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Managing Reputation Online

Increasingly this broth threatens brands and corporate reputation and needs professionalism to immunise or doctor the effects of the brew.

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Most major companies are mentioned in Web pages or on newsgroups every day. Postings of this nature take a number of forms. Newsgroups are noted for the speed with which they can spread information. Fake Web sites, newsgroups and chat rooms frequented by activists. Newsgroups are an audience with a common interest .Debate migrates from one newsgroup to another. People use the Internet to solve a specific problem. Whether a company should react and how are important questions. This is a form of consumer polling. The consumer issue is time critical. Newsgroups are virtual communities and each one is different. Some companies spend a great deal of time and effort 'seeding' newsgroups. A number of companies are transparent about their activities in newsgroups. Stakeholder, need to be aware of the potential difficulties they can meet and the effect they may have. Companies sponsor their own newsgroups.
Rapidly overtaking newsgroup exchanges. Users can exchange information in public in real time and the downside is that there is no opportunity to leave a message one day and see responses to it later. Its faster than e-mail! Chat sites regularly feature in the top 25 most visited sites in the home. The relationship between people in chat rooms is quite close and personal. The range of chat sites is enormous and monitoring them all, all the time is not possible without the appropriate technology. Chat users often multi-task.
The BBC broadcasts its mid day current affairs programme. There are indications that it will be even more interactive. Telecasts and soundcasting over the Internet brings people on-line to Web pages (and buy products) when prompted by broadcasters. The active Internet PR person getting coverage in on-line broadcasts. For Webcast users tuned to television and radio stations streaming live programming, advertising provides an immediate opportunity to buy product on-line. It also provides an opportunity to interact with the programmers and Webcast provider and to react to news, events and opinion.
The Internet Society is made up of many thousands of communities. They take many forms. Most people are active in a variety of groups. There are Web site based communities such as the company Web site. The Internet has inverted the few-to-many architecture of the broadcast age. There is a commercial opportunity to be gained from virtual communities. An Internet community may have a loose, permanent or, frequently, temporary coalition with virtual communities with different agendas. Frequently, members of one group will carry information from group to group. The nature of Internet communities is change with groups forming and fading. The relative anonymity of communities (chat, newsgroup, bulletin board etc) means people tend to say things they would normally not articulate.
A Local company needs a local virtual presence. Maintaining a link with local communities through local stakeholders is a very helpful means of enhancing virtual presence. If the local retailer can enhance its presence. There is a growing number of local Internet gateway. The relevance of these local communities and the local gateways is the element of trust.
There are Internet communities in most companies. Some of them operate inside and, additionally, outside the organisation. Companies should take reasonable precautions so in the event of a problem they can say they have tried to prevent misuse of their system. The key for managing these communities is within the corporate culture. Managers have to make clear what behaviours are not acceptable and those that can be damaging to company, colleagues and future prospects. The company must have a reputation (and ethics) policy. There are precedents for ethical use. Internal staff communities can be good, helpful and healthy.
Internet communities have a sense of monetary value. A portion of the perceived consumer value is based on a time element as well as the cash value. One of the most dynamic parts of the Internet is the growth of on-line auctions. The perceived value of goods and services fall within the traditional area of marketing. However, the 'second hand' or more properly the 'second transfer' of value often has an element of reputation attached to it.
Most companies also need a view as to how their on-line marketing is affecting the business. Some of the biggest brand names in the world have withstood a barrage of Internet criticism for years. Favourable comment is effective. Coalition between the Internet Society with another and powerful form of society before a significant reaction takes place. Getting a person to return too a site manifests itself in new or added sales. Identifying where in the buying cycle the visitors looses interest, seeks more information or leaves the site. Harm to reputation as manifest in the Internet Society, is quite specific. Equally, the range of company activities under scrutiny, affects the company.
Have demonstrated a sense of solidarity, "they have nevertheless contributed to the fragmented cultural and political landscape of the United States..." Communications do not offer a utopia, but they do offer a unique channel for publishing and communicating. Do voters simply "feel involved" or actually participate? The American political parties will not dare ignore the Internet in the Presidential election. On-line communication can bring about off-line activity is well proven. There are significant political communities evident in Internet Society.
Most companies have a Web site. Most people don’t visit it. It is important that Web sites are well designed, have rich content, are a gateway to information, and are interactive. A three month old Web site is like a year old shop window. Marketing Web sites on and off-line is imperative. The Internet Community has its own branding concepts for commercial presence. There is no doubt that branding is important and that it is needed to create a symbiosis between consumer and company on the Internet.
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