Radically Transparent a Comprehensive Guide to Online Reputation Management
I first heard about this book reading Andy Beal’s excellent Marketing Pilgrim blog. I saw a copy of the book while attending Search Engine Strategies 2009 and was surprised by its heft. It is 378 pages of small type with ample screen shots and diagrams. The 15+ reviews on Amazon overwhelmingly praise the book as a well-researched, comprehensive and practical addition to the emerging field of online reputation management.
The first four chapters are designed to help you understand the new social media landscape and the increased importance of personal branding and online reputation. The case studies and rules of engagement effectively convey why authenticity and transparency are now a business requirement. These chapters are especially useful for executives or entrepreneurs that have outdated beliefs and fears around social media or have hesitated to invest in cultivating and managing an online brand for themselves or their organization.
Effectively managing an online reputation requires an understanding and application of broad range of skills, including public relations, search engine optimization, blogging, multimedia content, copywriting and social networking. More than half of the book is devoted to understanding what each skill is, why it is important today, and how to go about applying it. Blogging, which the authors see as vital to a reputation strategy, rightly receives expanded treatment. As a whole, these chapters are good introductions to the topics and provide context to reputation management.
The book includes ample case studies (success and horror stories) from well-known brands, including Jet Blue, Dell, Pontiac, Apple, Kodak, eBay, GlaxoSmithKline and Go Daddy. Some of stories, like the Dell’s Hell blogging episode from 2005, have become business school case studies. I find they are also getting a little tiresome in social media presentations. The authors do a good job adding detail and perspective to many of the case studies by quoting individuals directly involved with the crisis or episode.
The book’s strongest feature is the 3 chapters on monitoring and repairing your online reputation. This is not surprising given Beal’s background as an SEO expert, early proponent of online reputation and architect of Trackur software. Even experienced social media practitioners should find these chapters useful for navigating the now crowded field of monitoring tools.
The Seven Step Action Plan in the last chapter was the book’s biggest disappointment. Three of the steps, “Write Your Goals,” “Craft a Strategy and Write Objectives” and “Create an Implementation Plan” provided vague direction and little substance. Isn’t it obvious that every plan needs goals, strategy and tactics? I can forgive the authors for this omission. My hunch is that this chapter was an afterthought and was hastily drafted. I posted a PowerPoint on SlideShare titled “7 Steps to Build and Manage an Executive Reputation” that I feel does a better job summarizing the process.
Radically Transparent is a must read for practitioners in PR, marketing, corporate communications and executive communications. The principles apply to established corporate brands, newer companies and individuals. Marketing and tech-savvy business owners, professionals and consultants should also find it useful. The sheer volume of information may overwhelm job seekers and individuals with less marketing and web experience. However, I still recommend this book for any individual serious about managing their career in the digital era.
You can hear a podcast interview with Andy Beal recorded August 25, 2009.