This week we interview our founder, Shannon Wilkinson. She discusses the online reputation management (ORM) industry, the goals of the clients it serves and the types of services Reputation Communications offers.
How does Reputation Communications differ from other online reputation management firms?
We specialize in providing guidance and solutions for executives, leaders and professionals in business, culture, law enforcement and philanthropy, as well as their organizations. That includes artists, authors and their representatives.
We have made a point of taking a leadership role in the industry by contributing to consumers’ understanding of online reputation management. There is a lot of conflicting information out there, and this can be confusing for them. So we have published extensive educational content, and links to other reliable resources, on our You(Online) blog. It has attracted readers from all over the world.
Who is your average client?
Someone who is not highly active on social media but has a visible presence on the Internet due to media coverage of their career, company or initiatives.
In the majority of our cases, clients have not been proactive in taking ownership of their online image. Often they just want to create a polished personal brand on the Internet. Sometimes a crisis, major or minor, has prompted them to start actively managing it. Increasingly we are the second online reputation management provider they have used when a first one has been ineffective or not the right fit.
What kind of help do they seek?
Everyone has a specific goal. They want to know how it can be met, how long it will take and what it will cost.
Some clients are too invisible online and want to create a distinctive online presence. Others have too much visibility, but their online image is dominated by third-party content. It isn’t negative or inappropriate, but it doesn’t represent them authentically. Because we have a history of building a strong media presence for clients, sometimes they utilize us to begin building or expanding one.
Common reasons our clients reach out to us include online legal notices and media coverage that might be years old, or pertain to a personal or professional crisis. Often the material that shows up at the top of Google results isn’t necessarily negative, just out of date. It doesn’t reflect our client’s current brand. We can fix that.
Other clients come to us looking for different outcomes. Some are concerned with protecting their personal lives. They are closely watched, and their private lives are drawn into the public sphere—regardless of whether they want that. We help them create a digital defense so third-party reportage about their lives doesn’t take control over their image. Or, their personal data is published on several “people search” databases. We remove it.
What are common issues businesses face?
Businesses are now grappling with consumer and employee reviews and how to best manage them. We often consult on that issue and recommend the best review management systems for their type of issue. Companies also seek help updating or editing Wikipedia entries.
Several businesses we have worked with used public relations or crisis management strategies to try and improve an online reputation issue, but it didn’t work. ORM utilizes optimization and SEO techniques that such programs often lack.
What is the most common mistake that causes online reputation issues?
Not being proactive in taking ownership of your name on the Internet.
Closely following that is the related problem of waiting too long to address an issue. Three years is the average amount of time many of our clients have waited before taking action.
How does Reputation Communications’ approach differ from other providers?
We are different from the ORM providers that market themselves online to individuals. We don’t advertise and don’t have an 800 number. Our approach would not be appropriate for the customers those providers are pursuing—most often people that are looking for a fast and inexpensive way to “suppress” unwanted online content. That is usually a low-priced, low-quality solution that Google and other search engines frown upon. For that reason, we don’t use the word “suppress.” Nor do we use mass-market suppression techniques. We replace online content. We also don’t promise a quick fix. ORM can take weeks or months.
Our clients are generally very careful with their brand, both online and off. Our strategies don’t involve any actions that dilute a client’s online image with generic or low-quality content. Many of our clients are as concerned with building a stronger brand as they are with repairing reputation damage, if they have any.
Often we do restructure search results and displace content from page one of Google search results. This requires creating new material and optimizing it to ensure it replaces the old. Our clientele base needs high-quality content that is appropriate to their brands and adds value. That scenario is our specialty.
Except for some social media content creation services, we don’t work offshore. Privacy is the main reason. We are accustomed to working offline and meeting confidential needs.
What is your pricing structure?
Our most accessible service is our consultations, which cost $500. That is a two-hour service in which we assess a situation and advise the client on the most effective ways to mitigate it or reach their goals. We created this service to help new clients make the right decisions regarding best approaches, strategies and—sometimes—providers.
Our next level is our consulting service, which encompasses 20 hours of counsel. It can be utilized over a three-month period, costs $5,000 and is most often used by clients who can implement a program independently but need a strategic plan and our guidance.
Our other services average $2,500 to $5,000 monthly for content creation and media representation, and can be higher for enterprise-level organizations or VIPs. Pricing is higher for clients that have a large amount of online content and need a more comprehensive program. Our full price list is available on our Services page.
Design and IT services are additional and are billed by the hour and the project. Our team creates extensive digital content and we have a large network to draw from for special projects. We also have an extensive public relations background which is summarized in Our Story.
An ORM campaign often requires six to twelve months to substantially change the structure of search results. So we aim to provide our clients with the best range of approaches to choose from. That includes our Reputation Reboot advice column, Essential FAQ overview and related help at You(Online) They can tell a lot about our approach by reading that material.
Shannon Wilkinson is the founder and CEO of Reputation Communications. She is a frequent contributor to The Wall Street Journal’s “Crisis of the Week” column and is often interviewed in the media about reputation management issues and practices. She is a co-creator of Coptics: Policing in the Digital Age, a consulting and workshop program for law enforcement professionals.
This is the fourth in a series of interviews with experts whose work relates to online reputation management.