Reputation Management – 6 Steps to Do-It-Yourself Success
In some ways, reputation management was spawned as a result of social media or what I like to refer to as “amateur broadcast media”. Historically, your reputation management was handled by you and usually in small groups or “clicks”. For example, you get to school one day and found out that Bobby said your mother makes you come home when the street lights start buzzing and if you don’t your mommy beats you with a spoon. Why is this a big deal? We’re adults now, but remember when you were a kid, whether founded or unfounded, you were certainly going to take some heat at school that day.
Think of some of the frustration and aggravation that comes along with the stigma of being “over cared for” by your mother. You’ll probably be sitting at a lunch table all by yourself, definitely not picked to be on the “cool-kids” kickball team, most likely picked-on, tormented, and maybe the proverbial “weddgie” at some point. Just a really bad situation that for all intense purposes, could have been avoided had Bobby not woken up on the wrong side of the bed.
Back then, and when I say back then, I mean pre-Internet, you at least knew who the culprit was. You were in a small enough group of people and the source, Bobby, was usually not that far from the story itself. Because of that, you had some reputation management options. You could confront Bobby in front of your friends and put him on the spot to answer where he got this information. Maybe you know something about Bobby that if propagated correctly, would certainly take your news from the front page to the classifieds section of your schools social newspaper. Or, and I don’t condone violence, but a meeting at the playground after school was always a viable option to even the score.
Back then, there was almost always an intended or unintended transparency to the situation. It made bullying harder and it made reputation management a bit easier or more controllable. It brought quick closures to problems. So much so, you may be the negative focus on Monday, but on Tuesday, Bobby could be the main focus of some other unsubstantiated accusations, rumors, or conjecture. It was a different time and place.
The Internet and Mass Broadcast
To understand why reputation management is so important, we must first understand its magnitude and influence. When I was in college, the Internet was at a fraction of its current state of mass distribution of information. Email was basic and only used on the campus Intranet between me and my professors.
Fast forward to today, the Internet has become a mass media outlet for the people. When I say people, what I mean is you and me. If I want information distributed to the masses, I can use Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, or I can even start a website on the topic in a matter of minutes – instant saturation of information.
Some would say this is an amazing “step for mankind”. It has to be great that we can all broadcast our in-discriminant news to anyone we want, isn’t it? Having comments, Tweets, posts, feeds, etc. linked and distributed in other groups with a simple hyperlink or share – making its way from Massachusetts to Moscow depending solely on entangled relationships. That has to be great news for everyone, right?
Yes and no. Yes, because the responsible person now has an outlet to post news, pictures, even video for all interested parties to see. Grandma who lives quite a distance away can see her grandchild grow up right on her computer screen. Sales meetings for smaller, more budget oriented businesses, can now get right in front of their prospects. I will acquiesce, for those people, the Internet has been amazing and continues to be to this day.
No, because we’re not all responsible. This is why mass broadcast and ethical behavior of mass broadcast has been such a heavily regulated policy for news stations and other mass broadcast outlets such as the radio and newspaper. Now, the Internet has provided a stage for the less scrupulous and more assertive to relay opinion, discreet fact, or worse, non-factual information to the masses.
Again, with oversight and a basic code of ethics and transparency, this Godly ability isn’t such a bad thing. It’s simply the technology revolution taking another monumental step into the future, the right direction. I can’t help but think what medium or policy, written or unwritten, would make this lightly regulated practice a 100% great tool for anyone to use.
Policing the Information Highway
The irony in the title of this section is there is no real policing of the Internet and we only police ourselves when the outcome of the action behooves our own interest. So let’s make a comparison to the real world. It may in your best interest you to get to an interview on time, so you speed down the road putting other people’s lives at risk. The consequence, we all know too well, a speeding ticket. What does the ticket represent? It represents the tolerance for risk you are willing to take to get to the appointment on time, knowing, if you’re caught, it will cost you.
Technology just isn’t there yet. There has certainly been a need for accountability on the Internet. We all remember the tragic death of Megan Meier. After a friend’s mother, Lori Drew, posed as a teenage boy and arbitrarily posted various comments on her social media profile to entice the young girl into an online relationship. Later, Drew began an assault by posting disgusting comments while ending the online relationship with the fictitious boy and the young girl’s life in the process. Drew has not been charged with a crime to this day for creating the fake profile.
You will not provide any false personal information on Facebook, or create an account for anyone other than yourself without permission.
You will not create more than one personal account.
If we disable your account, you will not create another one without our permission.
You will not use your personal timeline primarily for your own commercial gain, and will use a Facebook Page for such purposes.
You will not use Facebook if you are under 13.
You will not use Facebook if you are a convicted sex offender.
You will keep your contact information accurate and up-to-date.
You will not share your password (or in the case of developers, your secret key), let anyone else access your account, or do anything else that might jeopardize the security of your account.
You will not transfer your account (including any Page or application you administer) to anyone without first getting our written permission.
If you select a username or similar identifier for your account or Page, we reserve the right to remove or reclaim it if we believe it is appropriate (such as when a trademark owner complains about a username that does not closely relate to a user’s actual name).
Is there an authorized tribunal to enforce these policies? Who knows, you can’t get anyone from Facebook to answer the phone, much less comment on the subject. However, I have to give Facebook credit for posting these policies. And I have to assume, if brought to their attention, they would act on these policies by at least addressing the situations within their means.
