AIG Division To Begin Offering Negative Publicity Insurance

October 22, 2011


AIG offers ‘Reputation’ Insurance. The policy would also cover costs associated with minimizing the potential impact of negative  publicity, the company said.

They say image is everything, and now companies can insure theirs.

After taking heaps of blame for the financial crisis and accepting a $130 billion government bailout to survive, American  International Group Inc. knows a thing or two about bad publicity. Now it wants to help others weather such storms—for a price.

Crisis veteran AIG is offering crisis-management insurance. Chartis, the property-casualty subsidiary of the New York insurer, is offering a new type of coverage to help companies offset  the cost of bringing in outside experts when a public-relations crisis hits.

Dubbed ReputationGuard, the insurance policy is  aimed at small-to mid-size companies, which may not have their own internal crisis communications teams.

Companies often turn to such crisis-communications firms when they need help shaping responses to events that could cause lasting  damage to their brands or their businesses, such as food contaminations, environmental disasters, executive scandals—or government  bailouts. Chartis’s new product comes with some precedent.

Some types of product-recall and data-breach insurance, for example, provide  coverage for consulting with public-relations companies. Broker Willis Group Holdings PLC offers it as part of a  bedbug-infestation product it launched earlier this year. Chubb Corp. even provides money for public-relations expenses for  wealthy homeowners if they are sued by their household help in a high-profile case.

The Chartis policy, however, doesn’t specify a particular event that would trigger the coverage. Instead, it is designed to cover  a broad range of potential , said Rob Yellen, chief underwriting officer of Chartis’s executive-liability  practice — “the sorts of things that a stakeholder would look at as a breach of trust.”

The coverage was devised after discussions with insurance clients and brokers indicated a potential market for the product, Mr.  Yellen said. Chartis, in fact, wasn’t called Chartis until it rebranded itself in 2009 to distance itself from its parent company. The name was  changed from AIU Holdings as part of the company’s crisis-management strategy. Chartis isn’t the unit that prompted AIG to seek the government’s help, and much of the bailout has since been repaid.

The U.S.  Treasury still owns the majority of AIG’s common stock, which remains down more than 95% from its precrisis peak. As for the ReputationGuard product, the cost will vary widely based in part on the size of the company seeking the coverage, the  soundness of its crisis-response plan and its potential need for the crisis-management services, said Tracie Grella, president of  Chartis’s Professional Liability unit.

Small companies with a crisis-communication-preparedness plan could see premiums of about  $10,000 annually. Christopher Lang, a managing director at insurance broker Marsh Inc., said the coverage would likely be most attractive to small  and midsize firms, in part because they may not have sufficient crisis-communications expertise in-house. Larger firms may also be  more able to absorb the cost of consulting with such outside experts without tapping the insurance markets.

“There certainly is broad-based concern about having a crisis-management strategy,” he said. “There should be a marketplace for  the new product, though it won’t have universal appeal”, he said. AIG can’t buy insurance from itself, of course. But when asked if the product would have appealed to company ahead of its P.R.  troubles in 2008, an AIG representative declined to comment.


“Be Proactive: Strategies For Reigning In Negative Opinions”, by Evan Hackel

July 21, 2010

We are pleased to have an invited guest author posting to our online reputation management Blog today.  Evan Hackel is the principal founder and president of Ingage Consulting.

The firm works with organizations with groups of members, such as trade associations, manufacturing and/or distribution groups, franchises, cooperatives, buying groups, and dealer networks. They inspire members and, importantly, enhance customer loyalty and customer success.

We view this post as preventive measures to take to insure a business’s online and offline reputation. There will be no need to call on us with urgent online reputation repair projects to remove negative web pages or restore a broken reputation in the case of crisis management because these internal and external groups have not properly communicated the company’s mission from the Board Of Directors right down to employee members. Think BP…you’ll get the message. We hope you enjoy Mr. Hackel’s contribution.

Writing below by: Evan Hackel

President, Ingage Consulting

Throughout his twenty-five year career, Mr. Hackel has seen the need not only for improved engagement, but for an understanding of why engagement plays such an important role in any organization.  Evan’s company works closely with the managers and leaders of franchises, co-ops, and buying groups, to help them improve their business practices.

Everyone’s heard the stories about the upset customer who’s gone online and posted something negative about a company on Facebook or Twitter or some blog; one little comment can have a significant, negative impact on that company.  Ingage Consulting works with clients who have networks of businesses which are essential to their success. 

As you can imagine, when a business customer says something negative about your company, although heard by only a few, the impact on your company can be significant and major as your business customers network and work with other business customers.  It is critical that companies with significant networks of businesses create a culture and system that enables their business-customer base to express concerns in a positive fashion without the need to attack the company publicly on the Internet.

Whether a business customer wants to say something negative or something positive about an organization, it is important for management to make sure that this person is engaged inside the company as opposed to outside of the company.  If a customer broadcasts something negative outside the organization’s system, it can be searched on the Internet and found by potential customers.  Any negative information about your brand is sure to be seen on the Internet and spread by word of mouth.  In order to prevent this and protect your organization’s reputation, you need to be proactive.

The best way to protect your organization’s reputation is by creating internal discussion boards.  These are run on the company’s intranet and are accessible to all members of the customer group.  Having an internal discussion board is a much better alternative to not having one when a member wants to voice a negative opinion.  In an internal discussion board, group members can be candid and say what is on their mind.  There needs to be no fear of punishment for voicing their opinion or they certainly will not trust the intranet and will resort to a more public forum. 

An internal discussion board can save your business from online embarrassment, but only if it is actively used.  If you have an internal discussion board that no one in the organization uses, the risk is that people will see that it is unused and will go to an outside discussion board where they will get responses to their postings.

The lesson to be learned is that if you’re going to have an internal discussion board, make sure it is done right so that it can become active.  The best way to do this is to form a committee of participants which management facilitates.  This committee is in place to decide what topics should appear on the discussion board and is responsible for starting lively discussions on these topics.  This committee should have a high level of dedication to the discussion board and its success. 

An internal discussion board can still be successful even if someone posts something negative.  And when someone does post something negative, there are a few ways to handle this. 

First, management needs to ask themselves ‘is this person right or wrong?’  If the person is wrong in their negative discussion about the organization, allow the internal community to self-police.  Most of the time, members of the community will say that they do not agree with the negative comment and this way, it is not management disputing the person’s point, but their peers in the community. 

This first solution of course, is based on the assumption that the intranet is actively used.  The danger of an inactive intranet is that negative comments will linger on the site.  If you do not promote your online community, there will be no one reading it to police the discussion boards.

Alternatively, if someone posts something negative that is correct and accurate, this provides a good opportunity for management to come back and acknowledge that the person is right.  No company is perfect; management should not be afraid to acknowledge a flaw, say they appreciate the comment, and discuss what they are doing about the problem.  This will show that management is paying attention to the opinions of those in the organization and that they are taking action. 

Ultimately, the more active an internal discussion board is, the more opportunities management will have to get involved and foster engagement. With a successful discussion board, an organization will no longer have to worry about negative publicity on the internet.  Being proactive and preventing negative publicity is a good way to protect your brand online. 

