Online reputation management for pharmaceutical companies

PatientView studies indicate that in terms of reputation, the pharmaceutical industry occupied, in 2012, the seventh position among the eight health sectors that were studied. Patients highlight as the main negative aspects of the sector the lack of fair price policies, lack of transparency, management of negative news -or crisis management- and integrity. Let’s focus on the practice of transparency by the pharmaceutical companies and the opportunities and risks of media and social networks on the internet.

There are good news and bad news about media and social networks. The bad news is that the social web and its different platforms are new means of communication that don’t make things easier for the industry when it comes to reputation, since they broaden the array of information that is contrary to the interests of the industry, they make easier the spreading of negative news, or, which is the same thing, rumors, and orchestrated campaigns.

The good news is that the pharmaceutical industry can use digital communications within a strategy of transparency increase. Transparency, in the corporate environment, can be defined as the capacity that an organization has to share its information, not hiding them from their interest groups. It’s something difficult to put into practice because every business has its confidential and sensitive information, and many times due to legal matters and other strategic issues, it’s not possible nor desirable to offer too much transparency.

Companies in the sector, for instance, have patents, they do scientific research, they have competitive strategies, they move in a highly regulated market, and so on. What they don’t lack is sensitive topics by which they prefer -or don’t prefer- to divulge information. However, the very nature of their activities -that is, the quest for solutions to improve human health- place them in the center of society’s attentions, which means, they are obligated, in one way or another, to be transparent.

So we find ourselves facing a dilemma, brilliantly defined as the dichotomy of control and credibility by Richard Edelman, one of the most important experts in public relations in the world: More control, less credibility. More credibility, less control -of their image, for instance-.

In this case, knowing the risks in the world of the social networks, if companies can use the internet to their benefit, it’s necessary to implement a robust model of reputation management to make the actions of transparency increase generate positive results. Said online reputation management model can offer deciders of companies a safe guideline to incur into social networks and media, since it contemplates practically every relevant point for managing online reputation, from the definition of a strategy, until diverse tactical plans, always with the presence of monitoring actions of whatever gets said and occurs on the internet.

Risk management is something which is very present in this model. Every action that leads to generating reputation must be analyzed from the perspective of risk and the preoccupation for the quality of the message, something which is already very common in the industry, of course, but with the Internet, it’s even more important.

Finally, the model also contemplates how to act in crisis situations. From the paradigmatic crisis of Tylenol in the 1980’s, up until the avian flu crisis, the pharmaceutical industry is one of the most exposed ones to crises, and it’s cases are exemplary in this field. By opening up channels in social media and participating in the conversation, the industry must also organize its internal resources to adequately deal with eventual online reputation crises.

Online reputation crises can be defined as an event in the field of interactions and internet communications that have the capacity of exerting pressure and significant damages to people, organizations, and governments. To expand this a little more, online crises are the result of a bad management of stakeholder’s expectations, in or out of the online world, whose negative repercussions are created or amplified within the internet, which would result in a reputational crisis that can be analyzed as follows.

Image courtesy of Images Money at Flickr.com
Image courtesy of Images Money at Flickr.com

What are the keys of an online reputation crisis plan?

  1. Prevention. Have well-trained teams, procedures, crisis manuals, avoid incidentals.
  1. Quick replies. Act rapidly, but also with consistency to avoid the viral dissemination of rumors and orchestrated campaigns.
  1. Monitoring. Identify the dynamic of dissemination of the topics, influence agents and main topics of the conversation, to be able to feedback to the plan of responses with updates of the digital context.

One of the most important aspects -and an often-overlooked one- when it comes to managing crises is the one that has to do with the training of the people who act directly or indirectly in relation to the subject. And we’re not talking about the theory, but the practice, which cannot be stopped when we speak about education in crises management.

