Online Reputation Management: Desperately Seeking Content

The benefits of a strong online presence are many: from building relationships with your customers to being your first line of defense in a reputational crisis. The best way to develop that presence is with frequently updated content that is interesting to your customers and target audiences.

Are you in an industry that isn’t often written about? Perhaps it even seems like there isn’t much to be said about it? [Read more…]

An Image Shift for Microsoft?

Bloomberg Businessweek writes that “Microsoft Tablet Must Shed Office Image to Challenge IPad.”

Microsoft is expected to soon begin previewing a tablet. But for too long the company been associated with the workplace, and it needs to build on the entertainment bona fides it established with the Xbox if it wants to compete with Apple in the tablet market. [Read more…]

LinkedIn Crisis Highlights Big Data Challenges

When LinkedIn fell victim to hackers earlier this month, it wasn’t just the social networking site’s reputation that was at risk, but also the data and privacy of more than 6 million of its users. Nicole Perlroth’s New York Times article goes straight to the heart of the issue: “LinkedIn is a data company that did not protect its data.” [Read more…]

Harvard’s Nieman Foundation Examines Gawker

The Nieman Foundation at Harvard published this fascinating article by Andrew Phelps, which touches issues central to both old and new media. It examines Gawker’s strategy of dedicating a small number of journalists to pumping out attention (and page-view) grabbing short posts so the other journalists can focus on longer-form pieces. It may be hard to imagine, but is this a strategy more traditional media outlets could adopt to save long-form journalism? [Read more…]

When a Better Image Produces a Better Reality

A recent New York Times article on Lawrence, Massachusetts’ quest for a better reputation offers a great example of how a concerted effort to forge a better image can have a real impact on a community.

With years of high crime and unemployment as well as lackluster education and local government, Lawrence’s image has suffered so much that Boston Magazine recently called it “the most godforsaken place in Massachusetts.” Spurred by such harsh words, a group of citizens launched We Are Lawrence, a campaign to reshape the city’s reputation. Acknowledging that they “cannot put more officers on the streets,” We Are Lawrence opted instead for “small steps that might revitalize the city, fostering pride and economic development by highlighting its robust history.” [Read more…]

Case Study: CNN Signals an Image Change

With its April ratings reaching their lowest point in a decade and primetime ratings the lowest in two decades, CNN’s reputation as the best source for hard news seems to no longer be enough. But rather than adopting a reputation for partisanship like those that have helped MSNBC and Fox News attract larger audiences, the Time Warner-owned network is attempting to expand its range beyond the realm of breaking news.

CNN continues to be the first place audiences go for serious news coverage. It beat its rivals’ ratings the night of the last presidential election and saw better numbers during this year’s primaries and debates and last year’s Egypt coverage. But its ratings rise and fall with the news cycle. “It does have a great reputation and a great global brand name for the casual news viewer,” former CNN researcher Brad Adgate told TVNewser. “The news is still the star at CNN and it isn’t necessarily the star at other cable news networks.”

Expanding Into Areas Beyond Its Core Strength

The network’s recent acquisition of globetrotting chef Anthony Bourdain from the Travel Network and anchor John Berman from ABC News, as well as its decision to turn to more outside producers for its documentary programs, suggests that CNN is aiming to smooth out its ratings roller coaster by expanding into areas beyond its core strength. It clear CNN does not want to give up its reputation for hard news. In the Wall Street Journal, Time Warner executives stressed “that ratings aren’t the only measure of the channel’s value, pointing to its reach online and overseas and its status as the outlet that viewers turn to when there is big news.” Its revocation of a job offer to the Fox News producer responsible for a controversial anti-Obama video indicates that CNN won’t trade in that status for the more politically charged reputations that have worked for its competitors.

But with these moves, are they leveraging their brand, or diluting it? CNN Worldwide VP Mark Whitaker described Bourdain as “a great addition to CNN’s team as we continue to broaden our coverage of news that impacts our audience’s lifestyles,” and Politico speculates that Berman’s addition to CNN’s “Early Start” morning program “may also signal an effort to move the tone of the program away from the news desk and toward the informal, kitchen-table model that has been so successful for MSNBC’s ‘Morning Joe.’”

The Experts Weigh In

The New York Times’ Brian Stelter highlights the fact that CNN is still performing well financially, but he’s not alone in acknowledging that it ranking against other networks “drives public perception — and employee pride — and declines there may gradually damage CNN’s networks as a whole.” Talking to TVNewser, CNN co-founder Reese Schonfeld offers a similar perspective: “CNN is the flagship of the entire CNN brand, and if it sinks it may destroy the entire organization.” Last month Poynter.com summarized a few other takes, including that of NYU journalism professor Jay Rosen, who wrote last year that “defining itself as ‘not MSNBC’ and ‘not Fox’ begs the question of what CNN actually is.”

We don’t know how successful CNN will be in expanding its programming, but building upon its existing strengths and preserving its core values clearly seems like the correct move, especially when MSNBC and Fox News are already known for slanting to the left and right. Bourdain may burnish the network’s image as a cultured, global source, and Berman will contribute to its reputation for news coverage, even if his approach is softer. Turner Broadcasting CEO Phil Kent hinted that more changes could be on the horizon, so it will be interesting to see how CNN’s reputation evolves as more faces (and programs) come and go.