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How do I ensure that I have control of the "online brand" on my company? Any practical advice?

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Topic Expert
Phyllis Proffer
Title: Owner, Investor Relations Counselor
Company: The Heights Company, LLC
(Owner, Investor Relations Counselor, The Heights Company, LLC) |

“Online brand” is a broad topic, so please let me know if this answer focuses on the issue for which you are seeking practical advice. The answer below refers to managing the reputation of your company and/or management team.

The first step in managing your company’s reputation online is to monitor it on a regular basis. You will want to assess the accuracy of the content, frequency of posts and impact the information posted has on your company’s access to the capital markets on the best possible terms. Spend time on reliable sources of information which have enough credibility with the financial community to have a measurable impact.

The second step in managing your company’s reputation online or otherwise is to involve your legal counsel in the discussion. Most companies have a disclosure committee and that would be a great place to discuss the sources of information that detract from your company’s reputation and develop appropriate responses.

If a news service publishes inaccurate information about your company online, treat it the same as you would if the information appeared in print or broadcast. Contact the reporter and ask for a correction.

If a data service publishes inaccurate information about your company online such as Capital IQ on Yahoo Finance, you will want to correct it. However, data services draw from a number of different resources and correcting the information could take considerable time and diligence to find the source in order to correct the inaccurate information. It is worth the effort.

Opinions expressed on blogs and/or chat rooms about your company and/or management team are more difficult to manage and I’m guessing this is at the heart of your question. It is a common frustration in the electronic age due to the rapid flow of information by anyone who has access to the Internet. The information may not be factual and the opinions may not be well-informed or fair.

Sources of inaccurate information or unfounded opinions which are never validated will lose credibility over time. Monitoring external sources of information about your company will help you separate annoying nuisances from real threats to the reputation or public image of your company and management team.

Several years ago, I was the vice president of investor relations at a public company involved in a turnaround with a completely new executive management team. Employees were posting negative comments about the management team and our turnaround efforts on public chat rooms viewed by the financial community. The negative views expressed were not helpful toward our branding efforts with the financial community. However, the comments were helpful toward developing communication to increase employees’ understanding of the changes that were occurring at their company and the important role they had in the turnaround.

The online chats became less frequent and populated over time. Well in advance of this change, the financial community stopped asking about information discussed in chat rooms because it was no longer viewed as a reliable source of information. The information didn’t accurately predict future financial results.

At the end of the day, it is better to focus on the things you can control. We couldn’t control the information on the chat rooms, but we could disprove the views expressed by achieving our corporate goals. We more than tripled our market cap in less than five years by focusing on the turnaround, improving our profitability and creating comprehensive and timely communications to keep our existing and prospective shareholders informed on a regular basis

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