Google Will Pay for Questionable Privacy Practices

Google recently agreed to a $5.5 million settlement in a class action lawsuit in the US. The case dates back to 2012, when the search engine giant was discovered to be using a code to get around Apple’s privacy settings on the Safari browser. The “workaround,” as it has come to be called, allowed Google to collect data on Safari users which it then used for advertising purposes, thus substantially increasing revenues on the basis of “behaviorally targeted” ads. US Safari users who were negatively affected by the advertising accused Google of being both “unfair” and “deceptive,” as well as engaging in “unlawful business practices.”
The internet depends on paid advertising, but privacy advocates believe there should be both full disclosure about what information is being collected and an option to block tracking. Search information says a lot about a person’s habits, and can lead to serious reputation damage if it is leaked. Certain types of unwanted advertising can also be emotionally damaging. Our privacy services at Reputation Defender help to identify vulnerabilities and data collection, even when sources are not being fully transparent.

A sneak attack

At the center of the problem is Google’s lack of disclosure. Apple is known for stricter privacy settings on the iOS platform of which Safari is a part of. Most iPhones and iPads use Safari, making it one of the most common browsers, especially on mobile devices. Apple users of 2012 had come to rely on the privacy and security built into Apple’s products; that is until a Stanford researcher discovered Google was subverting the anti-tracking feature and the study was widely publicized in the Wall Street Journal.
At the time, Google defended its actions, saying it “used known Safari functionality” that was in fact “enabled” by Google account holders on Safari. Some security experts agreed, seeing the issue as primarily a war between the two companies. However, as the case outcome suggests, there is good reason to believe Google wasn’t being entirely honest. Shortly after the WSJ report surfaced, important instructions about how to avoid tracking on Safari were deleted from Google’s site and the company also discontinued data collection on Safari. Google’s information gathering took place over a nine-month period, from 2011-12.

Some people still don’t trust Google

Google is still the go-to search engine, however people are now aware that their connection whilst searching is far from private. Google has tried to address this issue with a recent privacy overhaul. Google still collects tracking cookies on Chrome and most other non-Safari browsers, but it has added an “opt-out” choice that users can enable if they are concerned about privacy. Choosing this option on “Ads Settings” means Google won’t track or collect information on searches or websites.
But the fallout from the 2012 misstep may not be over. A UK group has been attempting to launch a similar British lawsuit. Some UK Safari users have come forward, including a couple who continued to face insensitive ads for baby products after a miscarriage, but as of yet there is not enough information to make a full class action suit.
The award in the US case will not go into the plaintiffs’ pockets, but rather toward further privacy and technology research. Six groups will receive donations, including Berkeley Center for Law and Technology, and the Center for Internet and Society at Stanford. These groups will work to develop better safeguards for user privacy and security on the internet.

Online Reputation Management: One of the Success Secrets of any Bank

The fact that there are so many jokes about banks is a sign of the bad reputation with which these organizations must deal with daily. Since ancient times, the perception that the public has on banks is quite negative, although they need their services in the everyday life.

It is no accident that the banking industry (insurance companies and other financial institutions as well) have the meanest reputation in consumer trust rankings, just after the tobacco industry (check this report for further information.)

To this extent (and banks know it), one of the aspects that they need to invest most is the public image; and here it is when the online reputation management (ORM) of banks comes into play as a card of vital importance.

Understanding the hatred that people feel for banks could be the subject of a university thesis. It is a complex issue, not new at all, by the way. Everyone has their own reasons for considering banks as professional thieves (especially the bank where they keep their own money), however, some reasons seem to be common denominators. One of the main reasons why people hate banks is related to the need to borrow (sometimes not easily) and the difficulty to pay afterward (without even considering the draconian measures that banks take to claim for their money.) Others blame banks for the financial crises (particularly, the World Bank), such as the 2008’s; mostly for the way they play with credits and interest rates. A lot of people hate banks for the way they take advantage from wars worldwide. Others simply loathe to banks because of the money they take from users because of debit card use.

Recommended: Why People Hate the Banks

Anyway, the point is that people hate banks; and despite this, they still need them. The problem is that such hatred does impact on the financial situation of banks, especially when it is widespread and grows from the social media. There is viral information running against banks constantly, and everyone has a reason to complain. It greatly affects consumer confidence, since word of mouth is more decisive in their decisions that all advertising is done to promote the services of any bank.

