Gartner predicts that by the end of 2010, criminals will routinely use the internet to extort funds from organisations, threatening to damage their corporate reputation by ensuring that routine online search requests will return negative or even libellous results.
"If your business depends on a positive internet reputation, then you have little choice than to explicitly manage that reputation online," said Jay Heiser, an analyst at Gartner.
He said, "The internet is like a bad-news Petri dish - negative information multiplies and spreads with frightening speed and becomes virtually impossible to erase."
Despite a plethora of ways to assess and help manage reputations - such as PR agencies, competitive analysis companies and content analytics tools - a comprehensive "scan and alert" mechanism for the internet does not yet exist, said the analyst.
"Reputational persistence is a unique internet phenomenon that traditional reputation specialists have never had to deal with," said Heiser. "The fact is, the only way to counteract persistent negative information is to overcome it with a greater weight of positive information. This means getting to grips with internet reputation management," he said.
Gartner says firms can proactively manage their reputations online by:
- Understanding the role that reputation plays in social and commercial relationships
- Working with PR and marketing to create your organisation's reputation management strategy
- Educating your employees ability to assess reputation Look for new business opportunities in reputation enhancement