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Q&A with Vikki Chowney: Centaur’s new site Reputation Online

Successfully using social media and online tools to promote your brand/organisation and attempting to engage and interact with your audience online can be a tricky business.

With multiple platforms and online communities through which to communicate – and the users of these rapidly growing – Centaur Media’s most recent web launch seems very timely.

Launched last month, Reputation Online, a free website under the New Media Age division of Centaur, will offer advice, discussion and tools on building a better online brand and digital presence.

Journalism.co.uk caught up with the site’s editor Vikki Chowney to find out more:

What’s the aim of Reputation Online?
There are thousands of resources – from blogs to print publications with an online counterpart – that direct you this way or that way when you’re trying to build a presence online.

However, these resources are dispersed across the internet, making it difficult to compare editorial coverage with user-generated opinion side by side. Reputation Online will bring together a range of best practice, knowledge and thoughts in one place, from both sides of the coin. We want to attract thought-leaders to debate various issues on the site, but also provide a resource for people that don’t really know where to start.

Who will be working on the site?
I’ll be providing editorial insight (along with members of the NMA team), and readers themselves will be contributing to the user-generated module.

What are your top tips for maintaining a good reputation online for organisations (in particular media orgs) starting out in digital?
Common sense and transparency in equal measure. Whether you’re a small organisation or a large one, you have to be open about communicating with customers or clients. At the same time, being a little bit sensible about the content and tone of what you put out there is just as important.

Do individuals as much as larger organisations need to be aware of online reputation?
Definitely, sometimes more so. A larger organisation can (to an extent) rely on the reputation of its products or on the reputations of various senior staff members. An individual only has their own to work with.

Are there any organisations that have managed their reputation online particularly well/badly in your opinion?
The standard ‘go to’ for an example of managing a great online reputation is Tony Hsieh. He uses social media to build the reputation of his company Zappos (and many have pointed towards this being the reason that the company was recently acquired by Amazon).

When he first started tweeting, it was fairly unique for the MD himself to be the one controlling the company’s Twitter feed. But really, it’s no different to wheeling out the CEO of a company every time there’s a round of press briefings to get done, he’s just doing it more regularly and is much more accessible.

I hate to pick on Habitat, but they really didn’t handle ‘hashtaggate’ very well (in which they decided to add trending topics to their tweets, regardless of whether they were relevant or not). Blaming the intern in a faceless apology that doesn’t really sit well, and they could have learned a lot from the likes of David Neeleman from JetBlue (who recorded a video explanation/apology following a particularly bad day for the company and uploaded it to YouTube). He took responsibility for the company’s actions, was honest and people could relate to that.

Is multimedia coverage particularly suited to the site and its specific focus?
There’s a lot to be said for actually seeing someone on camera. We’re planning to conduct video interviews with both leading figures in the industry, as well those providing an in-house perspective. I’d also like to use video and audio to cover events in the future as well. These mediums are very engaging, but that’s true for many websites.

How will the site be funded?
Predominately through advertising and events (like the issues-based NMALive structure)