wisdom can be translated to one's personal brand. For high-profile and high-net worth individuals, damaging and inaccurate misinformation on the Internet can destroy business credentials, wipe out lucrative contracts and compromise personal relationships. In today's turbulent economic times, with increased media scrutiny of our business leaders and public figures, protecting one's reputation online is no longer a luxury, it's a necessity.
The Internet has caused not only a shift in the way information is delivered, but in how people seek it out and how it shapes our content consumption. Keep in mind that in April 2009 alone, there were more than 8.6 billion searches happening online.
A recent Vanity Fair article by Mark Bowden, "The Inheritance: The New York Times," highlights the essence of the issue: "The Internet replaces editors with algorithms. Google is a search engine. It makes no value judgment about information unless you instruct it to ... When an editor is replaced by an algorithm, all information is equal. Propaganda shares the platform with honest reporting ..."
Mounting pressure to be the first to break a story, and garner the highest click-throughs on salacious headlines - coupled with the rapid decline of resources allocated to ensure fair and objective reporting - have enabled inaccurate and biased information to flood the Web, often leaving a lasting effect on both businesses and personal identity.
To complicate the connection between business and personal reputation, there is an increasingly inextricable link between a CEO's identity and how his/her corporation is perceived. In today's online world, it is seemingly impossible to separate the personal reputation of the CEO from that of the company. According to a recent Burson-Marsteller study, one of the primary factors affecting a business' reputation is the image of its CEO, who serves as the public face of the company. If nurtured in the right way, the CEO's reputation can be one of the most valuable assets a company holds, creating value for stakeholders as well as attracting and holding onto sought-after talent. To translate this into business results: a 10% positive change in a CEO's reputation among those CEOs analyzed in Burson-Marsteller's study resulted in a 24% increase in the company's market capitalization (as reported in the story, "CEO Capital: A Guide to Building CEO Reputation and Company Success" by Leslie Gaines-Ross.)
In the same vein, the connection between the CEO's reputation and the success of the business can go in either direction: When a chief executive's image is good, so too is the health of the business; but if the executive's reputation is tarnished, sales and stock prices often take a hit.
With so much at stake for so many, how do businesses and individuals safeguard their hard-earned reputations against the torrent of misinformation that exists on the Internet?
An April 2009 Aberdeen Research report, "Brand Reputation Management: Using Online Monitoring to Protect the Company's Crown Jewels," found organizations that embrace online brand reputation management best practices not only have a better public image than other firms, but are twice as likely as peers to increase shareholder value.
The same practice can be shifted to personal brand management by employing similar social media monitoring tactics used by many of today's top brands. This often takes the form of online content optimization and active monitoring of consumer generated content.
As companies continue to navigate the challenging economic climate, where decisions have a broad-reaching impact, it is no longer simply a "good idea" for corporations and business leaders to engage in online brand reputation management, it's a social responsibility.
Likewise, if a tarnished reputation can negatively affect the bottom line in times of economic growth, it's even more of an imperative in times of crises to protect the good-name of our leading brands as well as the individuals so closely associated with these brands.