The prevalence of online communication channels have made it more complicated to measure the reputation of companies, while at the same time making reputational smears easier to commit.
Tracking a company’s reputation goes well beyond counting clips and mentions. It is critical for public relations professionals to learn to track reputation and measure it in this more complex environment.
There are several ways to think about reputation and measure it. We have pulled together five for you to consider adding to your arsenal. Additionally, we look at the importance of keeping business measures in mind to bring the measurement of reputation into focus.
Sentiment analysis is the seemingly easy way to measure reputation. Most monitoring tools have it built into their dashboards, with some being more accurate than others.
The problem with sentiment analysis is that it is limited in accuracy without additional human analysis. With computers getting more and more sophisticated, there may come a day when automated sentiment analysis will be more accurate.
Late last year Stanford Ph.D. student Richard Socher and a team of researchers, including Coursera co-founder Andrew Ng, developed a computer model that looks at the sentiment of whole sentences. It has an accuracy of 85%, versus the 80% accuracy of some of the best tools on the market.
Moreover, the team will share the code for anyone who wants to use it. Over time, Socher feels he can reach a 95% accuracy. Sentiment analysis should be used as a way to gauge if sentiment is going up or down over time, and should be compared with real-world measures, such as sales, stock price and leads.
Another tool for measuring reputation is through purchase intent. There are two ways to measure purchase intent online: you either ask in a survey, or listen in on conversations looking for intent to buy.
Online surveys have drawbacks, in terms of sample size, distribution and self-selection of the participants. However, they can be controlled for some of these factors. The key to making these surveys work well is wide distribution, simplicity and repeatability.
In addition to helping a company make sound decisions on things like pricing, an online survey is a great way to see if purchase intent peaks and drops over time. This can be a great indication of reputation, especially when correlated with current media coverage and other efforts.
Online purchase intent can be measured using standard monitoring tools, though some companies specialize in helping companies optimize searches. Tools that expand beyond simple word searches and allow a company to take action are most helpful.
Searches could include phrases like “I want,” “I need,” “I hate,” “I love” and that are in close proximity to brand names, category types or services. For instance, if someone says, “I need to look into a new productivity software for the office,” this might trigger a Twitter account manager for a productivity software company to start a conversation with this potential customer.
NET PROMOTOR SCORE
Many companies are now using the Net Promoter Scoring method, developed by Fred Reichheld, Bain & Co., and Satmetrix, to determine their reputation among key groups. The score is obtained by surveying customers about how likely they are to recommend a specific product or service on a ten-point scale, with 0-6 being counted as not likely, 8-7 counted a neutral and 9-10 counted as likely.
To calculate the score, take the percentage of those who say they are extremely likely to recommend a product or service to a friend and subtract the ones who say they are not at all likely to do so.
The resulting percentage is the Net Promoter Score. Usually there is an open ended question to gather information about why they feel the way they do. The average score is 5 to 10 percent, while marquee companies, like Amazon or Harley-Davidson, have scores that run in the 50 to 80 percent range.
The Net Promoter Score is a great way to keep tabs on the loyalty of customers to the company, but it doesn’t cover the feelings about a company’s reputation by potential customers or the general public.
Take a page from politics by conducting regular opinion polls about how the general public, or your customers specifically, feel about your brand, or about a topic overall. They can also be taken before and after a campaign to see if you have moved the needle on reputation.
If they are built into the communication program and taken once a quarter, or seasonally, they can also show the reputational impact of any type of crisis or event.
Many of the measures we have talked about above should be correlated with the actions you want your targeted groups to take, such as sales, or other business measures. For instance, does a dip in online sentiment correlate with the dip in sales, once adjusted for seasonal and other factors?
Does a rise in purchase intent, paired with a strong outreach campaign, actually correspond to a rise in sales or positive sentiment? Does a high Net Promoter Score, or similar measure, correlate with strong sales? Does a drop in public opinion actually impact the company in terms of expensive regulation, or loss of interest in the product with weak sales?
You will need someone who has a basic understanding of statistics to help you look at these correlations, but the actual formula is easy and only requires Excel and determination. Furthermore, correlation helps you to determine which of the reputation measures most closely mirrors your industry or business, and it can help to fine tune the measures over time.
Whatever method you choose to measure reputation, you will need to use it regularly and make adjustments to it over time. Reputation is not one of those things you set and forget and neither should the approach to measuring it be static. PRN
Reputation Management For C-Level Executives
Reputation and influence measurement is no longer just for companies and organizations, it is also for individuals. The more high profile you are in your job, the more important this type of measurement becomes. We will examine three steps that executives can take to ensure they are building their reputations and measuring them accurately. Like all good communication programs, executives should set goals for what they hope to accomplish online.
Step 1: Monitor. If you have a paid monitoring tool for your company, be sure to add your executives name and any derivatives as one of the search terms and monitor for mentions of that name. Additionally, search for the spread of any content like Editorials. If you don’t have a paid tool, you can use a free one like Google Advanced Search, Social Mention and Talkwalker Alerts. Social Mention includes some basic sentiment measures to spot-check if what is being said is positive or negative.
Step 2: Presence. Many executives have learned the hard way that the company or organization website can’t be their only online presence. Beyond a profile on the company site, executives should build a robust online presence. At a minimum, they should have a LinkedIn profile that connects with other leaders in their field. The more connections built, the higher the social proof that the executive is well respected by her peers.
Step 3: Participate. Executives should choose one or two social networks in which they participate regularly. They can use LinkedIn as this base, but a blog or Twitter profile is more visible. If they ever find themselves in a personal reputational crisis, these channels, and the relationships with the people they have built over time, can serve as an important conduit to get their side of the story out. —K.H.
This story originally ran in the Jan. 27, 2014 issue of PR News.