The digital era has strongly influenced the offer provided by PR agencies to their clients, but it is only recently that the industry has witnessed a sharp increase in demand for online crisis management in the form of reputation management services. According to a survey published by Econsultancy, the online community for digital marketers and e-commerce professionals, "there was a 16 per cent growth in demand for online reputation management services from PR agencies over the past 12 months", as well as a significant number of requests for "content creation".
As companies, brands and individuals seek to take advantage of the many benefits of the internet and social media, this trend looks set to continue. It may be perceived as a specialist area, but online reputation management is becoming more mainstream. Those PR agencies with an understanding of the market are ideally placed to protect, manage and rebuild reputations of their clients.
The online world is waking up to the concept of ‘owning and controlling’ all slots on page one of Google – not just position one for individual websites, which on average receive only a third of the clicks.
Online news stories from local, national and international press help to boost the profile of a client if their name is contained within the story, and more so if it is in the title of the story. Publishing unique and relevant articles on a client’s corporate website and through their social media networks will strengthen their online profile, as well as improve their Google listings. Increasingly important, however, is the ranking power of the publications themselves. PR agencies focusing their efforts on securing coverage in relevant publications, which dominate the search results, will see increased performance.
A common misconception is that reputation management is only necessary when there is a crisis situation. PR agencies working proactively to create the kind of robust, solid reputation that will help their clients deal with potential problems, should they occur, will be increasingly in demand.
On a final note, the European Court of Justice ruling – the ‘right to be forgotten’, which applies to individuals and not companies or brands – will not necessarily offer a safeguard.
The ruling is likely to become increasingly ineffective as Google and the press publish details on who has made applications, effectively ‘exposing’ those trying to hide or suppress information.
Predictions for 2015
1. PR key performance indicators will become increasingly aligned to publications’ ranking power online.
2. There will be a growing number of agencies offering
online crisis management as a specific service.
3. Reputational risk will continue to be a factor when deciding on the nature of comms campaigns.
Simon Wadsworth is a director at Igniyte