Reputation Management is the practice of shaping public perception by influencing information about an entity. This concept holds tremendous importance when it comes to business, whether local or international. In the internet age, news spreads so fast through different digital mediums that one needs to be ultra-responsive – after all, it only takes a moment for consumers to form their own perception, whether negative or positive, about the entity in question.
This perception is highly dependent on the extent to which the practices of a company are ethical and providing value for money. Companies are constantly under the threat of bad public perception, more so if their CSR policies are questionable or non-existent – it only takes one bad tweet or Facebook post to set off an avalanche of bad publicity! Consumer perception is therefore all the more critical now and can make or break a company, thus increasing the importance of having a handle on digital media.
Digitalization as I see it is the ‘one second’ management of a situation because it takes less than a second for it to go viral. Here’s a sample scenario: imagine that someone with a social presence, not necessary a large one, is having issues with power at his/her end. All it will take is for this person to go online and make a negative post/video about it and through viral sharing, it will soon appear like an entire region is facing catastrophic problems.

Now, reputation management of a crisis like this is critical and sometimes even provides us the opportunity to spin the narrative in a positive way for ourselves. In the aforementioned scenario for instance, with people talking about your company negatively, why not turn it on its head and make it a positive experience for all by having the management provide vocal and rapid response and feedback about the problem, while adopting a soothing and humble tone. Therefore, top management needs regular training on crisis management as digitalization is a new addition to the PR cycle and not something that top management has experienced previously.
Reputation management does not happen in a day, and one has to be skilled in multiple business environments to be able to do that. It might take 10 to 12 years for a professional to be able to get ready to do that as you have to know the essence of the whole business and understand it to full extent.
In Pakistan, people are more prone to listening to news rather than entertainment, which makes reputation management crucial in developing countries like ours. People in such countries have recently become exposed to digital media and thus, are more prone to take it at face value and form strong opinions based on whatever news they see online. In a lot of cases, in particular based on cultural norms, such opinions may end up being considered the truth even over reality! Faced with a challenge as strong as that, Pakistani companies need to embrace and adopt reputation management among in their business practices at earliest!

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Fakhar has over eighteen years of diversified management experience in Communications, Media Relations, Corporate Affairs, FMCG Business, Strategic Planning, CSR, Investor Relations and International Development. His portfolio includes Nestlé (China and Pakistan, including work in Afghanistan, Aga Khan Development Network, UNDP & USAID Projects, Banking, Finance and public sector organizations. Fakhar has been on the board of various Development Sector organizations, and has been associated with multi sector development initiatives locally and internationally.