A Matter of Reputation, Online

2 Apr

I’ll admit it: I google myself.  Not often — maybe once a month or so.  Just to check in — call it one part vanity and two parts reputation management…I just want to know what’s out there.   

I’m not the only one.  Seth Silverthorne at Harvard’s BNET delivers a necessary reminder to individuals and businesses to take their online reputation seriously:

“Reputation is what’s going to save you when a jilted paramour posts that you steal from the church, an angry customer criticizes your firm’s selling practices, and a former employee e-mails around a phony arrest record with your name at the top. Sure, a good attorney can help but, as they say, no one reads the corrections page in the newspaper.

Online reputation also becomes increasingly important with the spread of Web 2.0 and its emphasis on social and business networking. In the real word, your word is your bond. Online, its your Five Star rating that wins you more deals, wider influence, and a bank account of goodwill when that idiot blogger does decides to take a shot.”

But what to do?  First, as Silverthorne notes, treat people fairly, deliver what you promise, and be as transparent as you can in your dealings with your publics.   Nothing protects a good reputation better than earning one.

But, of course, some people just won’t like what you do.  The issue online is what comes up when people search for you in Google or Yahoo! and how that impacts you and your organization.  I won’t go into SEO strategy here — there are plenty of real experts out there.  But good communications and storytelling will ensure that you’re found.

I’ve worked with one client over the past year to ensure that bloggers in a profession understand that whether they like my client’s business or not, it offers a legitimate, credible service to consumers.  We created and maintain a blog dedicated to stating our case, respond to nearly every misinformed blog post and media article.  As a result, it is our own story — not that of negative bloggers — that appears first on most relevant key word searches…and when people see the negative, they’ll likely found a comment of ours as well.   

The new Web is a global small town.  People talk. Anyone searching will find the good and the bad.  And that’s OK — nobody’s perfect.  You can’t find everyone who might encounter a negative message about you.  What you can do is spotlight the good and address the bad, in ways that are relevant, open and online. 

And that way, you can be more confident that they’ll find you.

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