What is right and wrong behavior for online reputation management and public relations companies? This is very similar to how ethics in the media are treated. It has a lot of confusion, but this article will help everyone to clear out the outline of what really is or is not ethical in the online reputation management industry.
Reputation X is also known as a cleanup for messes caused by firms claiming to be reputation management agencies. So when a reputation firm gets engaged in unethical behavior, they will become corrupt not only for their clients but also for the people who rely on the information they distribute. So basically, our job is to reverse that.
Here are listed a few outcomes of what can go wrong ethically during a poorly executed brand improvement engagement.
Creating fake reviews
Companies post counterfeit reviews in Glass door reviews. They just log in and write some fake ones to boost the ratings. It is effortless to write fake reviews, but is it ethical? Companies call this practice highly unethical, but are they so? If a reputed review platform like Yelp or TripAdvisor is found to have a vast number of fake reviews, their reputation and credibility may get damaged. But the real damage is when people rely on fake reviews and decide on the basis of investing their money on it.
Are fake reviews even legal ?
No. The United States FTC considers an owner to have engaged in deceptive marketing. Fake online reviews come under FTC “endorsement guidelines,” which “reflect the basic truth-in-advertising principle that endorsements have to be very honest and not misleading.”
Using alternative facts (lies)
There are some reputation management companies that will fake their company to the clients. For example, they will create and publish online content about charities they never actually did; they will show awards they never won, or refute adverse product safety claims using false information. Even being very common, this technique is very unethical and often illegal.
Straw man techniques
Straw man means a fake person. Straw men are very often confused with “sock puppets.” When a person changes his/her name and writes reviews is called a pseudonym. Benjamin Franklin was a famous person for penning opinion pieces under another name. That kind of false personality for false statements is known as a straw man.
The use of straw man in online marketing would be for creating fake social media accounts, websites, and other online content meant to be used as an online footprint.
Is straw man personality is created to protect the identity of an entity, and it is not used for any harmful purpose, then it can be said as ethical. For example, if an organization wanted to share an unpopular point of view but want to stay protected from the backlash of social media, it is ethical. But if a straw man is used to give false statements or to manipulate opinion in a wrong way, then it is unethical in every sense.