Online Reputation Management (ORM) is the act of monitoring, addressing or mitigating SERPs (search engine result pages) or mentions in online media and Web sphere content. ORM primarily involves tracking what is written about a client on the Internet, then utilizing sophisticated online and offline techniques in promoting positive and neutral content, while at the same time pushing down those links the sponsor (in most cases business or individuals) may not want to show when their name is searched.
Rather than working to raise link results with a particular search term in order to (ostensibly) generate more commerce or page views, the goal of ORM is to push already highly-ranked negative posts off the results pages so that they are seen by fewer people, thus creating a more positive results environment for the sponsor of the effort. ORM is the specialization in prevention and repair of online reputation threats, and has less to do with directly promoting businesses.
The term arose from a recognition of the importance that influencing how someone or something is perceived based on an internet search has to a business. As the amount of user-generated content on the internet grew, it began to affect internet search results more meaningfully, and the desire to change those results naturally followed.