Do you have a safe, internal place for business customers to have discussions?   How is it working?  In your experience, when negative comments are wrong, do others come to the defense of the company? [End]

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Preemptive Reputation Management – The Best Defense is a Good Offense

November 7, 2009

reputation_handshake2When you search your name or your company name on Google, what do you see? Do you know how these results are affecting your reputation or the reputation of your company?

The key to effective online reputation management is to be pro-active and monitor situations before they become a problem. Online attacks against individuals, organizations and brands can contribute to damages surpassing billions of dollars each year. The most cost- effective solution is to prevent these problems before they develop.

•   Search engine users rarely go beyond the first 3 pages of search results.

•   The first 3 pages of a search engine receive 90% of all search traffic.

•   The top 10 results receive nearly 80% more traffic than those in positions 11-30 achieve.


In today’s society, bad word of mouth can spread exponentially online. With so much advertising and media endorsements, people are looking online for reviews and recommendations from their peers to help with purchasing decisions in almost every industry.

Potential customers, future employers, and members of the media are now turning to Google, Yahoo, and Bing for information about you or your business, causing these search engines to become “reputation engines”. Angry customers, ex-employees, consumer activists and competitors are all capable of spreading negative information online. The effect of this negative information can lead to problems with sales, investors, image, and overall reputation. In fact, in a survey from Execunet.com, it was found that 83% of recruiters used search engines to find information about candidates and 43% of those recruiters eliminated a candidate based on negative results in search engines. In other words, these results can cause severe damage to you or your brand. In these situations threatening lawsuits simply do not work. In fact, they can make matters worse, especially if perceived to be vengeful or brought with “intent to harm” the poster. Even when you are right!

Negative information can be posted about you or your business in many places on the internet including blogs, forums, customer review websites, and through images, video and audio content. The most damaging aspect is all websites that host this content are indexable by search engines and the pages can easily appear in the results when someone searches keywords related to you or your business.

As a business owner, C-suite executive, celebrity, or public figure, maintaining your reputation is vital. If you come across negative publicity, it is important not to overreact or make rash decisions as these can backfire if they are not thought out or planned thoroughly.

So How Do You Preemptively Manage Your Reputation Online?

Although most “repair” solutions will require a customized campaign, when being preemptive, ReputationDR normally takes a two step approach to online reputation management. The first step is to monitor online conversation and determine the sources of negative or unwanted information. Step two involves promoting positive or neutral information while decreasing the visibility of negative information. Each client is unique and due to the sensitivity of many of the situations our clients come to us with, we have to handle each project differently…and confidentially.

Step One: Monitor Online Conversation

Monitoring an online reputation is an ongoing and rigorous process. There are millions of sources which can contribute to building a reputation online. Text content is typically the most common way in which information is shared online. However, in recent years there has been increased popularity in sharing images, videos, and audio files as well. These are all mediums which should be monitored in relation to a company’s brand.

Top 10 Items Companies Should Monitor

1.  Company Name & Variations – The obvious: your company name is an important item to monitor. Be sure to track variations in spelling or use of the company name. Also include abbreviations.

2.  Company Website URLs – It is also important to track your company URL and monitor which websites are linking to it or where they are mentioned online. Track the homepage and other key pages such as About Us or Corporate Profiles.

3.  Product Names & Variations – Monitor information about any of your company’s product or service names. At times consumers may refer to a specific product instead of the company name. Be sure to also track variations and abbreviations of product names.

4.  Product URLs – Track product URLs or pages on your website which describe services. Determine which websites are linking to these pages and where or how they are being mentioned online.

5.  Names of Key Players and Employees – Track the names of any key employees, associates, vendors, etc., in your company such as a CEO, CFO, or Board Directors. What is said about these people can also reflect on the company. Tracking these names can lead to the discovery of additional sources of negative information related to the company.

6.  Online Activities of Key Players and Employees – Online activities of people related to a company can affect a company’s brand, positively or negatively. Employees or other key players should be told to refrain from discussing company issues online unless they are appointed to do so. In some situations it will be important to monitor the online activity of employees or key players. For example, it may be feasible to monitor professional or personal blogs if posts are company related. However, it is important to let employees know that these things are monitored.

7.  Online Conversations – It is not only important to track blog posts, forums, and articles but also any comments associated with them. Comments also offer opportunities to participate in conversations about your company but they should be used wisely.

8.  Industry Community Websites– This includes popular blogs, forums, news websites, and anything else that is related to the industry. Many times the feedback and conversations found on these websites can help improve a product or service. It is also an easy way to interact with other people about the company.

9.  Images, Audio, and Video – Text content is not the only medium in which information is shared online. Popular websites like YouTube, Flicker, and PodZinger host a wealth of information in video, audio, and image formats. This type of content should also be monitored.

10. Competitors – There are two types of competitors which should be tracked: brick and mortar competitors and online competitors. Online competition can differ drastically from traditional competition. Be sure to monitor everything that is being tracked for your own company including company name, products, key employees, etc.

Step Two: Defending Against Attacks

Potential customers, future employees, and even family or friends have the ability to come across negative information in search engine results. Pages from message boards, blogs and other websites can appear in search engine results. The pages influence the public perception of a person or a company’s brand. The best method to prevent against attacks is to take a preventative approach to reputation management. The following tips will help to get you started.

A Guide to Reputation Management Techniques

1.  Monitor Online Conversation – Tracking all mentions of yourself, your brand, your products and your company ensures you will to be alerted when situations arise. By doing this you are able to provide timely responses and extinguish small flames before they lead to forest fires. Tips of what to track are provided in Step One.

2.  Dominate Search Engine Results – Dominating search engine results is an effective way to reduce the visibility of negative information. Of course, this is not deleting listings from major search engines or covering up bad things you may have done. Instead it is a form of marketing which should be used to portray yourself or company in the best possible way. The first step to dominating the search engine results is to create information which can appear in the listings.

3.  Create & Promote Positive Information – Creating and promoting information online can help to provide more visibility to positive information and less visibility to negative information. The positive information that is created will have a chance to compete for search engine rankings and can influence the impression of you or your company. Some types of content which can be created (and ranked in search engines) are social networking profiles like Linkedin, Twitter, or Facebook, pictures from Flickr.com, a company website, press releases, and more.

4.  Consistently Build Relationships – Building positive relationships is like building a small army to defend a company’s brand. The more people who have had a positive experience with the company the more positive information will appear online (and without much effort).

5.  Interact Online – There are several ways to interact with others online. For example, participating in online communities and forums or building and regularly updating a blog can be successful ways to get to build a positive reputation. The most important part of contributing online is doing it for the benefit of others. Whether it is sharing a news story or helping to solve a problem posted in an industry forum, helping others can be a sure route to building a positive reputation.

6.  Apologize Sincerely – Mistakes are inevitable. However, when something negative does happen, in most cases the nature and timeliness of the company’s reaction are more important then the event itself. Sincerely apologizing for and correcting mistakes quickly and efficiently is the best route to recovering from mishaps. Planning the appropriate course of action before a situation occurs will ensure accurate execution of the required steps.

7.  State the Facts – When a mistake happens, some negative information can stem from confusion. It is important to state the facts in a clear, truthful and concise way. Posting information on a personal and/or company website is the most effective way to communicate the correct information when a situation occurs.

