Public relations (PR) and online reputation management (ORM) are related but distinct concepts that involve different goals, strategies, and tools.
Both PR and reputation management are essential for building trust and loyalty among customers, partners, investors, employees, and the general public. However, they have different scopes and approaches. PR is more proactive and outward-facing, while reputation management is more reactive and inward-facing. PR is more relationship-based, while reputation management is more technical and content-oriented. PR is more about creating awareness and goodwill, while reputation management is more about protecting and restoring reputation.
While there is a substantial overlap between both activities, both specialities will be practised by different teams in larger corporations. Smaller businesses or high-net-worth individuals often combine both in a single person, team, or external consultancy.
What Is PR (Public Relations)
PR is an older practice that mainly deals with media and the press. PR aims to influence, engage, and build relationships with key stakeholders across various platforms to shape and frame an organisation’s or individual’s public perception. PR uses tools such as press releases, media kits, events, interviews, and social media campaigns to promote positive stories and messages.
PR professionals employ various tools and strategies tailored to garner positive attention and generate favourable narratives to achieve these goals. Here are some key elements commonly employed in PR campaigns:
- Press Releases: Press releases are carefully crafted announcements or statements issued to the media to share newsworthy information about an organization or individual. These concise documents highlight important events, achievements, product launches, strategic initiatives, or significant developments. PR teams can gain media coverage by distributing press releases, reaching a wider audience and increasing brand visibility.
- Media Kits: Media kits serve as comprehensive resources for journalists and reporters, providing them with essential information about an organization or individual. These kits typically include press releases, fact sheets, biographies, high-resolution images, company backgrounders, and other relevant materials journalists may need to develop accurate and compelling news stories.
- Events: PR professionals often organize and coordinate events, such as press conferences, product launches, or media briefings. These events offer an opportunity to engage directly with the media, industry influencers, and other stakeholders. By carefully planning and executing these events, PR teams can generate media coverage, facilitate face-to-face interactions, and create a buzz around the organization or individual.
- Interviews: Securing interviews with influential media outlets is a key strategy in PR. Interviews allow representatives of the organization or individuals to share their expertise, perspectives, and key messages with a broader audience. Through interviews, PR professionals can position their clients as thought leaders, industry experts, or authorities in their respective fields.
- Social Media Campaigns: In the digital age, social media plays a significant role in PR strategies. PR professionals leverage social media platforms to amplify messages, engage with audiences directly, and promote positive stories. By creating compelling content, utilizing hashtags, engaging with followers, and collaborating with influencers, PR teams can foster meaningful connections, increase brand loyalty, and shape public opinion.
What Is Reputation Management (RM)
Reputation management is a newer concept that emerged in the digital age. Reputation management focuses on monitoring and improving an organisation’s or individual’s online reputation across various channels, such as search engines, review sites, news outlets, and social networks. Reputation management uses tools such as SEO, content creation, review management, crisis management, and online feedback to enhance or repair an organisation’s or individual’s online image and credibility.
The primary objective of reputation management is to ensure that the entity’s online image and credibility accurately reflect its desired perception among target audiences. Reputation management involves proactive measures to enhance a positive reputation and reactive measures to address and repair any negative information or feedback that may harm the reputation.
To accomplish these goals, reputation management professionals employ a variety of tools and strategies:
- Review Management: Online reviews hold significant influence over the reputation of a business or individual. Reputation management teams actively monitor and manage online reviews on Yelp, Google Reviews, TripAdvisor, and industry-specific review sites. They engage with reviewers, respond to feedback, address concerns, and highlight positive experiences. By effectively managing online reviews, reputation management professionals can shape public perception and enhance credibility.
- Crisis Management: Reputation management also involves dealing with online crises and adverse events that can damage an organization’s or individual’s reputation. Reputation management teams develop comprehensive crisis management plans, including monitoring social media for mentions and responding promptly to mitigate potential reputation issues. They work to address and resolve crises transparently and empathetically, minimizing the impact on reputation and public perception.
- Online Feedback and Engagement: Reputation management teams actively engage with online communities and monitor feedback on social media platforms, forums, and comment sections. By promptly responding to customer queries, addressing concerns, and participating in meaningful conversations, they demonstrate a commitment to customer satisfaction and build a positive online presence.
- Content Creation: Reputation management involves creating and distributing high-quality, positive content across various digital channels. This can include developing and maintaining a well-crafted website, publishing informative blog posts, guest articles, press releases, and thought leadership pieces. By strategically creating and disseminating valuable content, reputation management professionals work to shape a positive narrative, establish expertise, and provide accurate information about the entity being managed.
- Search Engine Optimization (SEO): SEO plays a crucial role in reputation management. By employing optimization techniques, such as keyword research, on-page optimization, and link building, reputation management teams ensure that positive content and information about the organization or individual ranks higher in search engine results. This proactive approach aims to push down negative or irrelevant content that may exist online.
What Are The Main Differences
The main differences between PR and reputation management lie in their goals, strategies, and focus.
PR primarily focuses on shaping public perception, engaging with key stakeholders, and building relationships through various platforms and media channels. On the other hand, reputation management concentrates on monitoring and improving online reputation, particularly across digital channels like search engines, review sites, news outlets, and social networks.
