How to control your online reputation

Article Index

Reputation is everything. In today’s business world where clients have a seemingly limitless choice, their recommendation or condemnation can make or break your business. With over 1 billion Facebook users, 181 million blogs and 340 million daily tweets, there is huge potential for people to be discussing your brand and determining your reputation. Are you listening? Are you leveraging? Or are you lagging behind? In the words of self-made billionaire Warren Buffet ‘It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you'll do things differently’.

Reputation management

High profile case law such as Smith v Trafford Housing Trust has highlighted the serious problems that can arise when employees use the internet and social networking sites for both personal and corporate purposes. The ACAS Research Paper: Workplaces and Social Networking - The Implications for Employment Relations, has further confirmed that in the interests of best practice every business should create a policy to manage its on-line reputation and, in the event of a breach, implement a disciplinary procedure that is both proportionate and reasonable. See also ‘Exploring the ethicality of firing employees who blog’, Valentine et al, Human Resource Management, Vol. 49, Issue 1, pp. 87-

Clearly HR personnel will play a pivotal role in the creation of this Online Reputation Management Strategy (ORMS), so it is important to understand the basic framework and main considerations required to make it comprehensive and effective.

What is an ORMS? 

ORMS refers to the strategies and processes of identifying, monitoring, analysing, responding and influencing all internet users’ perception of your brand and your brand credibility. It is the tool that helps ensure that your brand, your business and your representatives are seen in a positive light, as experts in your field and as acting in a way that is appropriate for your business model. 

The fact is that websites, blogs and social media are now essential components of any online marketing strategy. Even if your business does not yet have a large online presence, both your employees and your clients will doubtless be using these online platforms and many of them will be talking about your business online. If you’re not part of that conversation and don’t create guidelines about how these interactions should occur, then you’re not in control of your online reputation and your business is not protected.

What affects online reputation?

Your organisation’s online reputation can be impacted by four main sources:

  1. The online engagement behaviour of all of your employees: when they are interacting online in a corporate capacity, e.g. on a company Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube or Facebook account; when they are interacting online on their personal social media accounts or blogs
  2. The behaviour of all external online users including prospects, clients, competitors, trollers and the public at large
  3. Social, political and economic changes that affect your industry as a whole
  4. Your reaction both online and offline to both negative and positive comments about your business: what you post online in response to any comments about your business; how you deal with an employee who commits an online breach of your Code of Conduct and ORMS

Your ORMS therefore needs to address all four of these elements. 

Internet access and usage

The first thing to determine is which employees have internet access. There are two basic access policies:

  1. Internet access is rolled out to all employees across the whole company as a matter of policy regardless of their role
  2. The internet is only accessible to those employees who require it in order to carry out their jobs effectively

In both cases you also need to consider:

  • All employees who have access to the internet will be able to access their personal social media sites and any personal blogs unless you specifically ban these sites
  • Any employees whose job includes implementing your corporate social media strategy will have access to both corporate and personal social media accounts including any company and personal blogs

It is also important to realise that the vast majority of employees will access the internet outside of work, at home or in cyber cafés and they may well publicly comment on your business outside of the workplace.

Banned websites

Your ORMS needs to determine what websites will be completely barred from use from a work computer or while logged on to the work system by remote access. At the very least this should include all pornographic and gambling sites. The best policy is to set out clear criteria for what type of website should be banned and then outsource the barring process to a digital marketing company who can ban new sites as they are created.

There is a good business case for allowing employees to access their personal social media pages during work hours as long as you set out clear guidance on how and when they use them and what they say about the company or on behalf of the company. Positive employee comments can:

  • aid effective recruitment 
  • increase traffic to your website increasing sales and profits
  • create a happier working environment
  • humanise your business so your prospective clients grow to know, like and trust you

Computer technology giant Dell attributes a large proportion of the $6 million it generated in revenue in 2012 to its Twitter strategy, which encouraged employees to tweet about Dell on their personal accounts.