8.  Listen & Act on Feedback – Feedback is the best way to determine how to improve or correct issues that may challenge a reputation. Attentively listen to customers and the online community. Regularly doing this will also make you more familiar with the best method of response if a negative situation should arrive for you or your company.

Conclusion

A preventative reputation management plan is the best approach. This allows you to be prepared and recover much more quickly when unwanted situations occur.

There is a definite need for professional help in online reputation management. There are many reasons a person or company may chose to enlist the help of a professional online reputation management company. Some of the techniques used to combat negative information require technical or strategic expertise while other situations may be sensitive and should be handled with extreme care and experienced foresight. In addition, monitoring and defending an online reputation is a time consuming activity.

We specialize in online and search engine reputation management, offering a wide variety of custom solutions to repair, defend, and monitor corporate and personal reputations. Our team combines cross-technology knowledge of search engine optimization, marketing, public relations, and traditional branding to deliver effective results for clients in need of professional grade online reputation management.

“It takes 20 years to build a good reputation and 5 minutes to ruin it.” – Warren Buffet

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UGC Creates Opportunity For Disgruntled Malcontents

July 20, 2009

seo_circleWhen talking about online reputation management in the organic SERPs, you’re talking on-demand SEO. The best defense is a robust offense, so make sure the strength of your site’s optimization makes it harder for anyone to even get on the SERPs for direct brand search. However, don’t make things worse by biting off more than you can chew. Sometimes it is always best to engage an expert instead.

For example, the “please can you help us” cold calls we receive from distraught business are increasing in frequency and sound frightfully similar. The frustrated caller explains that some former employee, customer or other provocateur has published damaging editorial content which indexes prominently in Google for direct brand and other important keyword searches. Or negative pages more than five years old, or longer, still display prominantly in the major search engine results, often resulting in lost business that has been measurable.

For a large company, the results can often be disastrous, ranging from bruised feelings to tens (or hundreds) of millions in lost sales. Whilst creating an intentional reputation monitoring/management plan ahead of time is certainly optimal, usually by the time we get the call the business is already bleeding profusely.

Depending on the SEO skill level of the villain, the one who has targeted you, their determination and the authority of the site on which the damaging diatribe is published, the offending results can cause nastiness for businesses and/or individuals needing to now cleanse themselves of the humiliation.

Enter the SEO sharpshooter specialist, focused on attaining organic prominence as quickly as possible under pressure. The objective is to push this nasty content as far down the SERPs as possible and, if necessary, debunk the credibility of the damning editorial(s).  Ironically the tactics we reach for in crises are similar to many other SEO campaigns: Competitive intelligence, content publishing, link building, taking inventory of digital assets for universal search and leveraged power of social channels are among classic tools of the trade.

What differentiates crises management is the sense of urgency, pressure to perform, legal options and the obvious downside to failure.

Here are some time tested tips for SEO / ORM triage sharpshooters:

1. Evaluate the authority of the page on which the negative content is published. As with any ORM assignment, start by taking a look at PageRank and inbound links profile using Yahoo Site Explorer and other tools. If the offending result is not on a site’s homepage, then take a careful look at older and similar interior pages along with their archives.

Google’s algorithmic regard for any page tends to accumulate over time as a result of numerous factors, known and “black box.” Therefore, it’s a good idea to keep in mind that any page’s clout might increase over time. Be advised and plan accordingly.

Reciprocally, if the problem content is currently indexing on a blog’s homepage, the difficulty may be mitigated when the post cycles off the homepage into archives. While the post is on the homepage, its content has the full “weight” of the homepage’s authority.

This won’t be the case in archive unless the post generates great links. That said many blogs’ category pages, author and date archives accumulate PageRank and you might have to wait a while for the post to cycle even deeper into to site over time. (Note: PageRank isn’t everything but it’s better to have it than not.)

2. Determine the likelihood that the substance of proposed defensive content will further provoke and backfire virally. We find it’s best if newly created content and subsequent promotional activity do not appear to be directly related to the problem we’re competing with.

There’s an old saying that advises never to “get into a pissing contest with a skunk. Even if you win…you stink.” Instead, create defensive content that builds on your or your businesses  strengths to contradict the negatives raised by a bad editorial. Then build your content to outrank the complainants.

Though we never take directly refuting offensive results off the table fully, one needs to be extremely careful. We don’t want 5 other bloggers to rally behind their jerky friend and take up a damaging cause they hadn’t even noticed before.

3. Since some offending results violate copyright or trademark laws, a strong understanding of and willingness to utilize legal channels can be important arrows in the ORM sharpshooter’s quiver. Sometimes the first salvo we fire is from our client’s law firm in the form of a cease and desist letter, if for no other reason than to go “on record”.

Be aware of laws as pertain to protected marks and intellectual property. Certainly taking the legal route can yield results and sometimes the expense makes sense.

On the other hand be a realist. Some insolent jerk halfway around the world won’t give a rat’s ass about your attorney’s saber rattling. Sometimes firing legal missles can even result in your opponent digging in their heels with an intransigent disregard for reality. Now you have a worsening problem.

When nasty search engine results stem from social media channels, it can be impossible to locate the villain let alone engage them legally. Social site moderators often couldn’t care less because they thrive on the passionate engagement which surrounds controversy. StumbleUpon (eBay) is the worst as they are nearly completely unwilling to enforce Terms of Services as pertain to abusive “troll” users.

4. If direct engagement in social channels makes sense, attempt to earn the provocateurs respect by your response. Every disaster is an opportunity in the making and vice versa. While measured righteous indignation can be a powerful tool, start with classic high road messages of respect and understanding: “I understand your position,” “respect your right to express your feelings in public,” “am grateful for the opportunity to engage in a dialog” and “what can we do to make things right?”

5. Consider paid search as a stopgap and/or ongoing strategy. When weighing the cost of PPC to circumvent damaging organic results, paid search is often an attractive “lesser of all evils’ option, especially in the short term while waiting for other solutions to come online. Google’s content network, in the hands of a site-targeting expert, can be a highly effective channel — especially when clarifying or refuting mainstream damage in news, niche’ and social channels.

6. Unless you’re an expert, talk to a professional before engaging directly in social channels surrounding the problem results. I can’t tell you how many times we’ve seen a business person, who has no experience in social media, climb into a comments thread and make things SO much worse. There are very few instances when taking a step back and counting to 10 will negatively impact the end result of defensive activities.

If you’re not a regular contributor in a specific social media channel, learning the vernacular while under duress is not the best choice. Also, we’ve seen clients make legal mistakes publicly which made a difficult problem much worse. Call on an ORM/social media expert such as http://www.ReputationDR.com. Call your lawyer. Have a glass of wine and some sushi. Chill.

7. Get back to SEO basics. The best defense is a good offense. In reality it should be difficult for idiots to crack into direct brand search results if your website is optimized properly.

8. Finally, take the high road over and over. Then take the high road again. If that doesn’t work…you can always nuke ’em’. There are white hat methods and other, ummmm, not-so-white hat methods available to “eliminate” the problem. Given recent furor over public discussion of bad-ass SEO tactics, you’ll have to contact us directly to discuss other options available to you.