What about the sites that don’t have these policies? The sites that encourage ones opinion and staunchly protects ones anonymity no matter what they’ve done from a nefarious or unethical perspective. What happens to your reputation and what can you do if you are caught in one of these entangled webs of unfounded accusations and online ridicule? Is your reputation ruined for life? Can reputation management organizations assist you? And even if they can, should you have to pay anyone to remove these random attacks from parties unknown?
A paragraph of questions that demands some answers.
There are websites that paved a tight path to policies that foster an honest and ethical online environment, I would certainly put Facebook in that category. Again, without the backing or support of the law, there are limits to any policy a business can enforce without engaging in expensive legal recourse.
Then there are websites that by way of their own policies, nurture and even encourage a destructive and generally nefarious online following. The people who have found themselves on the wrong end of the online postings on these sites can attest, the frustrating and often times futile efforts to right a tragic wrong will in most cases fall on deaf ears.
Reputation Management 101
Back to reputation management. What is reputation management and is it a waste of money or is it money well spent? Per Wikipedia, reputation management is the influencing and/or control of an individual’s or business’s reputation. Originally a public relations term, the advancement of Internet and social media use, along with reputation management companies, have made it primarily an issue of search results.
Search results are generated by Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and SEO is where we’ll start explaining the reputation management process. Today, the term “Google It” may as well be an adjective that explains the process of searching for something, much the way the term “researching” explains the search for information or facts. In a nutshell, the most popular search results and your reputation is what comes up on the first page of Google when you search for your name, business, or other related topic that defines you.
To understand how to engage in reputation management, you would have to first understand how to influence the first page of Google for your specific search term (i.e. your name or business name). This process is essentially SEO. In general, SEO is maximizing the number of visitors to a particular website by ensuring the site appears high on the list of results returned by a search engine. For the purposes of reputation management, SEO is the process of maximizing the number of websites broadcasting positive information, thereby suppressing the negative information about you or your business by ensuring the positive results appear high on the list of results returned by a search engine.
I know what you’re thinking, “How could you possibly have any influence over how Google manages their search results?” It’s easy and very difficult in the same breath and if you have doubts, I suggest using a seasoned professional, because you can do more harm than good with limited knowledge. Without drowning you in the details, let’s take a closer look.
The Do-It-Yourself 6 Step Starter Process
Social Media – The first thing any individual or business should initiate is an exhaustive compilation of every social media outlet available. Sign up for ever site and begin the process of posting positive information routinely. The more up to date you keep the sites, the more relevant they will be in the search engines. Check out this list of social media sites published by Wikipedia. Get to work and be proactive with your postings! This is the most obvious and easiest effort for a basic reputation management campaign.
Press Releases – For a business, press releases are an awesome way of focusing on the positive happening at the office. Some people feel these are only for large companies with big news, that’s the furthest from the truth. Anyone can write a press release, have a creative writer edit the release (the last thing you want is a poorly written press release), and get it out there using any number of press release businesses. Try these top 10 press release companies.
Websites and Blogs – Do you have your own website? Use it! If you’re an individual, get “yourname.com” as a domain and maintain an up to date WordPress blog about the weekly professional and personal successes in your life. Keep everything positive. If you’re a business and have a website, is it up to date? Are you using the blog feature to keep your followers in the know? If you’re not, you’re not alone but making this a priority will be a huge boost in your reputation management campaign. Read this article on blogging for reputation management for a better perspective.
Automate the Monitoring Process – Ensure your reputation management monitoring is fully automated. The solution here is to set up Google and/or Bing alerts for you or your brand name, as well as any proprietary or branded products that you have, the names of your businesses executives, and more. By doing this, you’ll receive updates by email whenever these terms are injected on the Internet. This will allow you to keep an accurate and up-to-date assessment of your online reputation.
Keep Up the Monitoring – There are plenty of other online tools, most of them free, that you can use to monitor your company’s online reputation. A few that are especially noteworthy include:
WhosTalkin is a tool which offers an in-depth assessment of your online remarks, to include social media posts. In many ways, this can be even broader than Google Alerts. Images and videos with a mention of you or your business are included as well.
Social Mention is useful for keeping an eye on what users are saying about your you or your brand on social clouds.
Technorati allows you to examine your keyword mentions on blogs.
Respond to Negative Comments – Great care should be taken with this step. Before anything else, take a deep breath and compose yourself, remember, this is reputation management. Never respond in anger, it will almost always be portrayed in the response. Counter-act the comment with well-thought out and sincere response to a legitimate concern with you or your business. If possible, make things right to the best of your ability. The caveat here is if the negative comment is the work of a bully and is simply defamatory, simply ignore it. Any response will most likely be the wrong one in this no-win situation.
Wrapping up Reputation Management
Reputation management isn’t something to take lightly and it’s not always a do it yourself proposition. Depending on your profession, title, lifestyle, etc. you should be proactive and aggressive when it comes to positive online content about you or your company.
The 6 step reputation management process is a great start but if you have large amounts of negative content, you may be past that process and need the assistance of a professional who is experienced in reputation management and can facilitate a proper reputation management campaign on your behalf.
As we move further into the life-cycle of the Internet, more and more credence will be given to these online cess-portals of ridiculous comments and accusations and just as you are being attacked in a negative light, it has become your responsibility to defend yourself and manage those attacks with a well prepared SEO / reputations management campaign that allows the truth to be the first thing people read about you or your business on the first page of Google. Best of luck in this regard!
Rachel DeAntonio has been a sales and marketing professional since 1992. In 1994, she launched a full-service marketing and communications firm. DeAntonio’s work has garnered awards from the Direct Marketing Association (DMA) and has led to many successful start-ups. She has authored several trade publications, and, in 2012, began her career in digital marketing and search engine optimization (SEO).