Online Reputation Management in Education

December 19th, 2010 by RepOb Blog Leave a reply »

Education has become an increasingly competitive playing field for institutions at all levels. From public schools to expensive prep schools to large universities, competition for grant money, government funding, and students, is at an all time high. This means that these educational institutions must be diligent about their reputations, in print newspapers, and online.

When parents begin to consider enrolling their child in a private high school, it is almost always with the hope that in addition to a high quality education, their child will be able to leverage the superior reputation of the private high school, when it comes time to apply to colleges. If a quick search online turns up negative information about one of the private high schools under consideration, it is likely that that school will be crossed off the list.

Similarly, high school students and their parents often make the decision about where to attend college based on colleges’ reputations. While some schools’ reputations are legendary, many school names have neither positive nor neutral associations, until the student, his guidance counselor, and his family, begin to investigate further. While there are likely several colleges that the high school student could choose to attend, he will only choose one. This means that if there are negative statements about a college under consideration online, then that college will be turned down in favor of another school with a better online reputation.

Students attending college for the first time will look at the the cost, however, many colleges fall within a few thousand dollars’ tuition costs of each other, which can seem insignificant in the face of the total astronomical cost of a college education. The reputation of each college is what will sway the student into attending, since that reputation will be leveraged to help him find his first job, connect with alumni who will provide career guidance, and aid his admission to graduate school. If a college has an online reputation that meshes with the image that is promoting, then that will help win promising students, however if its online reputation reveals its admissions promises to be false, students will be less likely to enroll. These negative reviews could range from the dorm conditions to the effectiveness of the career center or the availability of professors to assist students in scheduling classes and setting career goals.

Potential students and their families are not the only ones looking at an educational institution’s online reputation. Both private and public high schools, and colleges, rely heavily upon donor funding. Donors, also called grantmaking institutions, may be private or a branch of the state or federal government. With so many different educational institutions to choose from, these donors carefully evaluate all applicants to identify the one that is most likely to use the funds not only as intended, but also the most effectively. This research begins with a simple online search.

If an educational institution has a negative reputation online, then it is likely to be scratched off the list of possible grant recipients, lest the grantmaking institution’s own reputation be tarred by association with the educational institution. It does not take much to scare off a potential donor, particularly a high profile one who feels that they have too much to lose to take a chance by linking their name with an educational institution whose reputation is less than stellar. Often private donors hope to gain not only an extra tax deduction with their gift, but to generate positive press as well, to enhance their own reputation – not sully it.

An educational institution’s online reputation must be protected vigilantly by the institution, so as to ensure its ability to attract high caliber students, as well as funding to continue to operate and grow.

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