Forewarned is Forearmed

There is every kind of crackpot on the Internet, real loonies. Also bad things can happen to good people and great companies. It’s best to have your defense in place before the crises hits, a social media security system if you will.

When push comes to shove and you’re exposed, take these 8 steps as a starting place to empower your search and online reputation defense. The 9th crucial priority is “response and management”, an entirely different animal than SEO or alerts, as previously discussed in this Blog. The way a each individual or company responds to PR danger is highly personal to the entity at risk.

Sued for a tweet: How not to deal with complaints on Twitter

Take a deep breath, don’t panic, contact us for best brand defense information and FREE consultation.

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Tips From Three C-Suite Executives Regarding Reputation Management

May 13, 2009

search-engine-reputationHow Do You Keep Your Company’s Reputation Intact When Your Industry Has Been Tainted By Bad News?

1. How Should We React?

*(a) Don’t waste time. “When we got word of the peanut butter situation, we asked all our vendors with peanut-relayed products where their ingredients came from. When they told us Peanut Corporation Of America, we pulled it off the floor and started calling shoppers immediately.”

**(b) “You need to speak out publicly and take a position. You have to engage lawmakers, public officials, and the media. Last year Siemens paid big fines for bribes. Its competitors should have come out and stated their own anti-corruption principles.”

***(c) “The first thing a CEO needs to understand is whether there’s actual culpability or if they are a victim. The company is always presumed to be guilty, Which I fully reject. If you are innocent, go on the offense and don’t apologize if you didn’t do anything wrong.”

2.  Should I Delegate Responsibilities Or Take Charge?

*(a) “It needs to be top-driven, but there are clear procedures in place that enable our staff to make a decision. We let our chief executive know, but we don’t wait to move forward — he wouldn’t want us to hesitate if someone’s life was at risk.”

**(b) “If your your company deserves some of the blame, your CEO needs to face reality. CEO’s often go into denial, and that’s the worst thing they can do. It’s a huge mistake to hire a PR firm and ask it to restore your image. The CEO’s job is to take the lead in restoring it.”

 [Our comment: One tactic in restoring one’s image online is to use the internet, social media and blogosphere to position their response. The CEO takes the lead, but will not have trained staff who understand and specialize in online reputation management. Hence, this is usually outsourced to companies such as ours.]

***(c) “CEO’s must become chief crisis officers. Given the choice between a good leader and a good plan, you want the leader. Jeff Immelt has been candid about GE Capital. Rather than offering stilted PR-speak, he’scalling it like it is.”

3.  What Works And What Doesn’t?

*(a) “After an E.coli scare ten years ago, we cewated a system that lets us use membership data to find who purchased a product at a particular time. When we learned of the peanut butter, we called 1.8 million folks.”

**(b) “BP had a tragedy in 2005 when 15 people were killed in an explosion at its oil refinery in Texas. After that, Exxon, where I serve as a board member, set out to reinforce its own safety procedures by reaching out to employees and managers at each of its facilities.”

***(c) “Don’t overrespond. Tyco did a great job when they were embroiled in the Dennis Kozlowski scandal. They realized their customers weren’t the public, so they strategically focused their crisis-management plan on specific groups, like government-procurement officials.”

*(a) Craig Wilson, AVP, Food Safety, Costco Wholesale
**(b) Bill George, Former CEO of Medtronic; Professor, Harvard Business School
***(c) Eric Dezenhall, CEO, Dezenhall Resources

To revitalize their corporate reputations, senior U.S.executives will have to rethink their priorities and heed the messages of consumers the world over. They will need to listen closely to the concerns of their stakeholders, demonstrate authentic care for their communities, commit to a shared set of values with their employees — and stand behind these beliefs even at a cost to short-term performance. That’s the only way they can develop enduring, sustainable, value-creating results and restore their corporate reputations.

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Tips For Online Reputation Repair

March 17, 2009

headinhandOnline reputations are becoming increasingly important and difficult to manage. As a result companies that were doing traditional branding are now compelled to change their approach and embrace new online tactics.

Companies that are serious about the perception of their brand should be prepared to include a reputation management campaign in their marketing plan.

Individuals who are concerned with their online reputation should be more conscious of what type of information they post online. On a small scale individuals can be proactive in promoting their own positive content.

For both companies and individuals, a professional reputation management company should be used to take control if the situation gets out of hand. Skilled reputation management companies are experienced in quick reputation repair which will limit the amount and extent of negative information exposure.

We specialize in online and search engine reputation management, offering a wide variety of custom solutions to repair, defend, and monitor corporate and personal reputations. With combined knowledge in search engine optimization, HTML, public relations, PPC, adwords, social media, copywriting, and software tools, our approach to branding delivers successful results for clients who are in need of best-in-class online reputation management.

Our main main goal is to drive negative results out of the search engines. The visibility of the negative information is then drastically decreased. We take a multi-step approach to online reputation management. For example, one step is to monitor online conversation and determine the sources of negative or unwanted information. The next step would involve promoting positive or neutral information while decreasing the visibility of negative information. Each client is unique and due the sensitivity of many of the situations our clients come to us with, we typically handle each project differently by deploying a customized solution.

Dealing with and repairing a bad online reputation isn’t easy. However, starting with some of the suggestions below, you can get a jump start on repairing your reputation. These suggestions are geared toward replacing negative information with positive information on search engine results.

Some Tips for Reputation Repair

Create Social Networking Profiles – Social networks like Naymz, Linkedin, Facebook, Twitter, Squidoo, and Digg are a great place to start. Typically these work best for less common names. If your name is common, like “John Smith”, you will need to get more creative in how these profiles are used.

Write and Syndicate Articles – Most sites would love to have quality unique content available to them. Solicit the websites of a topic you are knowledgeable in and offer them unique and relevant articles in exchange for a bio on their website, to appear with the article. You can also ask them to link the article to a personal or corporate website.

Own Your .com, .net, and .org Domain Name – Buy any variation of domain names with your name in them. For example, JohnSmith.com, JohnSmithBlog.com, etc. Write a few pages about yourself for the website and soon this site could appear for searches related to your name. For companies, be sure to own all website variations for your company name and product names. You do not need to post pages on each domain name, but owning them ensures that no one else can purchase them with the purpose of slandering you or your company. By the way, this would include YourCompanyDomainNamesucks.com.

Contribute to Consumer Generated Websites – Contribute to forums, consumer review websites, and other places on which you have the opportunity to post content and create occurrences of your name online. Be sure to use your real name when registering and contributing to these websites. Blog comments on Blog websites are another avenue for your name to appear online.

Press Releases – Press releases are an easy way to publish a page of content about yourself or your company online. There are press release syndication websites that allow you to publish your press release at no cost. Try to make press releases interesting and useful for the best results.

Public Speaking – Speaking at industry events or local events can give you the positive reputation boost that you are looking for. You will most likely be featured on the event website, and you can also post the event on your own website and Blog or publish a press release to announce the event. These presentations should be recorded, digitized, and then be available for podcast distribution as well.

