Reputation Marketing or Reputation Management: What’s the difference and why do they matter?

A brand’s reputation is like gold dust, and something which organisations large and small dedicate vast swathes of time and significant spending to maintain. But when reputation is so important to customer loyalty and ultimately sales, is simply maintaining or managing your reputation enough?

Seeing brand reputation as something to be maintained or managed implies two things; that you are seeking to keep a minimum standard of image, and that this reputation is a potential source of problems if that image goes awry. Yet by seeing reputation as a problem to be solved, this in many ways prevents brands from nurturing and actively promoting their reputation when it is positive.

Here lies the difference between reputation marketing and reputation management, both of which have differing functions and merits.  This week we have the rundown on what these two terms mean, and when and how each can be employed by brands as part of their marketing strategy.

Reputation Management

Although organisations try their utmost to preserve a positive reputation, occasionally challenges can present themselves which require ‘reputation management’ and even rebuilding.

Business Dictionary defines ‘reputation management’ as ‘activities performed by an organization which attempt to maintain or create a certain frame of mind regarding themselves in the public eye.’ It is suggested that once an organisation has identified what customers feel about their brand, ‘taking steps to ensure that the general consensus is in line with the brand’s goals’ is important.

One example of a brand using reputation management to overcome its image problem is Uber, which in recent months has been hit by a long series of scandals. From the #deleteuber trend that swept the internet in January (following the decision to continue to service taxis from JFK airport during President Donald Trump’s travel ban), to the resignation of CEO Travis Kalanick after accusations about his treatment of staff and women, there has been no shortage of negative press for the brand.

In situations such as this, there really is little option but for a brand to employ reputation management as a form of damage control. Marketing Week commented on Uber’s need and desire to begin rebuilding its reputation, and sees the launch of its first UK TV advertisement as indicative of this strategy. With the aim ‘to represent the possibilities available when using the Uber app’ and highlight a multi-platform strategy which will see engagement across TV, out-of-home, online, cinema and press, Uber is a clear case of how reputation management needs to be employed in problematic periods for a brand.

Reputation Marketing

Although less discussed than reputation management, reputation marketing is in fact a valuable tool which is under employed by brands seeking to maintain strong client relationships. Last summer Steve Olenski, Forbes contributor and Director of CMO content at Oracle, argued that ‘many brands and business owners associate "reputation management" with "crisis management", and do not think about it as an element of strategy until there is already a problem.’

Olenski believes that this is not a positive way for marketers and strategists to interact with the notion of brand reputation. At the centre of Olenski’s attitude is the notion that ‘reputation, consisting of mentions, comments, recommendations and reviews across a buzzing, shape-shifting universe of online publishers and apps isn't a problem centre but a value centre for brands and businesses.’ By shifting this perception towards understanding the value inherent in reputation marketing rather than management, brands can begin to foster a healthier relationship with the notion.

For Olenski, reputation marketing consists of a number of facets, and he suggests that through monitoring, acquisition and amplification, not only of customer reviews but also other platforms such as social media mentions, online forums and traditional press, brands can make the shift from reputation management to marketing.

Business2Community also has a number of practical steps that organisations can take to move towards reputation marketing, including not to underestimate the power of word of mouth in spreading information about your brand during times when reputations are positive. Being where your customers are is also an important insight, as the value of positive brand promotion will be lessened if your choice of platform does not match the engagement habits of your audience.

By appreciating these nuances and seeing brand reputation as more than something to be managed in a time of crisis, organisations can fully capitalise upon the inherent value of self-promotion and reputation marketing.

Reputation Marketing or Reputation Management: What’s the difference and why do they matter?