While PR is proactive and aims to create awareness and goodwill, reputation management is reactive and centres around protecting and restoring reputation. PR targets a wider audience with simplified language, while RM targets a smaller audience with more tailored information.
|Goals||A PR team may work to secure media coverage for a product launch or arrange interviews with key executives to generate positive publicity. For example, a PR campaign might involve sending out press releases and organizing a media event to announce a new product, aiming to create awareness and generate excitement among the target audience.||In contrast, a reputation management team monitors and addresses online feedback and reviews. For instance, if a negative review surfaces about a company’s service on a popular review site, reputation management would work to respond to the review promptly, address the customer’s concerns, and take necessary steps to rectify the issue.|
|Strategies||Reputation management relies on search engine optimization (SEO), content creation, and online review management. For instance, a reputation management team may develop and optimize content to ensure positive search engine results for a brand or individual, making it easier for the target audience to find favourable information about them.||Reputation management relies on search engine optimization (SEO), content creation, and online review management. For instance, a reputation management team may develop and optimize content to ensure positive search engine results for a brand or individual, making it easier for the target audience to find favourable information about them.|
|Focus||PR activities are outward-facing, aimed at building relationships with external stakeholders. They focus on shaping public perception, managing media relations, and creating a positive brand image. PR professionals actively engage with the media, attend industry events, and foster connections with influencers to amplify their clients’ messages.||Reputation management is inward-facing, concentrating on monitoring and managing an organization’s or individual’s online reputation (e.g., political reputation management). It involves monitoring online conversations, responding to customer feedback, addressing negative reviews, and handling online crises. Reputation management professionals work behind the scenes to ensure that any negative information is swiftly addressed and the online reputation remains positive.|
What Are The Main Similarities
Despite their differences, online reputation management and PR share some obvious and less obvious similarities.
Both disciplines are crucial for establishing trust and loyalty among customers, partners, investors, employees, and the general public. They contribute to managing and enhancing an organisation or individual’s image and credibility.
While PR focuses on creating positive stories and messages, reputation management works on managing online feedback, handling crises, and utilising search engine optimisation (SEO) and content creation to influence online perception. PR and reputation management are vital in shaping public opinion and maintaining a favourable brand or personal reputation.
PR and reputation management can work together to achieve common goals:
- Coordinated Messaging: PR and reputation management teams can collaborate to ensure consistent messaging across various channels. By aligning their efforts, they can effectively communicate positive stories, address customer concerns, and reinforce a favourable brand reputation.
- Crisis Management: During a crisis, PR and reputation management teams can join forces to handle the situation. While PR professionals communicate with the media and the public to mitigate reputational damage, reputation management experts monitor online conversations, respond to customer inquiries, and manage negative reviews or social media backlash.
- Online Presence Enhancement: PR activities can improve online reputation by generating positive media coverage and building brand credibility. Reputation management teams can leverage this positive exposure to enhance search engine rankings, optimize online content, and ensure the desired narrative is prominently featured in search results.
Examples of Joint PR & ORM Campaigns
- Dove’s Real Beauty Campaign: Launched in 2004, this campaign aimed to challenge the media and society’s unrealistic and narrow beauty standards. In its ads and videos, Dove featured real women of different shapes, sizes, ages, and ethnicities, encouraging women to celebrate their natural beauty and diversity. The campaign generated positive media coverage, social media buzz, and customer loyalty for Dove and also sparked a global conversation about body positivity and self-esteem.
- KFC’s FCK Campaign: In 2018, KFC faced a crisis when it ran out of chicken due to a supply chain issue, forcing hundreds of its UK outlets to close temporarily. Instead of hiding or denying the problem, KFC responded with a witty and honest PR campaign that apologized to its customers and suppliers. KFC rearranged the letters of its name to spell “FCK” on its buckets and ads and used the slogan “We’re sorry” to express its regret. The campaign won public and media praise for its humour, transparency, and humility and helped KFC restore its reputation and customer trust.
- Nike’s Dream Crazy Campaign: In 2018, Nike launched a controversial PR campaign featuring Colin Kaepernick, the former NFL quarterback who protested against racial injustice by kneeling during the national anthem. The campaign used the slogan “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.” to convey Nike’s support for Kaepernick’s cause and its commitment to social justice. The campaign sparked a lot of debate and backlash from some customers and critics but also generated a lot of positive publicity, social media engagement, and sales for Nike. The campaign also aligned Nike with its core values and target audience of young, diverse consumers who care about social issues.
- Lego’s Rebuild the World Campaign: In 2019, Lego launched its first global PR campaign in decades, aiming to inspire creative thinking in kids and adults. The campaign featured colourful and imaginative Lego creations in various settings and scenarios, such as a dragon on a bridge or a rabbit on a skateboard. The campaign also invited customers to submit their own Lego creations on a 3D globe on Lego’s website, showcasing the diversity and creativity of Lego fans around the world. The campaign generated a lot of positive media attention, social media shares, and customer engagement for Lego and reinforced its brand identity as a playful and innovative toy company.
- Netflix’s Spoiler Billboards Campaign: In 2019, Netflix launched a clever PR campaign to promote its original shows and movies by using spoiler billboards in public places. The billboards revealed significant plot twists and endings from popular Netflix titles, such as Stranger Things, Black Mirror, and Bird Box. The billboards warned, “You should have watched it by now.” The campaign aimed to create a sense of urgency and curiosity among potential viewers who had not watched the shows or movies yet and to encourage them to binge-watch them on Netflix before they got spoiled. The campaign also generated a lot of buzz and discussion on social media and online forums, where people debated whether the spoilers were real or fake.
In the industry, we often refer to Public Relations as the people spreading good news; and Reputation Management as the team monitoring and repairing incidents. It is a narrow postulate, but it is not totally wrong.