When negative information appears online it affects the way you or your company are perceived in the public eye. In fact, in a recent study (Creative Group), it was found that 7 out of 10 searchers do not make a purchase if the search they perform contains negative listings. This shows how much of an effect negative search engine listings can have on a person or company. Your reputation is a key factor in personal and business relationships. Both companies and individuals should be aware of the type of results that are appearing in search engines and how it is affecting their business or personal life.

An important point to note is that not all negative information is limited to standard search engines. Blog search engines, video sites like YouTube, social news such as Digg can be affected as well.

As you can see just from reading these simple techniques — there are many more — there is a definite need for professional, experienced help in online reputation management. There are many reasons a person or company should chose to enlist the help of a skilled online reputation management company. Some of the techniques used to combat negative information require technical or strategic expertise while other situations may be sensitive and should be handled with extreme care and knowledge to insure a long-term solution acceptable to the search engines. No “black-hat”, no footprints.

In addition, monitoring and defending an online reputation is time consuming. For an individual or a small company it can be a part time job while, for a large company, it can be a full time job that may require a dedicated team.

Twitter ReputationDR

Twitter ReputationDR


PR Tactics That Affect Online Reputation Management

February 14, 2009

reputationmanagementtracksIt seems almost every day the public, therefore the media, is obsessed with new revelations of celebrities, sports figures, investment bankers, politicians, or companies (“brands”) seemingly self-destructing before our eyes.

Some, as in the case of Bernard Madoff, are well deserved. Others, be they Alex Rodriguez or Michael Phelps, leave open many channels for posturing, spin, and personal opinion. And, of course, these last couple of weeks, the political landscape is covered with fallen bodies, mixed messages, and “mistakes”.

How many times have we actually heard the word “mistake” uttered on air or in the media in the last thirty days? Countless! We see and learn what we already know. That no one is perfect or infallible, we can and will make mistakes, and depending on the circumstances and personalities, or victimization, if any, we can survive and continue to prosper even in the face of “mistakes” that, at first, seem insurmountable in the maintenance of our reputations, both online and offline.

In the world of online reputation management, if you have been targeted, rightly or wrongly, there are some very real PR tactics you should deploy to enter the conversation to insure your online reputation is not only protected, but to convey the message(s) you want heard that will rise above the “noise” and chatter that may be designed to put you in a negative light. There always seems to be a purposeful agenda, here are some steps you can take to tell your story the way you want it publicly consumed.

Firstly, understand that your approach to online reputation management in a digital world must be “holistic“. It’s about optimizing the sum of all the parts. Some of the parts, you ask? Sure…how about:

  • Press releases
  • Letters to the editor(s)
  • Online newsrooms
  • Blogs
  • Media kits
  • Webinars
  • Newsletters
  • Real world interviews
  • Podcasts / Internet radio

Make it easy for consumers and journalists alike to find your message on the channels and in the format they prefer. Strategically speaking, we rely today on search and social media. It starts online as the Internet is no longer just an add-on for issues affecting reputation or your product. Globally, more than 1 Billion people are online, with over 185 Million here in the U.S. Americans now view the Internet as their most important and trusted source for news and information, consuming more online content than radio, print, and television combined. Opinion leaders are influenced by the Internet more than any other medium.

So, what matters when people search? For improving positive visibility, use query-specific landing pages that are properly coded with meta data and content for the search engines that are targeted to specific keywords inputted by the searchers. The content needs to be opportunistically “linked” to your web wire press releases. It’s not uncommon for us to create new domain names, use both copywriting and web skills to upload new content to these domains, and create a web of links positioning these pages in the top results of Google and other search engines, and, where necessary, pushing down any negative pages from appearing in the top position SERPs. Depending on factors such as page rank and site authority, will have a determination on the time involved for the search engines to display the positive results, and visibility, in, let’s say, the first 10 to 20 positions.

What else matters online? 75% are accessing multi-media, primarily video, online. Web 2.0 sites, social networks, and certain blogs will influence key opinion leaders and the public. It’s not that bloggers have power, generally they do not, they have influence. And here again, as it relates to Web 2.0, one has to tread carefully.

Facebook, for example, is a wonderful property, but it can also be a minefield booby-trapped by enemies seeking to further implode your reputation or, worse yet, steal identities in an effort to perpetrate scams to steal identities or victimize families and friends. In some cases, customer service for certain Web 2.0 sites is non-existent. For this reason, and others, if you are in need of online reputation management, it is always best to engage professionals to help navigate this landscape.

Your own press releases and blogs can also become “influencers” because those pages will “feed” mainstream media sites and other bloggers as a result of crosslinking and embedded keyword hyperlinking tactics. Technorati, Digg, Stumbleupon, etc., will re-aggregate your content for even more web visibility. These tactics work very well in getting your story out there or reframing one that is in need of positive spin. Throw in some video — there are over 2.5 billion video searches monthly, with YouTube clearly dominating this space — and you have the ability to now reach 75% of online users.

From here, maintaining your online reputation becomes a question of continued relevant and visible content creation and reputation monitoring. We will cover monitoring in another entry in the future. In the meantime, contact us with any questions, or post your comments below.

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A Rabbi’s Open Letter to Bernie Madoff (Not A Joke)

January 12, 2009
Bernie Madoff Leaving Courthouse

Bernie Madoff Leaving Courthouse

 
Dear Bernie Madoff:

I don’t think you know what you have done.

Life inevitably inflicts upon us different kinds of wounds. Very few people can live connected lives and not occasionally fail those who depend upon them and trust them.  However, these are failures not betrayals.  They come from trying to do the right thing and not being able to do it.

A betrayal is different than a failure.  A betrayal is an intentional wounding.  It is born of cruelty, not ignorance.  Most of us know of failures and betrayals.  What you have done, however, is to radically expand the scope and viciousness of betrayal.  You betrayed not just your friends, but your closest friends.  You betrayed the trust of those who entrusted you with everything they had saved.  You betrayed charities whose good works you have extinguished in an afternoon.  These betrayals are epic in their scope and dazzling in their utter lack of remorse or responsibility. 

There must be some new word invented to describe the way you have redefined betrayal.  The Bible calls such things a toevah, “an abomination”.  It means an act so alien to our values and our natures that it cannot be understood or explained.  You have committed an abomination.  This is what you have done.

Another thing you did was make life incredibly more difficult for people who sell real and honorable and legitimate money products.  Now every stock broker and money manager and hedge-fund operator and insurance rep who has already had a tough time convincing prospective clients that what they are selling is good and honest must now also convince them that they are not like you.  An entire world economy we now know is based to an immense degree on simple trust, and you have done more than any single person to destroy that trust.

You are a financial terrorist. Your attack has toppled the foundations of trust in our financial markets.  Although you are not by any means the only financial terrorist, you are its most reviled attacker.  What have brought us down are not worthless financial instruments, but worthless people.  Many business people have always known and have never forgotten t hat trust is all the collateral they have ever placed against a loan.  Your name is on people’s lips now, but the ones out there selling honest products at a fair price ought to push your name into the gutter where it belongs. This is what you have done.

