One thing many take for granted is that the internet has given people the ability to voice opinions easily, and given people the power of voice unlike any other time in history.  When focused on an individual, a brand, or a company, this collective voice or even individual comments can certainly have a positive effect, especially if you are a professional, public figure, or a business.  After all, good news travels fast.  The flip side of that is bad news travels even faster, and on the internet it can endure long beyond the initial comments.  Things like your reputation, your brand or credibility can take a hit and that’s one of the realities of our interconnected digital world.  Many people today are in the habit of seeking information and the instant they meet someone or engage with a new business, look to sites for whatever information they can find.   Employers, clients, peers and even family can instantly peer into troves of information laid out bare for anyone to see.  It can be a double-edged sword to say the least.

“Dan Hornig, a senior recruiting manager for Novo Recruiting, spends more than one-third of his day researching clients – and yes, that includes looking for information about them online.” – CSMonitor

The social internet contract suggests that every voice is equal, and every individual has a right to express their voice on any number of things.  Unfortunately, boundaries are often crossed in this expression of opinion and the results can be quite damaging and can quite often be illegal.  It can be something completely defamatory, rife with language and accusations that have no basis in actual events.  This expression could be reporting completely false or misunderstood information, giving others reference to a situation that is incomplete or entirely misrepresented.  These expressions could also be directly targeted at damaging a person’s reputation, or that of a company.  The impetus for the party doing the targeting could be competitive, malicious, or the result of a personal matter.  If you’re in this camp and have been targeted like this, you’re in for a great challenge.

reputation management

There’s a way out

The dilemma many people have is how to defend themselves from this kind of behavior.  There is plenty to consider given that a reputation is so critical in your personal and business affairs and how you react can be just as critical.  There are some things you can do to rectify this situation.

  • Investigate -The anonymity that people enjoy on the internet makes investigating each and every incident a costly and time intensive endeavor.  Serious attacks may require the hiring of online investigators that use sophisticated tools and the power of legal requests to collect information about emails, cross-referencing data, and tracing information from sites.  If the offending behavior was threatening in nature, it could be a situation for formal law enforcement.
  • SEO – If you have the skill and time to address what people find about you, you can use Search Engine Optimization (SEO) techniques to increase the rankings of positive content.  Distributed among a number of sources, owned by you, your company or third party resources, the objective here is to make sure people find out the good things about you.  Remember that the internet hardly forgets things, and having more positive content that ranks well in search and other online venues is without a doubt the most important step to restoring an image.  This is where Online Reputation Services deliver the most enduring value.
  • Pruning reviews – In this scenario, you have a company and you have found false or misleading reviews about an employee, your company, you, or all of the above.  It could very well be that the reviewer was malicious and this is an uneven attempt at knocking your reputation.  Sites are all over the internet that allow people to review companies, locations, services and all other kinds of things.  If you can fully prove a claim was false or you can prove that the intent of the review was driven by malice and was intended to damage your reputation, then you have an outlet.  You can approach the owners of the site that host that review and request it to be removed.  This may require statements of your legal rights and is usually pursuant to state laws, so check those that apply to you.
  • Get a pro – You’ve got a business to run, a job to get to, basically your life has to play out and situations like this, nobody asks for.  Professional Internet Reputation services take this burden off of you and can deliver the most efficient plan to deal with these issues, so you don’t have to.

Healthy habits for a healthy reputation

Many people pay attention to what they eat because they want to be healthy and stay healthy.  The same goes for your reputation.  Through certain principles, one can achieve and maintain a healthy reputation.

First of all, you should monitor yourself.  Find out what’s being said about you and your business.  Monitor social channels, web searches, forums and review sites.  You may choose as a business to respond publicly and professionally to concerns and issues to boost the perception that your organization is responsive and concerned about its clients and partners.

Create positive engagement.  If you have positive customer stories, encourage people to share them or ask if these are stories you can share for them.  Good stories and success not only boost your reputation factors, they also drive people to your site, so share them.

Watch for negative keywords in regards to you or your company.   If you have found words in your self-searches like “ripoff”, “scam”, “lies”, or any words that have an immediate negative connotation, it’s time for help.

Lastly, it could be advantageous to get to know your complaints and know your detractors.  For example, it is possible that the audience is reacting to some misunderstanding or poor communications of your message or product value.  Seek this information, harness it, and you might possibly improve whatever is the instigating circumstances around the negative information.

If you need help

At the end of the day, your efforts at monitoring and even correcting your reputation may end up falling short.  One, two, or even a handful of incidents can be addressed in a lot of situations.  Many will find that it can be complicated and consumes time and effort.   Restoring a name or brand image from a really negative place to one that is positive can be challenging.  You have the option to employ the help of a professional reputation management company at any stage of the game.   Although every case is different, a good reputation management company will have the most effective, quickest plan to turn negative reputations around.