How can companies manage their reputations online? [EVENT]

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How can data be used to better manage online reputation?

Please join us for an afternoon debate at Lansons about reputation management as an independent event for Social Media Week London, on Thursday 15 September, from 3.30pm to 5.00pm.

Our expert panel will be discussing how companies can manage their reputations in the digital age. Our influential panel has been specifically selected to represent a range of opinions, based on knowledge and practical experience.

The debate will feature an extensive Q&A section, with opportunities to quiz the panel and provide comment.

To register for a place at this event, please email[email protected] with your full details. Please note that we will confirm your place via email. We’re an independent Social Media Week London event, so you’ll need to book a place in advance and won’t be able to gain entry using your official SMW pass.

Speaking on the panel will be:

Francesco D’Orazio, Co-Founder and Vice President of Product and Research at Pulsar

Francesco is Vice President of Product at social analytics firm Pulsar, Chief Innovation Officer at innovation consultancy FACE and Co-Founder at the Visual Social Media Lab. He designs systems and research frameworks that help analyse social data and extract insights from social data using computational social science and data visualisation. He is a regular speaker at research, innovation and technology conferences such as Big Data Week, Social Media Week, Social Data Week, Strata, WARC, MRS, Esomar, Virtual Worlds Forum, World Business Forum. 

Magnus Boyd, Partner at Schillings

Magnus protects individual and corporate reputations by helping clients to manage unwanted media attention. He is frequently called upon before stories are published or broadcast to prevent inaccuracy and stop businesses and prominent individuals from being defamed or private information being published. Magnus also advises on information security and manages the risk to reputation that arises in the event of data loss. He is ranked as a leader in his field in Chambers & Partners and the Spear’s 500 Index. 

Ed Coke, Director of Consulting Services at Reputation Institute

Ed leads the advisory team at Reputation Institute, a research-based consultancy that measures the reputations of the largest and most visible companies around the world. He provides senior communications and marketing executives at global companies the single-best way to measure, communicate and manage reputation performance. With this insight, companies can protect their reputations, analyse risks and drive competitive advantage.

Rebecca Mayo, Joint Managing Director at Lansons

Over the last decade Rebecca has been responsible for many sector-leading and award-winning campaigns, including: the launch of Metro Bank, Britain’s first new high street bank in over 100 years; the five year market-leading thought leadership programme for life and pensions giant Scottish Widows;  the re-positioning and re-launching of Asda Money; the launch and decade long consumer champion programme for MoneySuperMarket; the integrated PR and PA campaign for the Employers Network for Equality and Inclusion; and the decade long corporate and retail programme for Invesco Perpetual, including the recent departure of its star fund manager Neil Woodford. Rebecca has significant experience managing corporate issues ranging from FSA fines, non-compliant marketing communications, mis-selling, mergers and acquisitions, exiting markets, complex pricing strategies, and difficult underwriting decisions.

City AM turns commercial news model upside down

Broadsheet newspaper

Was there ever a divide between editorial and commercial content? That’s the thought that came into my head as I read earlier this week that City AM is “turning the commercial model [of news] upside down on its head”,

The more sceptical of the approach, such as The Guardian’s Roy Greenslade, have reiterated the loss-making nature of the paper, suggesting a radical change was necessary to fix the broken business model. This seems pretty harsh as the entire media industry has struggled to make their business models profitable, particularly The Guardian that has the third highest global readership in English but is still facing financial crisis.

City AM’s approach of allowing certain organisations (for a price) direct access to their publishing platform, judging the value of their content by readership figures, surely makes sense? If a columnist at a newspaper can’t win over any readers then they’re out of a job. As Yardley has mentioned, organisations have access to subject-matter experts; possessing a body of knowledge much higher than the average journalists. This is valuable and signifies that news needs to be more varied and open.

City AM’s decision at its best will lead to high quality content from experts. However, the newspaper could risk its reputation if an onslaught of shameless advertorial tat ensues.

Yet again, if the content produced by brands isn’t engaging enough then readership will be down for them, rendering their partnership with City AM worthless. So the onus is now on organisations to produce journalistic content that can navigate issues with credibility.

As mentioned in The Drum,

“… says that the strategy is possible because the City AM audience is open to “thought leadership”. He is surprisingly confident that if ad clients abuse the system, the readers will blame the authors of the misinformation, not the newspaper. “The anger, disappointment and negativity will not feature on the brand of City AM.”