One of the very worst things you did has to do with the Jews. You are responsible for reviving the “Jew game.”  I heard of the Jew game from a boy who became a man last Saturday.  I asked him once if he had ever experienced anti-Semitism in school.  That is when he looked at the floor and told me about the Jew game.  The game, played by anti-Semitic kids in school, was one in which they would hide around a corner, throw a quarter down the hall, and then when somebody picked up the quarter, they’d run at the person, shouting, “You’re the Jew!”

You did not cause the anti-Semitic insults about Jews and money, but you caused them to be revived.  Not since Julius Rosenberg spied for the Soviet Union has one person so damaged the image and the self-respect of American Jews.  I am not comfortable with the fact that so many of the articles about you specifically identify your prominent place in the Jewish community.  Ken Lay of Enron shame was never identified as a “prominent Protestant energy broker.”  The most aggressive accusers of the governor of Illinois seldom describe him as “the prominent Serbian-American governor of Illinois .”  Yes, it is unfair that your Jewishness has become part of the storyline.  But you just reminded the bigots who grew up playing The Jew Game that it still strikes a familiar chord.

You wiped out Joe Lieberman’s accomplishments. You revived ancient bigotry against our people. You gave credence to the horrid accusations about Jews being untrustworthy and greedy.  One offensive paper has a column called “Jews in the News,” which focuses on some Jewish criminal or other to remind their sickening readers of the legitimacy of anti-Semitism.  You are not just one of the “Jews in the news” they seek.  You are the apotheosis of their hate-filled world.  You have given the Jew-haters material for a decade of hate gardening.  You single-handedly revived the Jew game.  This is what you have done.

Most of those you’ve deceived will learn to live and give in new and perhaps more modest ways.  Unlike your evil, which has been stopped, nothing will stop their courage and compassion.  Some of your victims will no doubt be more severely wounded in circumstance and in spirit, but none of them, I pray, will surrender to your assault.  Their friends will not leave them.  Their children and grandchildren will not refuse to hug them and kiss them.  After their initial trauma subsides, they will, I believe, move on to cling to the blessings that cannot ever be stolen.

You, on the other hand, will lose everything — everything!  From this day to the end of your life, there will be none who will trust you.  To be mistrusted by everyone is an enormous curse and you have brought this all upon yourself, and for what purpose?  You were supposed to be the master of risk and reward and you risked everything from everyone for what reward?  You have not just made a bad calculation about how money works, you have made a bad calculation about how life works.  You gave no value to what matters and all value to what does not matter at all.  This is what you have done.

Shame on you Bernie Madoff.  Shame on you.

By Rabbi Marc Gellman

WELL SAID, GOOD FOR YOU RABBI! The indefensible cannot be defended.

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Protecting Your Reputation Online!

December 26, 2008

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Protecting Your Reputation. Reputation Management –

The Top Ten Tips to Clean Up Your Online Reputation.

Take a minute and do a Google search for your company name, your domain name, and your personal name. What do those results on the first page or two in Google look like? Hopefully everything on the first few pages of search results is positive.

But you may find listings that paint you or your company in a less than flattering light. There could be…

  • blog or forum posts from disgruntled customers or previous employees,
  • negative reviews of your business or products, possibly planted there by your competition,
  • embarrassing personal details about top executives in your company.

There could even be whole sites devoted to the myriad ways in which you “suck“.

And if you’re seeing negative listings on the first few pages of Google, you can bet that many of your customers are seeing them too. And that’s going to have a big effect on whether or not they decide to do business with you.

Few things are more important to your continued online success than your name or your company’s brand. And your “brand” can be quickly destroyed if you’re not controlling what customers are presented with when they Google your company. This means…

  • Monitoring what people are saying about you or your brand online,
  • Practicing defensive ranking to control the top results when customers search for your name, and…
  • Responding quickly and appropriately if and when negative search results appear.

Now if you Googled your name or company a few minutes ago and saw prominently displayed listings calling you a rip-off artist, then you’re probably pretty eager to remove those negative search results before you lose any more customers. So let’s begin with the most urgent issue at hand:

What do you do if negative results are grabbing the top spots when you search for your “name” in Google?

Dealing with Negative Search Results

Obviously, the best approach is to never have negative SERP’s appear in the first place. That means treating your customers fairly, selling quality products, and providing good customer service. If you’re an actual rip-off artist no amount of manipulation is going to help you hide forever. Eventually the tidal wave of bad reports on sites like RipOffReport.com and MatrixWatch.org is going to overwhelm anything you can do to push those complaints out of the top search results.

In fact, all it really takes is one prominent blogger to write something negative about you to cause severe damage to your company’s credibility.

There are many examples of businesses forced to deal with extremely negative search results simply because they happened to upset the wrong high profile blogger. And once a negative result from an authoritative blog get entrenched in Google it can be among the most difficult kind of listing to remove.

If you find this is the case with you, your best bet is to contact the blogger personally and do everything in your power to make them happy. Some bloggers are loathe to remove their old posts (even if the post was wrong to begin with) but if you make a sincere effort to address their complaints and set things right with them, you can often get them to at least write a follow-up post that presents you company in a better light.

Once they do, point some links at that positive post so that it replaces the old negative one. At worst you’ll get a double listing where users will at least get to see both sides of the story.

Contact the blogger by phone if at all possible, since if things go bad it’s harder for the blogger to publish your phone conversation on their blog than it is for them to simply reprint an email exchange. Avoid getting into an argument or debate in the comments section of the blog, as that will often just dig you into a deeper hole. (Best to have an online reputation management firm do this on your behalf. An experienced company knows how to handle this, and keeps the emotion out, something you will may have trouble doing.)

Of course, diplomacy doesn’t always work. You’ll encounter many situations where the person who created the negative listing is either unwilling or unable to remove it. In those cases, you’ll need to create listings of your own which rank highly for your business name. This will push the negative listings so far down in the rankings that no one will ever see them.

The Top 10 Strategies for Pushing Down Negative Results

The goal here is to either find or create pages that say good (or neutral) things about you and getting them to rank highly. In ranking these pages for your branded terms you can push the negative results onto page three or four, or further, so that they are unlikely to ever be seen by any of your customers.

The way you’ll get these pages to rank highly is by building links to the page or by creating pages on an older and more authoritative domain. For best results, do both. Build links to positive listings by linking to those pages from your own sites, creating new sites to link to them, or purchasing links from other sites. Be sure to link to those positive listing pages with the anchor text keywords you want them to be found for. Generally this will be your business or personal name, or other branded term.

Here’s the 10 top strategies for pushing negative listings out of the top results, roughly in order of effectiveness.

1.  Use Subdomains On Your Own Site. Do a search for Google to see how they implement this strategy. Of course, Google controls the search results so you wouldn’t expect to see anything bad about them. Even so, you have to click to the fourth page of search results before you even see a listing that Google doesn’t own. Most are Google properties on subdomains, such as earth.google.com and video.google.com.Similarly, HowStuffWorks.com almost completely dominates the first few pages of search results with subdomains, as does CraigsList.org.

Creating a subdomain for your blog (such as blog.acmewidgets.com) or for your various product lines can help occupy significantly more real estate in the top Google listings for your domain name. Just be aware that subdomains need to have some actual content on them as well as having some decent incoming links of their own if you want to ensure that they rank well.

