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IABC Victoria members get together for a chat about one of communication's most critical issues – online reputation management.


Recently, the ANZ Bank’s CEO, Mike Smith, told a meeting of the Prime Minister’s B20 Leadership Group that digital and social media is a bigger shift than the industrial revolution. Digital media has already redefined the music, newspaper and other media industries and it’s only a matter of time before every one of us – every industry on earth – is affected.

In this new social world where every consumer has a voice and a choice, the reputation game has changed and the stakes are higher than ever.

Which is no doubt why IABC Victoria’s most recent event – The Art of Online Reputation Management – proved to be one of our most popular events for the year.

The Art of Online Reputation Management brought together social media leaders from the corporate, government and small business sectors. The panel, which was moderated by Ross Monaghan of Deakin University, included Paul Edwards from the ANZ Bank, Belinda Hayes from the Department of Environment and Primary Industries and Steve Vallas from the Honey Bar.

Here’s a few examples of what they had to say.


The role of communicators is changing forever

Social media is having a massive impact on communications. It isn’t just a new function. It’s actually changing the way we communicate and make-up of our teams.

This shift is so strong that Paul Edwards, in his role as ‎Group General Manager Corporate Communications at ANZ Bank, now devotes a staggering 50% of his time to social.

According to Steve Vallas, social media is also changing the dynamics of the relationships we maintain. He has noted that his social followers will often speak up for him when a complaint is registered online. This, he says, is the sheer power of a strong online brand, reputation and relationships.


Education is critical

In such a new, diverse and changing world, understanding, skills and, therefore, education become vital.

The role that education plays is two-fold.

Firstly, we need to educate our leaders on the importance of social media and how to use it.

Belinda Hayes’ core focus is on using social media for customer service. She is embarking on an education process with her executive team to build a greater awareness of social media and the role it plays in tandem with traditional media.

Both Belinda and Paul are lucky in that their most senior leaders (the Department Secretary for Belinda and Mike Smith for Paul) are quite digitally literate. This is an enormous aid to embedding social literacy among the executive team and the organisation as a whole.

One interesting step Paul has taken is to appoint a ‘reverse mentor’ to each executive member. In this way, the executive gets hands-on support as they navigate what we all know can be a complicated journey.

The second critical point of education involves the communications team itself.

Paul Edwards believes that anyone without social media skills will, in the next 2-3 years, struggle in communications.

To that end, he is actively appointing people with key social skills (for example, journalists), aggressively exploring a wide range of social skills (such as visual content) and actively ensuring his people receive the training they need. This demand for skills has exploded recently with the launch of the ANZ Blue Notes online publication and newsroom.


Your voice… your relationships… your reputation

One area that Steve Vallas was particularly passionate about is the development of your social ‘voice’. It is critical that you maintain a brand voice that will help people come to understand and appreciate you.

This voice must be contextual and constant… and that’s not easy. You need to have a very clear view of what you stand for and project that view at all times. You need to think about what you post and, sometimes, reject otherwise good ideas because they don’t fit your voice. And you need to keep going. You can’t jump in and out of social media. You need to maintain a regular presence.

This voice becomes the basis of your relationships. As people begin to develop an affinity with you, they will support what you’re doing and become more involved with both you and your business.

They will open themselves up to a relationship with you. These relationships (and the way you manage them) become pivotal to your reputation.


Look… listen… leap… link

It is important to understand that social media isn’t just about going online and posting.

Each panel member talked stressed the need to:

Look: As both Paul Edwards stressed, maintain a careful focus on rapidly changing social media trends and the many emerging services.

Listen: Monitoring the social activity around your brand/s. There are a vast range of tools that can help you monitor not just information about your brand/s but about specific issues relating to you as well. This is a critical priority for all our panellists.

Leap: Or, to put it another way, get involved. Paul Edwards strongly advocates that his team members not only stay in touch with what is going on, but try things as well… as long, of course, as this is done in a strategic way.

Link: Finally, as Belinda said, it is critical to avoid thinking of social media as a stand-alone world. The real value of social media emerges when you understand that it operates in an ecosystem with all other channels. Understand how each channel impacts the others is the key to success.