In my view this is the only part of City AM’s approach that makes alarm bells ring in my head. It shows a surprising amount of confidence in City AM’s readers as it’s often difficult to determine the originator of content these days. If an article has ‘advertorial’ slapped on it then I personally tend to skip the article. So understanding how City AM’s readers react to the change will be interesting and could pave the way for other publications in the industry.

However, with my professional interests aside working in PR, I do praise this decision by City AM. It’s brave, and in many ways the only option to develop a media business considering the close ties all journalists already have with sourcing news from PR professionals and brands. What City AM have done is displace the middle-man; whether brands and organisations can be trusted to adhere to journalistic news values – well, that’s another matter.

UK companies struggle to manage their reputation in their home market

Reputation Institute, ranking

UK companies are struggling to manage their reputation on their home turf. This is according to a new report published by the Reputation Institute today that is based on more than 50,000 ratings collected in the first quarter of 2016 from members of the UK general public.

The Reputation Institute mix academic vigor with a real-world understanding to measure a company’s ability to deliver on stakeholder expectations based on the seven key rational dimensions of reputation: products and services, innovation, workplace, governance, citizenship, leadership, and performance.

This enables them to rank on a score from 0 – 100, based on overall reputation and grouped into categories:

  • Excellent (80+)
  • Strong (70-79)
  • Average (60-69)
  • Weak (40-59)
  • Poor (Below 40)

This has revealed UK Plcs are losing out on reputation in their home market. Only two of the top 10 companies are UK Plcs, and international companies dominate the top 50. Home-domiciled companies make up just 26% of the top 50 and 41% of the top 150.

As shown below, only four UK companies have been able to build an “Excellent” reputation with a RepTrak® score above 80.

5. Rolls Royce Aerospace (82.6)
6. Aston Martin (82.1)
13. ASOS (80.4)
14. Jaguar Land Rover (80.4)

At the other end of the scale, of the 27 companies who scored “Poor” and sit well outside of the RepTrak® 150 (ranking 251 and below), all but two are UK and Irish companies.

UK companies ranked “Poor” include five utilities and financial services companies, three transport companies, and two gambling and telecom companies. Although it might be unsurprising that UK companies from these sectors perform the worst, there are notable exceptions.

Nationwide Building Society was the top scoring of all UK retail banks, with a “Strong” score of 72.4. O2 also rated strongly in the eyes of the UK general public at 74.9, whereas all other UK telecoms providers failed to score higher than an “Average” performance of 64.

Biggest moves

The following companies have seen the largest improvements from 2015 to 2016:

58. Airbus Group (+12.6 points)
228. HSBC (+9.8 points)
9. Aldi (+9.7 points)
48. Burberry (+9.7 points)
140. Hershey Company (+8.9 points)

The below businesses have seen the largest declines from 2015 to 2016:

267. Volkswagen (-27.4 points)
192. SABMiller (7.9 points)
156. Nestle (-7.7 points)
163. Admiral (-7.3 points)
247. EDF Energy (-7.1 points)

Unsurprisingly, Volkswagen AG falls from having a top 10 reputation (ranked 8th) in 2015 to a vulnerable position in 2016 (ranked 267th) following the high-profile emissions scandal.  The critical factor in this loss of reputation has been a huge drop in the number of consumers willing to support the company in specific circumstances, as shown below.

Recommend company Buy products Give benefit of doubt
2016 24% 28% 20%
2015 56% 58% 53%

Recommendation and trust of Volkswagen AG has decreased by more than half during this time, which underscores the impact that corporate reputation has on the business.

 Why reputation matters

Reputation Institute’s research reveals that reputation drives business results. The better the reputation, the more support a company gets. For companies with an average reputation, only 12% would definitely buy the products; this climbs to 28% if the reputation is strong, but increases to 76% if the reputation is excellent.

“The impact from reputation on the business is massive, which is why the leading companies in the world are managing this asset in a systematic way,” says Nielsen.

In the UK, consumers must consider companies’ reputations “Excellent” in order to have more than 50% of those surveyed claim that they would say something positive about a company, recommend its products, trust it to do the right thing, welcome it into the local community, and work for or invest in it.

Reputation Institute, ranking

The Lego Group, IKEA and BMW Group top the UK RepTrak® 150 ranking of the most reputable companies among the UK general public, Reputation Institute announced today, based on more than 50,000 ratings collected in the first quarter of 2016 from members of the UK general public.


