The Problem Businesses Face
For all the benefits and opportunities that the internet provides businesses, the internet also generates unique and increasingly dangerous threats to a business’s reputation and brand. The internet’s low barrier entry, global reach, lasting content, and allowance for anonymity, all create a landscape with many substantial and evolving risks to businesses’ brands and reputations. Indeed, often when a business identifies an online threat and devises a solution, a new or modified version of the existing threat puts the business’s reputation and brand at risk again. The stakes are high given that a single event can significantly harm a business: a malicious statement published on Yelp, Ripoff Report, Facebook, Twitter, or other social media has been shown to reduce sales or even bring down companies; a social media campaign against a business’s product or practices has stopped entire product launches; an executive’s statement taken out of context that goes viral has resulted in customer backlash; and on and on.
The internet also threatens a business’s reputation and brand because of its dominate role in commerce. Today, consumers select a hotel or physician based upon an online review or rating site. Consumers increasingly purchase products not at stores, but on e-commerce platforms, such as Amazon or eBay, buying from individual sellers. And businesses largely communicate and advertise to customers online. These changes have created significant challenges to businesses protecting their reputation and brand, from deciding how to react to a poor online review or a poor choice of words in an online advertisement, to deciding how to respond to unauthorized or counterfeit sellers on Amazon or eBay. Businesses also are now forced to deal with a wide array of new forms of illegal, deceptive and/or unethical competitive tactics, such as fake or misleading reviews, misuse of trademarks to divert traffic, cybersquatting, selling of diverted product online at below retail prices, and much more.
The potentially catastrophic impact of online reputation and brand threats has business owners in every industry feeling uneasy and vulnerable, seemingly without anywhere to turn to protect and defend themselves. The Online Reputation & Brand Protection Coalition is designed precisely to help businesses build that protection and defense.
Most businesses today recognize the severity and scope of the challenges the internet creates for their reputation and brand. According to a recent Deloitte survey of 300 of the world’s leading business executives, reputational harm was rated the single greatest risk for large businesses.
During the last two years, businesses have watched their brand revenues steadily sink due to the dramatic increase in both the illegal and unethical activities against companies online. To reverse that trend, businesses are desperately seeking information regarding the protection and defense of their brands, reputations, and products online. Businesses are also seeking information on how to respond to those online threats in different countries because the threats often originate from countries where they have no idea how to handle them. Obtaining adequate information is difficult, however, since the resources available fail to provide comprehensive, multi-disciplinary solutions to online threats. Instead, the information from service providers often analyzes and suggests solutions consistent with their respective services offered, rather than in a manner consistent with the scope of the threat.
The rapidly changing internet landscape has exposed businesses like never before. Law enforcement agencies have not been aggressive in protecting businesses, existing laws lag far behind the technology at the attackers’ fingertips, and businesses are left without any reliable resource for help and protection. To be sure, for every new internet-related crisis, there is a company offering a quick-fix for sale. These services vary in quality and cost, but without a plan for ongoing education or long-term internet reputation and brand management, they all address fleeting symptoms while the problem – the constantly looming threat of crippling reputational and brand attacks –continues to fester. As long as consumer review websites, Google search results, social media chatter, and unauthorized online sellers all have the power to determine a business’s fate, companies that care about their reputations and brand cannot afford to deal with online attacks only as they arise; they certainly cannot afford to be passive and simply hope that they will beat the odds and never become an online target.
But in an era of unprecedented illegal, unethical, and malicious online conduct, not all of the news is bad. For the first time, businesses now have an opportunity to take real and proactive steps to protect themselves against online reputation and brand threats in the Internet age.