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Reputation management and incorporating image as a part of corporate strategy are becoming more important every year in helping organizations differentiate and break out of the clutter. The payoff can be substantial in terms of faster growth than their competitors, better margins, improved employee retention and a cushion on the downside should there be a hiccough (lower earnings, bad product reviews, recalls, etc.). For in-depth reading and research on the value of reputation, check out two books by Charles Fombrun (Reputation and Fame & Fortune) and another by Leslie Gaines-Ross (CEO Capital).

The 3 fears you mention are the exact reason why businesses are not too comfortable with dealing in social media matters, for the most part.
When taking on new challenges, deciding where to start is the biggest obstacle I can think of. Maybe in this case starting on your own isn't much indicated unless you have some preparation, and it's better to rely on expert consultants, but it's also true that learning along the way is mandatory or otherwise you'll have to rely on external staff forever.

@Brian -- seeing is more powerful that saying.

@Melody -- reputation feeds credibility.

@Ivan -- which is why it is tied to recommendation.

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