Disclaimer: I work with the Reputation Institute at Lansons but I had full editorial independence when writing this article.

Book review of Managing Online Reputation by Charlie Pownall

Qantas A380 crash

Managing Online Reputation: How to protect your company on social media
By Charlie Pownall
Palgrave Macmillan, 2015, 236 pages

Managing-Online-ReputationFull of valuable anecdotes, practical social media guidance, and explanation of cultural internet jargon makes Managing Online Reputation by Charlie Pownall a perfect beginners guide. Suitable for those learning about online reputation for the first time or senior practitioners who need convincing of the importance of digital.

If we assume there are two types of PR book the market; theoretical and experience-based books, then I would place Pownall’s book into the later category. The pages drip with Pownall’s experience and insight into the media industry.
If you want to know how fast information travels online, then the story of the Qantas A380 crash in 2010 is named; online scepticism exampled when one of China’s high-speed trains crashed in 2011; and a number of examples showing the negative effects of disgruntled employees and customers.

Occasionally media communication theories will pop-up but they are not focused or challenged in detail in comparison to other books on the market, such as Caroline Black’s or Averill Gordon’s. So if you’re a PR student you may want to read Managing Online Reputation alongside one of these more established academic books.

Where the book may receive some criticism is lack of practical technical detail around actually managing online reputation. For instance, the importance of search engines is mentioned but in limited detail without explanation of tackling SEO issues. The same applies to Wikipedia which is mentioned four times in 230 pages of book.

Another critical aspect missing from the book is the process of measuring reputation through ongoing monitoring. Despite the popularity and critical necessity of social media monitoring tools such as Radian6, Brandwatch, and Pulsar – the book doesn’t mention them once.

From experience, it’s practically impossible to begin monitoring online reputation without the support of monitoring tools, as they scrape the data from social media which leads to the categorisation of threats in the theories later outlined in Pownall’s book. This is why the #PRstack project last year served the purpose of categorising the 3rd party tool market.

So even though the book mentions at the start it won’t provide a “template” or “silver bullet” for each task, it’s exactly this which leaves me to believe managing should be omitted from the book’s title. Pownall flawlessly shows how online can be integrated into a reputation management programme, but you’ll need to find a reputation book written by a digital specialist for the next step.

Like all books, this one has its strengths and weaknesses. The ultimate test is how often will I be reaching for it on my bookshelf? Time will tell.

[CORRECTION: There is a reference to a social monitoring tool in the book, CIC a China-based listening firm.]

Managing reputation by detecting fake information on social media


I first published this post on the Lansons blog.

In the USA, Dow Jones plunged 140 points after a rumour spread on Twitter from Associated Press’ Twitter account. The estimated temporary loss of market cap in the S&P 500 totalled $136.5 billion.

When hackers took over Associated Press’ Twitter profile in 2013

This isn’t the only example of misinformation spread via social media that has had cataclysmic real-world consequences; the England Riots spread violence, false information around the Ebola outbreak caused increased deaths (salt water does not prevent or cure Ebola), and the Boston marathon blasts identified the wrong suspects.

The spread of information via social media can have real-world consequences and the notion of ‘influence’ may spell the downfall or uprising of an organisation. This is why appropriately detecting, tracking, and engaging with false information on social media is critical for managing reputation online.

In a new paper published by Aditi Gupta from the Indraprastha Institute of Information Technology Delhi, social media reputation management techniques are explored in detail. Over 25 global events are analysed between 2011 – 2014 that involved the spread of fake images, rumours, and untrustworthy content.

“Online social media has the capability of playing the role of, either a life saver or that of a daemon during the times of crisis. In this research work, we highlighted one of the malicious intended usage of Twitter during a real-world event, i.e. spreading fake images. We analyzed the activity on the online social networking website Twitter, during Hurricane Sandy (2012) that spread fake images. We identified 10,350 unique tweets containing fake images that were circulated on Twitter, during Hurricane Sandy.

We performed a characterization analysis, to understand the temporal, social reputation and influence patterns of the spread of these fake images. We found that 86% tweets spreading the fake images were retweets, hence very few were original tweets by users. Also, our results showed that top 30 users (0.3% of the users) resulted in 90% of retweets of the fake image.”