Image courtesy of John C Bullas BSc MSc PhD MCIHT MIAT at Flickr.com
Image courtesy of John C Bullas BSc MSc PhD MCIHT MIAT at Flickr.com

In fact, organizations like Goldman Sachs, Bank of America and JPMorgan Chase loose thousands of customers (including potential customers) each year due to bad publicity which is done about them on social media. Those losses are not significant for giant banks, but for smaller banks it turns out to be a delicate problem. After all, to deposit large amounts of money in a bank is a matter of trust, this trust is earned by good reputation and good reputation needs a long time to be built.

How can the bad reputation of a bank become viral? Unfortunately, it is much easier to damage a reputation than build it and much less to repair it (even by using false information.) Twitter is an example.

Suppose someone complains about an X bank on this social network because of the cost of transactions from different cities. Of course, the name of the X Bank (let’s say, “@XBank”) is included in the tweet. If the tweet is sent during peak hours, while thousands of followers of the X Bank see the information, they would probably retweet it (actually, it happens in minutes.) If this same person sends the same tweet on different days, using the different rhythms social networks, he will get more retweets. Within days, the information will go viral and the X Bank will experience a reputation crisis. Then, thousands of users would no longer open accounts there, nor borrow, and they will perhaps cancel their credit cards. Such smear campaigns don’t cost even a dollar for those who start them.

This is the sad reality of the online reputation management business.

However, many banks have been able to properly manage their reputations and have gone well rid of their crises. An example is the French bank BNP Paribas. For seven years, the bank kept trade relations with US enemy countries: Cuba, Iran, and Sudan. Because of this, the US government condemned to pay a fine nine billion dollars because of the contract they signed.

Any bank will suffer much after paying such a fine, and because of the subsequent reputation crisis that started because of the United States media. Nevertheless, this bank usually monitors its digital image, and thanks to the work of Talkwalker, an ORM company, it was always aware of what it was said online. By using SEO strategies, the prompt attention to the concerns of new customers and an effective digital marketing which considered the people’s opinion, BNP Paribas is still working, growing and it never filed for bankruptcy.

This shows that the preventive management of online reputation is as important as investing millions of dollars in corporate image, marketing or advertising. You never know when a crisis of reputation will take place, and you better know what to do before it happens (and if you are in the banking business, keep this in mind: it will certainly happen.)

Guidelines for the online reputation of teachers on social media

via GIPHY

There truly is no privacy for anyone on the internet. But some people have to be a lot more careful than others when it comes to posting online bits and pieces of their lives. Their job depends on it. Among the jobs whose professionals are not within the category of celebrities, teaching is one of the most sensitive ones to captious interpretations about the contents that are shared on the web.

In a short time, cases have surfaced such as that of an elementary school English teacher who lost her job after a video that showed her twerking went viral. Or another teacher in England who was fired after parents found photos of her in her other job: a lingerie model.

Online reputation specialists believe that schools and universities should develop guidelines to behave on social networks, aimed at their employees. This is not common in educational institutions or many other companies and organizations.

Said guidelines would be a good tool for two reasons: The first one would be to start a reflection within the organization about how personal behavior on social networks can affect people as professionals and the institution where they work, and the second one would be to keep professionals from saying that they haven’t seen any rules or recommendations about this subject. These measures should protect the reputation of the educational institution or company.

The only thing that exists today is the recommendation of acting with common sense and prudence. Some of the cases that have been recorded of teachers getting fired, such as the ones we mentioned before, wouldn’t be real reasons to fire someone from teaching.

Teachers should be aware of the fact that, within their community, they are public characters. A teacher should be judged by the work he or she does in the institution, as long, obviously, as they don’t commit illegal activities on social networks such as, for instance, making xenophobic or racist comments.

With that being said, let’s take a look at some handy recommendations for teachers to behave on social networks.

