Is reputation management taken seriously by Indian companies?
NM: Not really. India is still gearing up to the need of managing reputation. With corporate scams and greater community awareness coming to the forefront, eg Satyam, companies now understand the need for ongoing reputation management and governance.In fact with emergence of social media, reputations are now formed and sustained as much on Twitter or Facebook as they are in press releases or the public affairs department. We hope in coming years there will be a paradigm shift in the way companies look at PR.
AM: What makes reputation management so critical in today’s world is the connected world where information travels at the speed of light. Every bit of information about the company is now available on the net and it remains there forever. A positive reputation is earned through multiple positive acts over a long period of time but once spoilt, it is difficult to earn it back. Once the reputation is damaged, the scar remains almost forever. This fact coupled with new age media has made reputation management a critical issue for corporates.
Do Indian companies realise the difference between normal PR and reputation management?
NM: With large multi-national companies setting base in India and Indian companies now setting operations globally, there is a need to communicate with diverse audiences and local environments. Organisations rarely have a single reputation, but rather enjoy different reputations with diverse stakeholder clusters like reputation among employees is different to that of their customers or suppliers. Companies are realising the importance of reputation management and agencies like ours are now proactively working on mandates that go beyond traditional PR with great emphasis on reputation management.
AM: Reputation management goes beyond regular PR and Indian companies are increasingly using reputation management as a larger component of their PR strategy. This is because PR in India is aligned with global trends. Indian companies today realize that search engines index information “permanently”. Even if you manage to get some “positive buzz” right on the front page, the negative information will probably still be there – right in front of their faces. Any negative sentiment may expose a brand to larger reputation-al damage and Indian companies have integrated online reputation management into their overall PR strategies.
Are Indian companies looking at proactive reputation management strategies?
NM: The management of reputation to the wider community of customers or prospective customers is growing in importance as they are drivers of opinion and key influencers for business strategies. Managing reputation amongst diverse stakeholder groups can be relatively well scoped and thus when we get on new clients, we undertake a comprehensive exercise to identify their key influencers prior to developing their annual campaign that goes beyond media.
AM: Indian companies, in the B2C and B2B space like Telecom, FMCG, life insurance, IT among others realize the importance of engaging 24x7 with customers and tapping the World Wide Web to build reputations and protect the brand image. There is proactive focus and reputation management is a strategic element of communication strategies among Indian companies.
Should reputation management be a focus area for Indian companies? Why?
NM: It is critical that every company should now start monitoring their reputation closely. Many companies struggle with the concept of reputation and tend to be drawn first to internal reputation and usually expend their energy on internal perceptions at the expense of external and holistic viewpoints. It is essential for agencies to proactively educate clients and equip them for unforeseen situations.
AM: Reputation is of critical importance in both B2B and B2C space. While B2B companies have focused on triple bottom line or sustainability reporting where companies report the impact of their actions on environment, society and economy, in B2C business customer service has assumed critical importance.
Which are the categories where you believe reputation management is imperative?
NM: Reputation is critical for all categories as every company is dealing with varied audiences that come from diverse environments and cultures.
AM: Reputation is critical for every business. In the past few years we have seen reputations of organizations with long standing getting marred by one incident whether in automobile, financial services or petroleum industry. With increasing customer awareness of their rights and environmental consciousness, companies need to be vigilant of the impact of their actions on various stakeholders. It is important that Indian corporate world should pro-actively start focusing on actions which would create positive reputation and ensure sustainable growth of their business.