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UNR author: Monitoring online reputation grows important

John Seelmeyer

Companies that care about their reputation, says Judy Strauss, need to be paying consistent probably daily attention to what’s said about them online.

And the associate professor of marketing at the University of Nevada, Reno, says the burgeoning popularity of social media provide companies a new opportunity to build a positive on-line presence for themselves.

Working with co-author Andy Beal, Strauss has written a guide to management of on-line reputations, “Radically Transparent.” The book published by Sybex/Wiley is in bookstores this month.

A big challenge companies face, Strauss said over a cup of tea the other day, is that new media move so quickly that reputations can be tarnished in a matter of days.

“Word of mouth no longer is a few people talking over the back fence,” she said. “Reputations take a long time to build, and they can be ruined quickly.”

Then, too, the rise of social media means companies have far fewer secrets.

“Everything about a company is visible on-line. If there is a secret memo, it is going to be on-line quickly, and it will mushroom,” Strauss said.

The new book details steps companies can take to monitor and protect their on-line reputations. Google Alert, for instance, allows companies to learn almost instantly whenever their name appears somewhere on-line.

And the authors lay out steps companies can take to create a positive on-line presence. Those steps range from press releases drafted with social networking sites in mind to use of search engine optimization to keep a company’s Web sites highly visible.

“Radically transparent means being open and honest online, admitting mistakes, engaging stakeholders in discussions about you and your brands, and even revealing your internal processes,” Strauss said.

Befitting the book’s online subject matter, its writers haven’t yet met in person, conducting their work via e-mail and occasional telephone calls.

Strauss, who previously wrote three textbooks, began developing the concept for the new book during brainstorming sessions with David LaPlante, chief executive officer of the Reno-based Twelve Horses online marketing company.

They began talking about a jointly written book on reputation management, but LaPlante was too busy with other projects to proceed. Instead, Strauss hooked up with Beal, a writer and consultant in Raleigh, N.C.

About eight months of serious writing delivered a finished manuscript to the publisher in November, and Sybex/Wiley moved quickly to get the book on shelves while the subject is fresh.

“I think we caught this at the cutting edge,” Strauss said.