Metrics Buzz

Doesn’t the discipline of reputation management fall squarely in the domain of the PR professional? Apparently no longer in today’s land grab of blurred marketing functions.

Nielsen Buzzmetrics’s Pete Blackshaw, no stranger to the word-of-mouth marketing measurement scene, now sees gold in the execution of online reputation management programs.

In a ClickZ piece today, penned by Doug Quenqua, former AdWeek features editor and PR Week DC bureau chief, the ratings company plunged head first into the corporate reputation management biz:

CGM (consumer-generated media) has moved into the C-suite, and executives and brand managers face an unprecedented range of choices, from how much to invest in digital marketing to how to leverage social media in public relations,” Blackshaw said in a statement. “We’re able to educate clients and help them make the right choices to seize digital opportunities to connect with consumers and grow their brands.”

Now this is all well and good. What forward-thinking marketing executive wouldn’t want to transcend the pigeon-holed analytics business and sit in the C-suite? (Isn’t he already doing this?) And how can any modern marketer even consider mending a reputation without a decent analytics tool to validate his plan of action?

Nonetheless, it’ll take more than just good analytics if Nielsen expects to succeed. (Hey wasn’t there skepticism when IBM got into the IT consulting business?) Analytics must be combined with a solid grounding in the tools and tactics of today’s trade, let alone a honed, instinctive sensibility of how to act. Authenticity is a good start.

Also, Nielsen is not alone in keeping its ear attuned to the online conversation. There are many such offerings. My friend and sometimes collaborator Rob Key of Converseon has a decent conversation mining tool built into its “search engine reputation management” offering. What’s more: Rob even toiled for a time in the PR industry.

So what’s next after you’ve captured and analyzed all that damning data? Knee-jerk with a huge blogger engagement program? Ignore the rumble until some A-list blogger or MSM outlet picks up on it? Create and optimize your own content in an effort to neutralize naysayers? Here’s a hint from Blackshaw and company:

“When a consumer goes sour on a brand now, they leave a digital trail online” that can be found not just by other consumers but “lawyers, reporters, analysts, and other influencers that can really begin to cast aspersion on and erode the reputation of your brand,” Blackshaw said.

Blackshaw, author of the upcoming book on customer service online strategies, “Satisfied Customers Tell Three Friends, Angry Customers Tell 3,000: Running a Business in Today’s Consumer-Driven World,” also stressed the importance of authenticity when interacting with consumers online. “They can see through the bull. They are looking for more authentic interactions with brands. Which is why you now see a lot of CMOs starting to blog.”

Writing on the wall, PR people: if you hope to salvage the core PR competency of reputation management, you better first find yourself an analytics engine or firm to mine the online conversation — a natural spawning ground for reputational rumblings — and then determine how best to proceed from there.