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By: Korie Marshall, Editor

I recently attended a workshop sponsored by Tourism Valemount on managing your online reputation. It’s geared towards independent tourism businesses like accommodations and restaurants, but the presenter, Daniel Craig, says the principles apply to every business.

Craig (no, not the same Daniel Craig that plays James Bond) started the first hotel blog, and has now started a business to help other businesses manage their presence online. He knows that online reviews of your business can be all over the board, and that paying attention to them can be distracting. He recommends a number of simple, and free things you can do, they just take your time and effort.

Since I don’t personally run a tourism business, I was thinking in different terms – like of the non-profits I am involved with, or sometimes report on, and about how many times I go first to the internet to find information. And I was thinking about how often it is either wrong or it just doesn’t exist for the local groups, projects, governments I care about. If I can’t find it, there is a good chance no one else will either.

I know; there are lots of people who don’t have computers and cell phones, lots of people who would rather just pick up the phone and ask a question. That is fine. But there are many people who come to the Robson Valley for many reasons – work, vacation, visiting family, thinking of moving – and many of them are looking online for the information they need.

One thing kept ringing through my head during the workshop – that it is important to manage what is online about yourself or your organization. There were pictures of me, already tagged as me, on Facebook before I joined it. There are probably reviews of your business on a website somewhere, even if you’ve not done anything about it. There are websites that review everything from hotels and restaurants, to prisons, doctors, teachers, and employers (from the viewpoint of the employees). You can go to sites like Google Maps, Trip Advisor and Yelp and you might find there is already a free page about your business. If there is not, you can create it, but either way, you had better claim it and make sure information is correct.

Craig says there are no statistics currently available about exactly how important having an online presence is, but he says it is clearly becoming more important. Many people go online now days to do research or check out reviews of just about anything before making decisions – about trips, major purchases, household electronics, clothes, dinner. People are also checking online to see if your organization is legitimate, to see what you are all about, decide if they want to join or support you, or say yes to your funding request.

One other thing Craig points out that affects all of us is that your reputation is not just about you. There is interdependence between local businesses and organizations with each other and with the region and province. I know it is hard to figure out what to spend your time and effort on, especially when many of us don’t have the expertise needed, or maybe we just don’t have the time or the confidence. That in itself seems like it could be a big opportunity for the right person to start a small local business, helping other local businesses with their online presence. And maybe they could help make Google get their maps right for this area.