Organizations as diverse as Samsung and Wells Fargo can attest to the fact that reputation is everything.

And with the explosive proliferation of social media, reputation is only going to become more important. As a prevalent saying goes, you’re only one Tweet or Facebook post away from a public relations nightmare.

But Anticipatory Organizations have long recognized the critical importance of managing reputation proactively whenever possible.

Welcome to the Reputation Economy

In a blog I wrote for the Huffington Post, I laid out the case that we are, in fact, in what can be labeled the Reputation Economy. Research bears this out. Not only do consumers look at online product reviews before making a purchasing decision, but 90 percent say they’re influenced by those reviews. Another 64 percent say their purchasing decisions are impacted by social content.

That’s why I refer to reputation management as a genuine capital asset—something as inherently valuable to your organization as people, products and financial resources. And it’s essential to approach it seriously—and proactively.

Anticipation Versus Reaction

One of the cornerstones of my Anticipatory Organization Model™ is, as the name implies, the essential value of being anticipatory—using Hard Trends and Soft Trends, among other components, to accurately anticipate much of what the future holds and, whenever possible, to influence those future events to your advantage.

That kind of mindset runs counter to a competency that many organizations wear as a badge of pride—agility, which is the ability to react to change quickly. In their eyes, spotting fires such as disruptions and problems quickly and putting them out as fast as possible is the best way to deal with the increasing pace of change. And to a degree, it is. Predictably, there will be many unpredictable events that can best be handled with agility.

But merely reacting quickly is no longer sufficient in a digital world that’s moving and changing at an exponentially faster rate of speed. As I point out in my speeches and consulting work, being agile doesn’t let you jump ahead of everyone else with the certainty and lower risk that Hard Trends provide. And given the seconds it can take for a dissatisfied customer to pen a negative online post, reacting quickly to address threats to your reputation is only one strategy that can help. One of the principles of the Anticipatory Model is to take the time to predict and pre-solve the problems customers could have with your product or service so that you will have far fewer dissatisfied customers.

Reputation Management—How to Jump Ahead

Let’s be absolutely clear. It is very difficult to keep all of your customers happy all of the time—dissatisfaction usually goes with the territory. But how you anticipate addressing those who are unhappy can go a long way toward a reputation management system that is as proactive as possible.

First, consider who in your organization is charged with monitoring your reputation, particularly online. Is it an unpaid intern or an experienced full-time professional? And, if it is a paid position, is compensation commensurate with its importance (remember, you get the behavior you reward!)? No matter who’s in the job, just how quickly do they respond to a negative comment? And more importantly, how do they respond? For example, another principle of the Anticipatory Model is the Burrus Law of Opposites. In this case, a negative comment or post is a gift that gives you the ability to convert a dissatisfied customer into a raving fan. With that mindset, you will respond in a very different way. For example, you might acknowledge their difficulty and ask them what would they like you to do. The vast majority of customers will ask for something you would have done anyway, but because of how you handled it, you took the pain away. If you add a gift coupon or something else that will give them more than they asked for, even better. Because they took the time to write a negative post, they are likely to write a positive post as well if they liked how you handled the problem. Opposites work better!

Further, what sort of policies and procedures are in place to, in effect, help foster positive reputation-related material in advance? Is someone in your organization charged with creating engaging content, setting up and managing profiles on social media sites and soliciting mentions on other sites? These and other similar steps not only help build a positive reputation, but can also help tilt the scales in your favor when some sort of negative feedback crops up.

Of course, managing your digital reputation will cost time and money. But as I pointed out earlier, if you consider your reputation as a capital asset, then making an ongoing financial commitment is much easier to acknowledge.