Image courtesy of Berkeley Lab at Flickr.com
Image courtesy of Berkeley Lab at Flickr.com
  1. Be informed about the guidelines or recommendations in your school or workplace’s social media. The responsibility of the person who publishes the content will always be heavier than that of the readers, so teachers must be very aware because their reputation is closely related to their role as educators.
  1. Don’t have your students as friends or followers on your social networking profiles. There are social networks where teachers can avoid being contacted by students -such as Facebook, where this prevention is recommended- and other ones where it’s more complicated such as Twitter or Instagram, particularly if students use aliases that have nothing to do with their real names. An option is to self-impose the rule of only accepting former students into your virtual circles.
  1. Be careful when it comes to choosing your profile image. It’s not convenient, for instance, to show photographs in which you are consuming alcohol -or drugs, clearly- or making gestures that can be interpreted as obscene or in bad taste.
  1. It’s not necessary to tell people the name of your school, university or workplace. It’s enough to use a more neutral phrase to talk about your job, such as “primary school teacher in New York”. It’s not convenient to mention your school in your social network comments either.
  1. Don’t geolocate your activities on social networks when you’re at school. That would make it easier for your students to find your account.
  1. Keep your Instagram account private and don’t even think about trusting Snapchat. Remember that even though Snapchat posts disappear after a short time, it’s always possible to take a screenshot or a photograph with another device for as long as the image is displayed.
  1. Don’t complain about your job in your social networking accounts and don’t criticize your students. Keep your thoughts for your private circles outside of the online environment.
  1. Never share photos of your students in your social networks. The right to privacy of minors is one of the few regulated aspects, and in some cases, those regulations are strictly enforced. Each parent has their own ideas about the convenience -or inconvenience- of their kids appearing on photographs that are posted on the internet. It’s better to avoid confusions.

At the end of the day, both teachers and professional workers of other environments, and grownups in general should be aware of the fact that the freedom of posting on social media is also an exercise of responsibility. Any person that requires their name to be visible as part of their job whether they be a teacher, a manager, a principal, an independent worker, a doctor or a salesman, should know that their students or their customers will want to know who they are and they will Google them, for sure, sooner or later.

ORM for Small Businesses – 6 Tips to Improve Internet Marketing

Small businesses are more likely to fall short when it comes to internet marketing than their large corporate counterparts. Traditionally, a hometown company is based on personal interaction. Local owners feel they are more likely to meet their customers on the street than they are online.

Yet the virtual world is everywhere these days. Anyone interested in a new business will first run a Google search to see what it’s all about. If potential customers can’t find your business online they’ll likely turn elsewhere. Some may even question you’re legitimacy. At ReputationDefender we work with individuals and businesses to make sure they’re using the most sophisticated online marketing techniques to promote their brand.

A good website is key

Even the smallest local startup can broaden its appeal with a professional website. Small businesses that do have an online site often lack good user experience (UX) design and streamlined click-to-action buttons. It pays to work with a professional who can create a website that is easy to use and draws in customers.

Promoting your small business online

Today’s internet users are more sophisticated than ever. They will be looking past your website to see what other customers think of you and how you rank with competitors throughout your industry. Fortunately there are low-cost ways to promote your brand which can really make a difference. Here are six important tips to help you market your business online:

  • Claim your brand name – It is important to ensure that you control the social media and other web profiles that cover your brand. Otherwise content may be created that you have no control over.
  • Publish professional content – Go on to create your own content with well written articles or blog posts that mention your company. These will help to fill search engine results.
  • Make a video about your product – It is now easy for anyone to make a video and promote it on YouTube. Make sure you link the video to your website and include your keyword in the description so that it ranks higher in search pages.
  • Ask for reviews – Don’t be shy about asking for reviews. Research shows that if every customer reviews your brand, the majority will be good, whereas if you leave it up to chance you are likely to only get a comment from that one angry customer who had a bad experience. Responding politely to negative reviews is also vital. If possible, briefly demonstrate what you have done to fix the issue so that it won’t happen again. Avoid sounding angry or defensive at all costs.
  • Update social media pages – This is the place to share the positive content you’ve created, whether it be articles or reviews. Interested customers will follow your page and may even re-share articles they like, widening your client base exponentially.
  • Get listed in a local business directory – This will give your brand more authority, especially when combined with a wide range of content you have created yourself.

If you make sure you cover these six areas, you will be off to a good start with promoting your brand. For more information and advice, talk to our experts at ReputationDefender.

You can now also read Reputation Defender’s new blog on Marketing and Cybersecurity to learn more on how internet privacy measures can help promotional activity.

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