2.  Create Additional Sites About Your Business. One example would be to create a philanthropic arm of your company and give it its own site. Walmart does this with WalmartFoundation.org, while Google does the same with Google.org. As long as the each site has a legitimate reason for existing, a company can have several websites and not worry too much about interlinking them. Just make sure each site stands on it’s own so it doesn’t look like you’re forming a mininet.

Try searching for some of the top brands and you’ll see many have their main site, as well as a corporate site, a charitable site, and several international Canadian, United Kingdom, Australian and New Zealand sites occupying top spots for their company name. Make your international versions different than your main site, however, to avoid duplicate content problems. You could even have a website designed to answer criticisms, similar to WalMart’s WalmartFacts.com.

3.  Sitelinks and Double Listings. Sitelinks won’t push negative results off the page, but they will make your site’s listing take up more space and draw attention away from any negative results. A double listing will push other results below it down a notch, which can be effective in pushing negative results off of Google’s front page.

4.  Wikipedia Business Pages. One thing you’ll notice if you search for most big corporate brands in Google is that Wikipedia pages for those businesses show up in the top 10 results extremely often. Most people don’t know that you can also easily create a Wikipedia page for your own business. However, these business entries do get deleted on occasion, so try to make yours fairly informative and complete. If it offers real information and/or you’re a fairly well known business then it’s less likely that one of the other editors will delete the page you’ve created. Deletions still can happen, but if you can get it to stick it’s almost guaranteed to rank on page one in Google for your business’s name.

AboutUs.org is similar to Wikipedia, except that its entire focus is for businesses to insert their listings. Creating a page for your business on this site will also tend to rank very well for your business name. And your chances of getting deleted are much lower.

5.  Presell Pages. These are pages that you buy on other web sites. Instead of purchasing an advertisement or text link from another website, you buy an entire page on the site and write an article which mentions your site and links back to you. If you buy this page on an important site and the article prominently features your business name or other branded term, it will rank highly for that term and push down negative content (plus you can get a killer link back to your main site).

Presell pages can be highly effective, but make sure all your presell page articles are different so that each shows up in the search engines. If they’re all the same then the duplicate content filter will remove most of them and only one will show up for a given search. You want as many of them to rank highly as possible, so make sure they all contain unique content. For best results, make sure the keyword you want the presell page to rank for appears in the title tag of the page.

Syndicating articles on authoritative domains for free is even better (or at least cheaper), as long as those articles still contain the search term you’re trying to fix. Submitting articles which contain your business name to some of the bigger article directories like ezinearticles.com can also work, though these domains are not as authoritative as you might need to remove a negative result from a highly authoritative site. Remember, the more authoritative the site containing the negative comment, the more authoritative the site you’ll need to syndicate your article or presell page on in order to push the bad listing down in the rankings.

6.  Start Sending Out Press Releases. Make sure it prominently features the keyword you want it to rank for. That press release will get indexed and often moved into the top ten within a week, particularly for less competitive keywords. You’re also likely to get listed in dozens, if not hundreds, of sites that reprint press releases from these sources to provide content for themselves. Again, make sure that the press release features your business name prominently if that’s what you want it to rank highly for. Once those press releases are archived on the PR companies’ sites and crawled and indexed by the search engines (a process that usually takes two weeks) they often occupy 3 or 4 of the spots on the first page or two in Google.

Since the same press release is going to be featured on multiple sites, many of those listings will be filtered out due to duplicate content. However, a few will make it into top spots. To maximize the number of top positions you fill, submit two or three different press releases. Also, remember that the more newsworthy the press release is, the more likely it is to attract links on its own, which will help it rank higher. Press releases do have a tendency to slide down in the search results over time, so you’ll want to be continually issuing new ones every two or three months, particularly if you see your old ones beginning to slip. And if you’re dealing with bad press on a truly authoritative domain that’s proving very difficult to outrank, then you’re best off going with a public relations firm that can get mentions of you in some of the more significant news and media sites where your chances of outranking an important site are much better.

7.  Profiles on other sites, pretty much any popular site which lets you create a user account, works well as long as those user accounts are search engine accessible. If you’re not sure, find some of the other profile pages on the site and search Google for the URL where the profile is listed. If the page shows up in Google, then you know Google is indexing profiles from that site. An Amazon reviewers account is a good example. Make sure your reviewer name is the same as your business name (or whatever branded term you’re trying to improve results for).

Since these profiles are subpages of the Amazon goliath they tend to rank pretty well, especially for keywords that are fairly noncompetitive such as business or personal names. The list from our recent report on free authoritative links is another great place to find authoritative domains where you can easily create high ranking profiles and other pages for free.

Be sure to use your business name (or other branded term) as the profile name, blog name, or page title, as appropriate. For example, if your business name is Acme Widgets, create pages such as:

http://www.myspace.com/acmewidgets/

http://www.flickr.com/acmewidgets/

http://acmewidgets.wordpress.com/

…and so on. Creating a Squidoo page about your business can also be very effective. You should also sign up for popular forums using your business name as your username. BoardTracker.com can help you find the most popular forums for your industry. Just enter your top keywords and you’ll see which forums are discussing them.

Your business name will then show up on the view profile section of the forum. Try to find the most popular and high-ranking forums you possibly can to do this. That way your profile page will be more likely to show up near the top of the search results.

Don’t actually post in the forums, as this opens you up to being engaged by the same people who may have posted negative comments about you in other forums. If you do decide to post, limit it to forums where the topic is such that criticisms of you will be out of place and likely deleted by moderators.

All of these profiles will help increase the number of positive or neutral pages about you. Some will rank highly on their own volition, while others will require that you build links to them before they outrank that negative pages.

Be aware that these fixes will only patch over fairly minor problems in which the negative comments about your site are on pages that aren’t very popular or well-linked and thus are easy to move out of top positions, particularly for non-competitive keywords. All it takes is one prominent blogger to have a bad experience with your company which motivates them to write something negative about you and you’ve got a public relations stain that will be very difficult to erase.

8.  Tagging your site with your business name in Del.icio.us can also work well. These pages will often show up in the top 10 for less competitive queries. If your business name is more than one word, insert hyphens between each of the words when tagging. Here’s an example of both an hyphenated and unhyphenated tag:

The tag keywords appear in the URL of the page, giving the page a bit of help in ranking higher (although most of the rankings juice comes from the authoritative Del.icio.us domain the pages are on). Besides tagging your main site, you can also tag any articles or press releases you’ve syndicated. Be sure to tag them with your business name or other keyword you want the Del.icio.us tag page to rank for.

You can accomplish a similar effect by tagging photos in Flickr with your business name or other branded term.

9.  Buying Sites That Are Ranking Well for the Keyword. You’re targeting purchasing the sites that have the negative comments is an option. It can be a bit expensive, and sites are not always willing to sell. The other option is to buy sites that are on the second or third page for your keywords, then optimize them to get them on to the first page. Finally, you can just buy sites that have good potential in general (old sites with good backlinks) and modify them a bit so that they are now ranking for your top branded terms.

10.  Strategically Placed PPC Ads. First, let us say that we generally prefer not to confront bad results directly on the web by creating additional pages or sites that address the negative commentary. You’ll can create your own positive listings designed to outrank the negative commentary.

