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Sidebar: Reputations Caught in the Web

By Alan R. Earls
April 5, 2004 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - "Search engines have become the primary resource for journalists and other constituents to gather information on a specific company," says Robert Key, president and CEO of Converseon Inc. "Yet while many companies may pay close attention to how the traditional media portrays them, most companies are completely unaware of what information is appearing when search engine users type in a company's name."
Converseon, which calls itself a "digital communications agency," has rolled out what it claims is the first search-engine reputation management service. It's designed specifically to help companies better monitor and control their reputations by helping them manage what appears in search listings under company-branded keywords.
"Search engines are a critical element for reputation management, as they have become a powerful new form of media," says Key, pointing to examples such as McDonald's Corp. and Nike Inc. When users type those companies' names into Google, they can turn up highly negative sites like the Boycott Nike Homepage and McSpotlight.org, which calls itself a "protest site."
Converseon and companies like Biz360 and Factiva aren't alone in seeking to make or repair their corporate reputations in cyberspace.
Burson-Marsteller, a New York-based public relations agency, has begun to focus on online reputation management and has produced a body of studies it calls the e-fluentials (www.efluentials.com) about online public-opinion leaders. Burson-Marsteller also offers tools to review how companies respond to crises and issues using their Web sites.
And Peter M. Sandman, a reputation management consultant in Princeton, N.J., offers software called Outrage (www.psandman.com/outrage.htm) that he says can "help you figure out how to reduce stakeholders' outrage."

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