It isn’t just organizations that need a strong online profile, but also the executives of those organizations.
In January, PRNews asked me to write a column about how companies can manage their online reputation. But often when there is a crisis in a company or organization, it is an individual that takes the fall. And usually, that individual does not have a digital footprint that extends beyond their association with the company. Executives are busy and often don’t have time to build their wider network. They often have tunnel vision.
Three Steps to Protect Your Reputation
Step 1: Monitor for Mentions
Search for yours or your executives name and any derivatives as one of the search terms and monitor for mentions of that name and variations of the name. If you don’t have a paid tool, you can use a free one like Google Advanced Search, Social Mention and Talkwalker Alerts. Social Mention includes some basic sentiment measures to spot-check if what is being said is positive or negative but it pays to double check the actual text of mentions for accuracy since automated sentiment isn’t completely reliable. Have these alerts delivered to your email or subscribe to the RSS feeds and monitor them in a program like Feedly. There are also some paid tools which can simplify things, including Sprout Social and Trackur.
Once you find the mentions of you in articles, posts and social networks, triage the items into those that need immediate response, further monitoring and those which can be safely ignored. One tip is to use the free bookmarking service Diigo to save mentions into the three buckets of mentions. You can make the mentions public or private and you can easily add notes to the bookmark if you use the Chrome plugin. Be sure to respond to the positive ones as soon as possible. The negative ones should be carefully approached. Here is one example of how Network Solutions handled negative mentions. And if you are not convinced you SHOULD respond, here is a list of opportunity costs that you might want to consider if you don’t.
Step 2: Build a Presence
Many executives have learned the hard way that the company or organization website can’t be their only online presence. Beyond a profile on the company site, executives should build a robust online presence that remains with them through job changes. CEO’s have an average tenure of only 4.6 years, making that presence even more important. At a minimum, they should have a LinkedIn profile that connects with other leaders in their field. The more connections built, the higher the social proof that the executive is well respected by her peers. Also, it makes it easier to connect with key contacts when a crisis hits, or when the company and its executive separate.
A new way to accomplish this is with a new dotCEO domain that is available at Name.com and other registrars for $99 a year. And according to Scott Milener, SVP of Strategy of PeopleBrowsr, and the creators of dotCEO and Kred, says that the company will offer owners of the dotCEO extension a social network through its Social.io platform. Milener says that they hope that dotCEO will become the basis of a global influence network. The benefit for company leaders will be an expanded online footprint and a built-in social network.
Step 3: Participate Regularly
Executives shouldn’t wait until there is a crisis to suddenly appear online. Leaders like Zappos Tony Hsieh built their online profile alongside of their companies, and even used them to fight back when attacked.
Executives should choose one or two social networks in which they participate regularly. They can use LinkedIn as this base, but a blog or Twitter profile is more visible. YouTube can also make a great platform for an executive who is photogenic and personable. If they ever find themselves in a personal reputational crisis, these channels, and the relationships with the people they have built over time, can serve as an important conduit to get their side of the story out when it is most critical.