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The Importance of Reputation in PR

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I’ve been experimenting with RapLeaf, a new reputation system that launched over the weekend.

Mike Arrington aptly calls it “eBay feedback for the rest of the web, and the offline world.” It’s a simple idea, elegantly executed, with tons of potential, but what I find most interesting are the implications this sort of service has for PR practitioners. Bear with me on this….

Shel Isreal wrote recently about the power of personal brand, specifically, how personal brands are increasingly influencing and shaping our perceptions of various corporate brands. I think you could argue there’s a fine line between “personal brand” and “personal reputation,” they each ultimately represent a subset of qualities and traits that outwardly define you, me, and every other poor sap out there, nothing new here really, however the difference today is that our personal brands, our personal reputations, comes with a degree of permanence and public accessibility — be that for better or worse — thanks to the web.

Case in point, the major search engines, like Yahoo and Google, are crawling and aggregating the bread crumbs of our digital selves, our digital reputations, making this info discoverable to anyone who seeks it, while the vertical search engines, like Technorati and Sphere, are taking it a step further by focusing on blog content and assigning authority and relevancy metrics to that.

To me, RapLeaf’s service seems like the next logical step in this progression, where real-world feedback and offline sentiment can now be combined with algorithmic metrics and online measures to capture and represent one’s reputation. I think the message this sends to PR practitioners, particularly consultants and agency folks, is the obvious one: that you’re the keeper of your reputation, manage it diligently, or face the consequences. Write a bad press release, the world can see it. Send a bad pitch, the world can see it. And if you act unethically, the world can now see that too.

Now, there’s an upside to all this as well, especially in the context of new media. A RapLeaf score has the *potential* to become a unique, at-a-glance qualifier for bloggers, podcasters, etc., who are increasingly being approached, or pitched, by PR folks who might not otherwise disclose their agendas or exercise any degree of transparency. A RapLeaf score could help bloggers and such determine the credibility and trustworthiness of a source, in much the same way that eBay feedback helps buyers and sellers determine who they want to do business with. If this sort of thing was to catch on, the implications for PR would run deep: those that act and operate ethically and responsibly would be largely listened to, and those that don’t, largely ignored. Think about it….

For now, ironically, under the premise of this post and my own RapLeaf score, I exist among the ignored masses, but you can change that, and so can I…;-)

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Mike Manuel is the founder of the award winning Media Guerrilla blog. Media Guerrilla is an insiders take on the practice of technology public relations with a focus on the issues, tactics and trends that are specific to the tech industry.

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The Importance of Reputation in PR
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