Avoiding the pitfalls of employees using social media

If you allow your employees to use social media accounts at work, you need to give clear guidance on what is acceptable behaviour in terms of when and how they use them. The guidance should also advise what type of work-related posts are acceptable when made on a public forum outside of the workplace. Here are few examples, but not an exhaustive list, of best practice:

  • To ensure productivity is not affected, advise them that they can only use personal accounts during break times and after work.
  • If an employee has access to both corporate and personal social accounts make sure they don’t check the ‘Remember me’ box at the login point. If they always have to enter the login and password, they are less likely to post on the corporate account mistakenly believing they are on their personal account!
  • Ban the use of the company logo on employees’ personal social media pages.
  • Don’t allow posting of photos of business-related social events like the office Christmas party.
  • Ask employees not to write personal remarks on the corporate social media accounts.
  • Consult a social media expert on the various privacy settings available for both profiles and posts on each social site and offer employees guidance on best practice to minimise post visibility.
  • Hold a semi-formal monthly meeting or similar forum, allowing employees to vent any frustrations about the company without fear of repercussions. If they feel they are being heard, they are far less likely to make a public complaint on their personal social pages. 
  • Ensure that your ORMS is widely disseminated throughout your business, on bulletin boards, the intranet and in hard copy.
  • When you roll out a Corporate Social Media Strategy enlist the help of a digital marketing expert to create an ORMS that deals with any post made about your business on any online platform by any person from employees and clients to competitors and trollers.

Proportionate disciplinary procedures

In Smith v Trafford Housing Trust demoting Mr Smith for his Facebook post expressing his concerns about civil partnership ceremonies in church was a breach of contract because although his employment status was evident, it was clear in the context of his whole Facebook timeline that it was for personal use not work and the opinions expressed were his own, not made on behalf of his employer and it did not bring the Trust into disrepute. It’s clear to see how the negative publicity surrounding the case and the many blog posts debating the fairness of the Trust’s reaction and the legal implications of the outcome, could actually damage the Trust’s reputation to a far greater extent than the original comments made by Mr Smith. To avoid a public backlash and unfair dismissal proceedings you need to consider the following before taking disciplinary action:

  • Is your business in the private or public sector and does it have a social responsibility to appear impartial or to protect information relating to the general public?
  • Was the post made on a corporate or personal social media account?
  • Is the employee’s post work-related misbehaviour? For example a tweet saying: ‘I told my boss I was sick but really I’m at Alton Towers’.
  • Was the post a deliberate defamatory comment about your business?
  • Was the post a genuine mistake?
  • Was the employee expressing their personal opinion, as in the case of Smith v THT, or expressing an opinion on behalf of your business?
  • Is the employee’s social page or blog predominantly personal or work related?
  • Did the comment actually or potentially damage your business reputation?
  • If so, was the actual or potential damage minimal or severe?

Weigh up all the possibilities and ensure that your ORMS sets out a code of conduct and the proportionate disciplinary action that will be taken in each case, adhering to ethical, legal and practical considerations.

A master class in ORMS from the Red Cross

In February 2011, The Red Cross delivered a master class in how to turn a potentially damaging erroneous tweet by an employee into a PR success story. 

The circumstances were different from Smith v THT as a Red Cross employee posted the following tweet on the @RedCross company Twitter profile, believing they were posting on their own Twitter account: ‘Ryan found two more 4 bottle packs of Dogfish Head’s Midas Touch beer … when we drink we do it right #gettingslizzerd’.

Rather than sacking the employee, The Red Cross reprimanded them privately in accordance with their Code of Conduct and ORMS and sensibly responded publicly with a gently humorous apology on Twitter: ‘We’ve deleted the rogue tweet but rest assured the Red Cross is sober and we’ve confiscated the keys!’.

