Mark Twain is said to have coined the phrase, “A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is still putting on its shoes.” Twain died in 1910. One wonders what he would have thought of a world dominated by social media because his comment is truer today than ever.
Just a decade ago, it was a much different situation. Public relations counselors would occasionally get calls from potential clients who needed to dispel a bad reputation – mostly earned, unfortunately. This is not the best time to contact a PR firm. It’s much easier to begin a PR firm-client relationship with a company that already has a good reputation – or even a reputation that is essentially a blank slate.
The problem isn’t that a company’s bad reputation cannot be turned around; it just takes time and is often hindered if a company doesn’t want to change its practices – just the negative perception its practices have generated. In these cases, the PR firm ends up spending a lot of time trying to convince company executives that there are no magic wands that can make reality disappear. The company actually has to change the way it does things. Perhaps due to the overuse of the word “spin” to describe what PR people do, these company executives expect a miraculous turnaround.
But now, it can be even worse for companies who are not prepared. Disgruntled former employees, disappointed customers, and competitors can fill online “review” sites with negative comments – earned or not. Damaging blog posts, photos and videos can spread to literally millions of people before their content can be disputed or explained away.
Entire businesses have sprung up to deal with online reputation management.
And yet, the basic PR approach still applies: Build a positive reputation to begin with, and it will be easier to control any attacks on your reputation down the road. No “spin” involved.