Book review of Managing Online Reputation by Charlie Pownall

Managing Online Reputation: How to protect your company on social media
By Charlie Pownall
Palgrave Macmillan, 2015, 236 pages


Full of valuable anecdotes, practical social media guidance, and explanation of cultural internet jargon makes Managing Online Reputation by Charlie Pownall a perfect beginners guide. Suitable for those learning about online reputation for the first time or senior practitioners who need convincing of the importance of digital.

If we assume there are two types of PR book the market; theoretical and experience-based books, then I would place Pownall’s book into the later category. The pages drip with Pownall’s experience and insight into the media industry.
If you want to know how fast information travels online, then the story of the Qantas A380 crash in 2010 is named; online scepticism exampled when one of China’s high-speed trains crashed in 2011; and a number of examples showing the negative effects of disgruntled employees and customers.

Occasionally media communication theories will pop-up but they are not focused or challenged in detail in comparison to other books on the market, such as Caroline Black’s or Averill Gordon’s. So if you’re a PR student you may want to read Managing Online Reputation alongside one of these more established academic books.

Where the book may receive some criticism is lack of practical technical detail around actually managing online reputation. For instance, the importance of search engines is mentioned but in limited detail without explanation of tackling SEO issues. The same applies to Wikipedia which is mentioned four times in 230 pages of book.

Another critical aspect missing from the book is the process of measuring reputation through ongoing monitoring. Despite the popularity and critical necessity of social media monitoring tools such as Radian6, Brandwatch, and Pulsar — the book doesn’t mention them once.

From experience, it’s practically impossible to begin monitoring online reputation without the support of monitoring tools, as they scrape the data from social media which leads to the categorisation of threats in the theories later outlined in Pownall’s book. This is why the #PRstack project last year served the purpose of categorising the 3rd party tool market.

So even though the book mentions at the start it won’t provide a “template” or “silver bullet” for each task, it’s exactly this which leaves me to believe managing should be omitted from the book’s title. Pownall flawlessly shows how online can be integrated into a reputation management programme, but you’ll need to find a reputation book written by a digital specialist for the next step.

Like all books, this one has its strengths and weaknesses. The ultimate test is how often will I be reaching for it on my bookshelf? Time will tell.

[CORRECTION: There is a reference to a social monitoring tool in the book, CIC a China-based listening firm.]

What do you think?