Reputation management and deductive reasoning

Did you get an email like this on Tuesday, the day after the oddly named “Cyber Monday”?


I sure did. In fact, I got dozens of them. What I thought was interesting about this wasn’t the sale, but what it hinted at, so much so that I joked about it on Twitter:

If I were an industry analyst or a Wall Street prognosticator, and I received a slew of sales emails from a company I was watching that had an ever-increasing tone of desperation to them, it’s reasonable to conclude I might think they were in trouble, isn’t it?

Imagine for a moment that you were Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s famous detective, Sherlock Holmes, or even better, the BBC’s modern, updated one. What would your sleuthing skills say about a company based on what’s published about them?

image credit: BBC

For example, go to the careers page on your website. What does it say about your company? Where are your hiring needs, and what does that indicate about the current condition of your company? This was the tactic we used when looking at Twitter just before its IPO to deduce its strategy. Are there positions open, or positions that repeatedly become open, especially at senior levels, that might indicate a leadership crisis? Suppose you kept seeing a new VP of Marketing job opening up every 6 months. What would you deduce about that company’s marketing strategy?

Here’s a fun exercise to try. Using publicly available tools like Google and others, do some sleuthing on your top competitor. Avoid any preconceptions and just collect information. Use things like the Wayback Machine to check out their careers page. Visit top wire sites like MarketWired and PR Newswire to see the big picture of their news releases. Check out their social media accounts, and scroll far down to see as much history as you can reasonably consume. Put all of the pieces you find in a document and then look at it holistically. What does it tell you about your competitor? What can you deduce about their strengths and weaknesses? What can you deduce about how they respond to opportunities and threats? What can you conclude about their reputation management strategy?

Now repeat the exercise with your own company, collecting the same amount of information, but having the insider’s perspective of knowing what’s going on internally. What does it say about you? More important, are you sharing “clues” about your company unintentionally that might give competitors extra, unwanted insight into your organization’s strengths and weaknesses?

Christopher S. Penn
Vice President, Marketing Technology


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