Rumour tweets posted during the England riots of 2011

The research concluded that after analysing some of the top disasters over the last four years, only automated techniques were able to successfully identify credible updates and categorise. Of course, this was the only option as manually sifting through 5.6 TeraBytes of tweets would take a lifetime! At Lansons we use our own reputation management tools.

When managing online reputation you should watch out for:

  • The creation of fake social media profiles that are designed to look real but instead spread fake information;
  • Fake content, then engage, before it’s spread widely on social media;
  • Online communities that build around disasters that could be considered the ‘core’ group that drive wider conversations.

The research is a valuable contribution to managing online reputation, it allows practitioners (such as myself) to refine and improve our techniques. Whilst the focus of the paper was on Twitter, we know reputation management applies to all social media – even more prominently in Google Search. Make sure you have the right procedures in place.

Markets are Conversations

Confidential document

Markets are conversations and they are talking about your brand whether you like it or not. You may have your own brand message. An agreed tone of voice. But unless you’re able to have open and honest conversations with your customers, partners or employees; your competitors may get a step ahead of you.

In a few years the company you work for or represent will just be a corporate structure that allows humans to work together. For that company to have its own tone of voice will seem so dated, so fabricated, for it to be warranted as a bad mask. Behind which real humans socialise and work hard to deliver a product or service.

Organisations are fuelled by the relationships between people and the information that they manage. Both of which have been broken down by social media. Information flows freely in and out of your company without your control. Employees on LinkedIn, in private online communities and through the information they carry with them on their phone pose risks.

Your organisation is porous and journalists are no longer your public or trade information gatekeepers – your news is already out there. Being analysed by a community that’s bigger than you and sways more influence than any newspaper circulation.

The truth is, you can’t control anything about your marketing, only cleverly manage it – the organic ever-changing online environment is king. Public relations no longer speaks to the public and as an organisation you should be scared of your market. Especially if you’re not taking part in online conversations – just what are you spending money on? Conversations are the market.

All of your inflated self-important jargon that you throw around; what’s any of that got to do with me and my life? My true alliance is to my friends and family, business is only part of my life. You really need me and if I’m treated like a target market, I won’t speak to you.

All this money you spend on advertising… why? It’s only sharing ideals with me that I don’t have an interest in meeting. I’m not interested in buying your product unless we can talk about it. Oh, and I’m not going to find you. You find me. I won’t wait – oh look, a competitor.

To be honest – your image is a little tense. Lighten up, stop taking yourself so seriously, enjoy online conversations. Act like you would in a social situation – it’s the only way to do business effectively. Those who are brave enough to try it will win the online race.

Your industry has changed. It’s been disrupted by digital. How long before you’ll need to review your business model? Give it two years.

Despite being published in 1999, the Cluetrain Manifesto has never been more relevant. True, bits need updating – you’ll be amazed how many organisations still don’t understand the social shift taking place.

The end of ‘business as usual’ for financial services

The financial services sector has an opportunity to develop offerings, seek new business opportunities and diversify its stakeholder relationships using social media. The latest Ofcom report on ‘Adults’ Media Use and Attitudes’ (2015) shows that internet use has never been higher, with nine in ten adults online (a 27% increase from 2005) and 90% using apps on their smartphone. Along with higher internet use is additional social media consumption; 72% of internet users have a social media profile (was only 22% in 2007). Most importantly, 68% of internet users have gone online to bank or pay bills.

Changing media use has had a direct impact on the financial services sector and how decision making is being influenced. Research carried out by Greenwich Associates in 2014 revealed that a third of asset owners made an investment decision or recommendation based on social media output; 85% of which relied on social content from LinkedIn. Whilst Facebook is not deemed as a ‘professional’ network, the research revealed 78% of institutional investors in Asia Pacific said Facebook was used at least once a month to source financial information.

In my role at Lansons I’ve undertaken small-scale research that revealed since The Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards in 2012, the reputation of the financial services sector still requires urgent medical help. Of the 60,000+ conversations about banking culture on Twitter this year, many make scathing references to “Eton Old Boys” and unjust bonuses. With the election of a new government come further conversations about the financial services sectors’ behaviour. Just how do you weigh up regulatory changes against the sector’s 9.4 percent contribution towards GDP?

This figure includes fintech start-ups, insurance companies, and brokers. All face the similar challenge of doing business in a world where traditional media ‘touch points’ are seeing competition from digital alternatives. Conversations are taking place online; are you listening and making use of opportunities? Communication programmes must offer an integrated approach and the financial services sector has developed to cater.

