Andy Beal, a leader in online marketing and online reputation management, and Dr. Judy Strauss, an e-marketing expert, have written a comprehensive and approachable new book. ‘Radically Transparent’ is about the changed business climate in a world where conversations about brand names are publicly accessible and quickly disseminated.

The business-to-consumer (and business-to-business) relationship has changed. The internet facilitates a much more reciprocal and dynamic relationship than before, with consumers having a much greater influence over a brand’s reputation, ethics and development.

The book dishes up some hard truths, such as ‘You Don’t Own Your Company’s Reputation’ (the title of chapter 2). Basically, the nature of use of social media makes it impossible to keep complete control over your company’s reputation, and the case studies in the book, like the one about Dell, demonstrate the futility of simply burying your head in the sand.

‘Radically Transparent’ isn’t about creating panic, however, it also offers some very useful and insightful advice. I particularly liked the 10 ‘New Rules of Engagement’ (chapter 4) for some suggestions on how to participate in internet communities. For example: ‘Step 1. Trust the Community’. This is easily said, but not very often done. But how can you expect consumers to engage with you if you don’t demonstrate some basic trust in them?

There are also some very useful insights into blogging and social media, as well as the new ways of dealing with Public Relations online.

As Beal and Strauss demonstrate throughout the consistent references to real brands and companies, it is becoming a ‘sink or swim’ situation online. If you don’t join in and engage appropriately, you may very well regret it. This timely guide will provide invaluable to anyone who has any kind of brand, whether corporate or personal, because sooner or later, it will be discussed online.