Protecting The Client: Keeping Online Reputations Clean (As Possible)

Tom Burroughes Group Editor London 27 February 2020

Protecting The Client: Keeping Online Reputations Clean (As Possible)

This news service dives in again to the world of "reputation management" and how it applies in today's world of social media, "search-engine optimisation" and other developments.

A few days ago this publication, as part of its series on "protecting the client", examined the area of "reputation management" in today's digital world. This goes far beyond traditional areas such as defamation law (although still important). Wealthy individuals who become embroiled in legal or political controversies can find it hard to shake off a poor reputation, however unjust. A person acquitted in a criminal trial might still find that this matter is the first item to appear on an internet search of their name, for example. In a relentless media circus, reputations can rapidly take on a life of their own. Business contracts and jobs can be lost as a result. Blows to reputation can also cause people to become anxious and depressed. No amount of wealth can compensate for this.

Which is why wealth management in its fullest sense requires such reputational protection to be part of the toolbox. We spoke recently to Simon Wadsworth, co-founder of Igniyte – an online reputation management agency based in the UK and founded in 2009, to talk about its work. The field is still controversial - what are the proper boundaries for enabling people to police and correct their reputations if this puts them at odds with a free press? This is still an emerging field.

(See some articles in the "protecting the client" series here and here.

The editors want to encourage further debate so readers should email and

We describe ourselves as online reputation management specialists – we are a leading authority on the subject. We work with business, brands and individuals across the globe to help improve their online reputation. Our team of experts cover SEO [search engine optimisation], PR, content and all manner of technical improvements that can be done to websites.

What do you mean by "online reputation management"?
Well, when you Google yourself, or your business, what do you see? Are you being represented fairly? Do you like what you see? That’s a simplistic way of describing your online reputation but it’s a lot more complicated than that, and there are many factors that influence reputation.

So, why does online reputation matter?
Research shows that 90 per cent of people only look at the first page of Google search results to form their impression, which is why what they see in search results is so important. It influences perception and decision-making.

Some 64 per cent of people also trust online search results when researching individuals and companies. And with more than 5.5 billion Google searches taking place every day, it’s critical that the companies, brands and individuals get their online reputations in order.

Proactive online reputation management isn’t a bad thing, or a dirty word. The digital age means that online conversations are taking place about you, whether you are engaging with them or not. A positive brand, or reputation, will build loyalty and increase confidence from stakeholders, customers and other key relationships. Whereas a negative reputation will put people off and, if you’re in business, make people more likely to choose competitors.

What is the main area of business activity for your firm? What has grown the fastest and why, in your view?
The main growth area for us has been audits. Companies and individuals want to know what their reputation is, and it can be very time consuming to undertake themselves – that’s where we come in. We’re not biased and can take a pragmatic viewpoint about what we see online, and how this would be perceived by stakeholders, customers and other interested parties.

An online reputation audit will take a snapshot in time and enables companies and individuals to see what, if anything, needs to be done to improve their reputation. We have our Igniyte Online Reputation Index which works assessing and weighting several factors such as negative content, forum mentions, social media engagement, online press coverage and more, to give people – and companies – an online reputation score weighted out of 100 – the higher the score, the better the online reputation. Each factor has its own weighting, with some deemed to be more influential in affecting online reputation than others.

We can take an ethical approach to reputation management. And our team of specialists take their own individual skillsets to see what can be done, everything from better management of social media engagement to publishing more content, and talking about the good news through PR factors in.

Can we talk about the wealth management/financial services industry: Are you getting much inquiry for your services via this route? What sort of things are people asking you to fix?
Wealth management and the financial services industry are no different to other industries in this sense. We do get a lot of enquiries from these industries, and that’s because we’ve worked with others and are recommended.  We get different types of enquiries, from a variety of organisations and sectors. People either want our services to help them improve their overall visibility and perception online, or to help fix a problem, like a PR crisis.

Protecting reputations is to some extent closely bound up with private client law firms' work and those of wealth managers, especially those dealing with "politically exposed persons", but also people who are not so high-profile. Do you engage much with the wealth management sector and are you looking to raise your profile with it further?
We do work with clients in wealth management as we understand that it’s a difficult sector to work in due to the regulations and the scrutiny it receives. Like a law firm, we asses each enquiry on a case-by-case basis on whether we would be able to help.

How much of what you do is about educating clients to be more streetwise about the digital age?
Social media has meant that businesses, brands and individuals are exposed to wider audiences, and building on awareness has never been easier. But on the flip side, it’s never been easier to become involved in a crisis that could destroy a reputation.

Because of the type of individuals we work with, very few are using social media at the moment - they just don’t have the time. And that’s where we come in. We look at a strategy for them and make recommendations about best practice and what they should and shouldn’t be posting. It is important to be aware of your audience and how you want to position your brand. Overall, we would offer the following advice to our clients:

1.    Understand your brand. Know your audience and which platforms they are on. Is it LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter? Or somewhere else?
2.    Listen. By monitoring to what is being said about you and your brand, you’ll be able to make informed decisions. There are lots of social listening tools out there that can help.
3.    Understand that mistakes happen. Making a mistake isn’t necessarily a bad thing – if you handle any backlash with grace, you will be able to learn from the experience, it might be bumpy, but you will be able to earn back the trust of your stakeholders and customers. Which leads nicely to…
4.    Be authentic and engage. If you want to be successful it is important to engage with your audience, and not just pitch at them. They will be able to see straight through this.
5.    Have a good strategy. Think about what you want to get out of social media. Do you want more followers? Or to increase sales?  By having a plan, you will be stay focused.

What limits are there on how organisations such as yours can help people? How do you set about framing clients' expectations about what is possible?
Managing client expectations is vital and we can help clients who are engaged and willing to take advice. A lot of the information online cannot be removed, so it’s important that clients work with us and understand that.

How much of what your business does is driven by how it seems that people can be more easily offended by certain issues these days than, say, 30 years ago?
Nowadays everyone is online and has an opinion and unfortunately this can hold a lot of weight when people are forming perceptions of individuals. People and businesses face negative opinions, comments, and reviews every day which might affect them. Opinions are just that though, they are often given without facts which means there is a need for people to reach out for our services.

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