After public consultation, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) published its finalised guidance to ‘Social Media and Customer Communications’ (March 2014). Covering how financial promotions on social media should be conducted in a transparent and honest manner; tactically making use of the social features available. The Financial Services Forum recently ran a session on the “challenges of content marketing in B2B banking”; exploring how traditional networking can be used effectively in the digital space. Even at our offices in Farringdon, we can feel the innovation from fintech companies and projects being emitted from London’s Silicon Roundabout.

It’s the end of ‘business as usual’. Maintaining or growing market share is going to rely on the provision of competitive products, and the implementation of a slick social media programme that targets the right people, at the right time. It’s necessary for public relations consultants to be social anthropologists, supported by tools that can make sense of online data, and use innovative strategies to be heard above the competition.

Social innovation for your organisation could be:

  • Monitoring international reputation by conversations on social media or how articles are being edited by the community on Wikipedia;
  • Social media community management of Twitter profiles;
  • Advocacy programmes on forums;
  • Producing a podcast

Social innovation is making sure that the Google search results about your company are a true reflection of the work you do. The financial services sector has an opportunity to reinvent itself and invest in its future. It’s up for the industry to decide what the future of financial services looks like.

This article was originally published for Lansons’ Future of Financial Services event 2015. Register your interest for 2016 here.  


Public perceptions of banking on Twitter

This blog post was first published on the Lansons blog here

Dipping into the sea of public opinion to analyse perceptions of the banking culture is an expectantly gruelling process. It was never going to be positive, although it’s not as gruelling compared to some of the comments that were made during The Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards in 2012;

“The professions may not be paragons but they do at least espouse a strong duty of trust, both towards clients and towards upholding the reputation of the profession as a whole. In contrast… banking culture has all too often been characterised by an absence of any sense of duty to the customer and a similar absence of any sense of collective responsibility to uphold the reputation of the industry”.


Following the Commission’s report in 2013 a new wave of change now sweeps across the industry, with the newly established Banking Standards Board tasked with promoting a high standard of behaviour and competence across the UK banking industry (Chief Executive, Alison Cottrell is speaking at our upcoming Future of Financial Services Conference on the 2nd June 2015 – tickets available here).Klout scores newspapers Twitter

Banking influencersLansons has a number of digital specialists continuously monitoring social media for emerging issues; including the perception of banking. Unsurprisingly, the most influential Twitter users discussing bank related matters are newspapers, political parties and prominent organisations such as British Airways. Using Klout scores is certainly not a fool proof method of rating influence online; as this article in Wired explains (you need to take real-world influence into account). topic wheel twitter bankHowever, Klout does show that in terms of online share of voice, it’s a big mistake to dismiss newspapers.

Banking conversationsThis information has been gathered from January 2015 – April 2015 (before the sharp increase of election tweets). The wheel infographic to the right represents a collection of 60,137 tweets from conversations about banking. The inner circle shows the words mentioned most frequently which are then segregated into more specific topics and phrases. In summary:

This word encapsulates the primary focus of our search; the public perception of banking culture. Unfortunately it includes scathing references to “Eton Old Boys”. The word “bonus” which has become synonymous with banking features in conversations about public sector cuts and the ‘benefits culture’. There are also phrases featured closely with campaign groups – Eg. “Tories just stole all public land/property for the Bankers”.

Trust is not only featured in chatter around the Carroll Trust fraud case but also in relation to George Osborne’s pre-election warning that “Deutsche Bank warn of chaos of Labour government. Trust them, they know.”

Bad, Good and Bank Account
This captures personal comments from Twitter users about their bank balance or shopping excursions; unrelated from bank culture and an insight into the buying behaviours of the public. With a larger and more targeted dataset these conversations could indicate periods of credit and debit booms.

Clearly this is just a small snapshot of a much wider debate around the culture of banking in the UK. It is a glimpse into the task ahead for the Banking Standards Board and their march towards industry professionalism.

This blog post provides a social media snapshot of the public perception of banking on Twitter. For similar insights and deeper discussion, consider attending Lansons’ Future of Financial Services Conference on the 2nd June 2015 to hear Chief Executive of the Banking Standards Board, Alison Cottrell, talk about the culture of banking – along with other prominent industry leaders.