The internet has become ground zero for an iterative shift in human information production, development, dissemination, and control. For a good 15 or 20 years, it was the “wild wild west” online. Now, big companies with global reach transcending countries, control what is produced, how it is shared, what does and doesn’t go viral, and much more.
Accordingly, the online reputation defining a given brand is actually very important, as it can in part determine whether or not you’re even visible as a company. Sometimes there are “outlaws” online that build their reputations around big companies trying to silence them, and incidentally facilitating the Streisand Effect. Most businesses aren’t of that kind.
Wherever you stand on such issues, it’s very important to carefully design corporate outreach such that what you do online has a positive effect on your intended reputation overall. While what is and isn’t positive may depend on a given organization, managing that reputation in either direction requires concerted conscious effort.
In this writing, we’ll explore several reasons that strongly indicate reputation importance. Whether the image your business is going for leans into the “bad boy” side of things, or you’re trying to be “wholesome” in congruence with trending ideas of the day, you’ll want to think about the following points.
1. Increasingly Turbulent Visibility Controls
Dr. Seuss has been largely “canceled”. So has “Mr. Potato Head”. Whether or not you think the reasoning behind this is sound, the truth remains that market factors and online outrage is behind both. Now, Hasbro has since withdrawn their rebranding of Mr. Potato Head as Potato Head. Even so, politics are at a point where common Americana is being questioned.
Anybody can get in trouble with the outrage mob for anything. Just speaking colloquially puts a company in danger of that mob aiming its sights, just or unjust, in their direction. Your reputation may be golden until a single CEO makes one comment that is disagreed with, and suddenly you’re “enemy number one”.
Fair? Well, it’s not really “fair”. Balanced? By no means. But real, prescient, and affecting? You bet. Whether you think this is right or wrong, it’s absolutely integral to understand the way in which you will be perceived by the public at large through the lens of the internet. Certainly, it distorts things. The right or wrong may be immaterial here—impact of that distortion is not.
It can be worthwhile to work with consulting agencies and hire PR people as a sort of filter to assure whatever corporate culture defines your brand is communicated to the public at large online. Sometimes you’re going to want them mad at you, sometimes you won’t. Every company is different. But know the impact what you say online will have.
2. Bad Reviews Spoil Quality Products
Look at the disparity between how some films are reviewed by critics, and how they’re reviewed by conventional filmgoers. Unfortunately, there’s a big disconnect here. Often good films are called bad, and bad films are called good. Certainly the definition of good or bad here is contingent on the personal taste of viewers, but there’s a collateral effect.
When a reviewer gives something a “thumbs down”, many people trust that reviewer over their own “tastes”. Bad reviews spoil good films all the time. A great example is the controversial film Joker, which came out in 2019. Look at the disparity on Rotten Tomatoes. As of 3/14/2021, 583 reviewers averaged 68%, while 5,000+ viewers averaged 88%.
Now that’s “up” from earlier knee-jerk reactions to the film. If you remember the controversy on this movie when it hit the box office, it was intense. The critics hated this movie; general audiences did not. There was an inverse effect in that the bad reviews and the controversy actually spurned more people to see the film, and it broke the billion-dollar barrier.
That said, bad reviews don’t always result in controversy which stimulates curiosity in a sort of “Streisand Effect” way. So you can’t count on that. Bad reviews, deserved or not, can undermine productivity. With that in mind, understand that reputation influences reviews, and act to structure public relations online accordingly.
“Your reputation precedes you”
3. Online Reputation Affects Product Impact
Even if you get some of the best possible product label design in the industry, as, for example, may be acquired through companies like Deepking Labels, a poor reputation can restrict buyers from purchasing what you produce.
The cancel mob has become bi-political, and as soon as some company’s output starts trending negatively with one group or another, it gets quickly boycotted. This has always been, to some degree, the case for industry; the internet has merely compounded and magnified the effect.
Now, instead of a “slow-burn” of controversy causing a slow boycott, some little thing happens and, instantaneously, those who are “in the know” decide they’ll never buy anything from you again. So beyond reviews, another way solid products are lost in the shuffle is when generalized reputation comes into the picture.
Also Read: Review Gone Wrong: Errors Made in Rating and Solution
4. How Reputation is Managed Can Affect Business Trajectory
It is a valid business model to lean into the outrage mob and use them to your advantage, but it’s a risky gamble, and it can really blow up in your face if you don’t get the balance right. That said, some companies lean into the outrage mob to great success. Especially if your target demographic is antithetical to this mob, then you’re kind of playing a “bad boy” game.
The “bad boy” is attractive. There’s such a thing as “punk rock”. This was the whole business model of punks in the seventies and eighties: to be so contradictory to mainstream culture they lead the vanguard of “counterculture” which was the other direction. Well, today’s “mainstream” has switched polarity. The “counterculture” movement was so successful, it became mainstream.
Now, the “old world” culture that was yesteryear’s mainstream is the counterculture. And likely another shift in polarity will impact businesses as time goes by. What do you do with that information? Well, if you’re “edgy”, then challenge the status quo, and make that a business model. This can affect your overall trajectory.
Online reputation is a great way to do that; getting “banned” can actually produce solid returns if you’re positioned by a negative internet reputation as a sort of underdog. However, this is a big gamble, and for most businesses, such a move won’t be appropriate. Get consultation, and whatever you do, follow through a hundred percent.
5. Reputations Impact First Impressions, Which Can’t Be Remade
If your reputation is a “bad boy”, those visiting your company’s online materials for the first time will assume you’re a “bad boy”; that means you’ll have to live up to that reputation. If you don’t, they’ll mentally label you a hypocrite and never return. You can’t remake a first impression.
By contrast, if your reputation is as a reliable pop-culture leader, then that will similarly be the expectations of those interacting with you for the first time. Should you fail them, demonstrating yourself to be a common follower, likewise they’ll never think of you as you intend going forward.
The saying goes: “Your reputation precedes you”. So, whatever online reputation you manage to create will precede the first-time interaction of many new customers in regard to your brand. Accordingly, know what reputation you want them to encounter, and live up to that reputation as best you can.
Design Corporate Culture Around Optimizing Online Reputation
So which side of the modern cultural war are you on? Are you playing both ends against the middle? Are you with the “bad boys”? Are you following the “trends?” It doesn’t really matter, except to your bottom line; and to that end, online reputation is key.