In a PR master stroke the Red Cross then teamed up with the Dogfish Head Brewery on Twitter to leverage their 55,000 Twitter followers, with the result that they were inundated with free publicity and lots of donations. By embracing the mistake, taking full responsibility and ownership and disciplining the employee proportionately, the Red Cross turned a mistake into a successful PR exercise. 


As an employer you can potentially gain a wealth of information on job applicants from their social media pages. Some HR professionals feel that using social media as one of the determining factors in the hiring process is an invasion of privacy; others consider it to be a useful tool. When creating your ORMS consider the following:

  • Will you look at applicants’ social media pages at the recruitment stage?
  • Has the applicant included links to their social media on their application? 
  • The TUC Worksmart website guidelines advise that using social media at the recruitment stage does not allow equality of access as HR personnel might know more about some candidates than others depending on what is on their social profiles. 
  • Decide what your policy will be in accordance with employment, privacy and human rights laws, create clear guidelines and ensure all HR personnel involved in recruitment are aware of and have access to them.


Employ a collaborative approach to creating your ORMS. Employees will be more aware of and happy with it as a result. Involve a panel of people who are experts about your business and about reputation management. Include employees, management, union representatives if applicable, HR personnel and, ideally, an external digital marketing expert.

In 2012 the number of Facebook users topped 1 billion and increasingly businesses are realising the potential for a serious ROI if they use the top social networking sites and blogs creatively to promote their brand. 

If your online strategy is carried out responsibly with clear, ethical, practical guidelines it can be a resounding success, but on the flip side if you do not have a comprehensive ORMS in place, the consequences can be dire. 

With the right advice you can create an effective ORMS that will give your employees the freedom to enjoy their downtime at work, while reaping huge benefits for your business in terms of customer relations, increased web traffic, converting prospects to paying clients and an increase in overall profits. 

Related articles



# chipivil 2013-03-04 09:25
Reputation is of a big concern nowadays. We should take care about our image before the others. No matter that we have no business our reputation is still very important for us.
# ezoalar 2017-02-16 11:54 -
# sdoxibibexu 2017-02-16 12:14 -
# itukoguc 2017-02-17 05:21 -
# ojapugozoquc 2017-02-17 23:55 -
# ijavuqe 2017-02-18 00:14 -
# ixiquyuig 2017-02-18 18:43 -
# epugewix 2017-02-18 19:02 -
# senexogodiho 2017-02-19 15:11 -
# emuruinij 2017-02-20 11:39 -
# avoqaricufo 2017-02-20 11:59 -
# azesevvebija 2017-02-21 08:34 -
# ihaikugibqoda 2017-02-21 08:55 -
# axouavepa 2017-02-21 09:16 -
# iajaeizo 2017-02-22 05:31 -
# agizajeayeja 2017-02-23 03:27 -
# iraxebefij 2017-02-23 03:49 -
# orugiqufi 2017-02-24 01:29 -
# obabobotafja 2017-02-24 01:49 -
# uyemubiwo 2017-02-26 01:15 -
# orofefapui 2017-02-26 01:35 -
# LyudaViogy 2018-09-04 02:52
cialis super active usa - cialis cheap
cialis cheap

cialis kosten kanada
# Smithd741 2018-10-18 05:14
Farmville farms even include free gift that is kgaeeaedcdeeeba c
# Smithe208 2018-10-18 05:14
Write more, thats all I have to say. Literally, it seems as though you relied on the video to make your point. You clearly know what youre talking about, why throw away your intelligence on just posting videos to your weblog when you could be giving us something enlightening to read? kkebaceebgdckcd g
# profile7106 2018-11-02 12:13
Need cheap hosting? Try webhosting1st, just $10 for an year.

Add comment

Security code

Forgotten your password?

I'd like to subscribe
Subscribers only - te law will answer your employment law queries. Find out more about our email support

Now there's more ways to stay in touch

Join Us on Linked in Become our Fan on Facebook Follow us on Twitter