You can consider purchasing a paid ad next to the search results which links to a page where you personally answer any criticisms that may be raised in the negative pages. This page could also appear for some negative keyword searches, like acme widgets complaints. Obviously, this doesn’t effect the organic search results, but can help provide users an alternative result and commentary (“conversation”).

Although we prefer not to confront controversies directly on the web by posting on blogs or forums because they can easily get out of control, if you can quickly catch a complaint and respond to it in a positive and helpful way, you can often mitigate the problem and even earn some points for your company.

Having someone in your business dedicated to responding in forums and blog comments to any commentary about you can be a good idea if done right, but it requires a great deal of tact and skill. What you don’t want is to fall into an online argument or debate that just makes the problem worse. Online community outreach is valuable only if you’ve got a person with the right diplomatic temperament to do it.

Defensive Ranking

One aspect of defensive ranking is simply doing all the above mentioned strategies preemptively. That is, create large numbers of pages with positive or neutral information about your company that rank highly before anyone says anything bad. That way if someone does create a negative page it has a difficult time breaking into the top listings.

The other aspect is becoming aware of those sites which may attempt to leech off of your brand credibility through typo traffic or by using similar domain names. Spend some time researching common misspellings your top brand terms and see if anyone is attempting to rank for them. You may want to create pages designed for those misspelled brand terms if it appears someone is trying to capitalize on or misrepresent your brand.

Also, if your business domain is AcmeWidgets.com, consider purchasing the AcmeWidgetsSucks.com domain before someone else does. Don’t put it online, of course. Simply hold onto it to keep it out of the hands of others.

If the site is violating your copyright in any way, you can also file a DMCA complaint against them with the major search engines and get their infringing web pages removed. You can even get their site pulled by their web host. But this only works if they are indeed violating your copyright. Beware negative publicity, as this move may make the owner of the site you removed want to retaliate against you.

Threatening sites with legal action is almost always a bad idea, as this tend to throw fuel on the fire. This is sometimes referred to as the Streisand Effect, referring to a case in which Barbara Streisand sued a photographer for taking pictures of her beachfront mansion for a coastal erosion study. The story got picked up in the media and went viral on the Internet, resulting in the pictures getting vastly more exposure than they would have otherwise.

Legal action often dramatically increases the level of publicity for the story, causing it to get picked up in increasingly popular areas. And the more popular the site a story appears on, the harder it is to move out of the top rankings. What’s more, unless the negative listing is truly libel (and the site is hosted in a country where libel laws are compatible with yours) there’s almost nothing any lawyer can do about it (but don’t just take our word for it — consult your attorney).

Finally, you’ll want to catch negative online publicity as quickly as possible so you can respond before the situation before it gets out of hand. That means tracking what is being said about you on the Internet.

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How To Use Twitter For Online Reputation Management

December 1, 2008

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Clean Up Your Online Persona

If you have a personal website or social profile, check it for embarrassing information.  You should think twice about blogging on topics that may not reflect favorably on you. People are regularly “Googling” others. Beat them to the punch and Google yourself. 

You should know what the Internet reveals about your past. More importantly, people and employers are increasingly gaining access to social networking sites such as Twitter, Facebook and MySpace to see what they can learn about you as well.  There are many ways people (and employers) can gain access into all the social Web 2.0 sites. For example, employers are tasking staffers to do candidate research. We have blogged about this before. So, be sure to remove incriminating photos and any statements on your profile(s) which could be embarrassing. More importantly, set your privacy settings as high as you can.

hasselhoff-drunk1MOST OF ALL, know yourself.  Make a list of your strengths, goals, values, accomplishments and abilities to use as a general reference for all who find any of your links. Make a list of the top five things you want a people to know about you.  This will help provide your answers for the majority of the things people want to know about you, such as what makes you of value, what makes you unique?

Let’s talk about Twitter for online reputation and brand building…

twitter If you don’t have an account there as yet, go ahead and sign up. It’s easy, upload a photo and short Bio, and join the “conversation”. All “tweets“, as they are known, are limited to only 140 characters, so this is a great way of using social media to position and brand yourself online. An additional benefit is that Twitter pages rank well in the search engines when your name is searched. Our recommendation is to USE YOUR REAL NAME, not a fantasy profile.

Many of you already know that Twitter is one of the fastest growing web 2.0 websites. There are literally thousands of new members joining Twitter every day. It’s an ideal enviroment to network with like minded people.

The short and immediate tweets allow you to interact with others, to build relationships and to establish yourself as a credible expert.. with a personality! What if there was a way of firing up your followers with energy and enthusiasm? Up until now, the traditional way of staying in touch with your target audience was through email. The vast majority of people on your list are likely to object if you were to send out more than two or three emails a day. In fact some would object to getting more than two or three emails a week.

However, Twitter allows you to publish updates all day long and, if your followers don’t wish to see your updates they can simply “unfollow” you. And, whereas you will get some replies from your list subscribers, those replies are one-to-one. Your replies on Twitter will be seen by many which engenders even more conversation and participation. The greatest benefits offered by Twitter is that it allows you to engage your audience, build your credibility, and to establish yourself as an authority in your niche market.

While some direct sales can be made on Twitter, it is much more effective to sell yourself, to build your reputation and to get involved in relevant conversations. And that is where the real value lies…The real value in using Twitter is that it’s an excellent source of targeted traffic. Rather than use the hard, direct sell, you should approach Twitter with a long term goal in mind.

Include links to valuable resources, relevant articles. Keep your audience up to date with the latest news in your niche. Announce new blog posts, product launches. Set up polls and surveys to get feedback. Use Twitter creatively!

The Powerful Targeting Of Your Twitter Audience…

In an increasingly competitive marketplace is it vitally important that you are able to maximize your influence. Twitter offers you the environment to do just that. You can quickly and easily connect with people who share the same interests that you do, people who will be interested in sharing information on a common topic. People who want to engage in a conversation with you. Nothing else can compare with the Immediacy of Twitter…

Furthermore, with the current economic climate, it’s even more important that we build strong relationships with our target audience. The real competitive advantage comes from being the first person to break the news, to be able to respond to the needs and demands of our market with lightning speed. With a strong presence on Twitter, you will be perfectly positioned to keep your followers up to date with the latest news in your sector.

You will be ideally placed to recommend new products.

You can..

  • Drive Traffic To Your Blog.
  • Build A Targeted List.
  • Enhance Your Customer Service Credibility.
  • Bolster Your Reputation As An Authority.
  • Recommend Other People’s Products & Services.
  • Promote Your Own Products.
  • Collect Competitor Intelligence.
  • Spot New Trends.
  • Build Long Term relationships.
  • Recruit New Affiliates and JV Partners
  • Find Specialist Suppliers.

In summary, with Twitter you will gain much more credibility in your market niche and build your online reputation as a real authority.

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Can Google Know Too Much?

November 8, 2008

afraid_of_google As the web search giant grows, some critics say it could be too economically powerful — and invade people’s privacy.

Perhaps the biggest threat to Google’s increasing dominance of Internet search and advertising is the rising fear, justified or not, that Google’s broadening reach is giving it unchecked power.

This scrutiny goes deeper than the skeptical eye that lawmakers and the Justice Department have given to Google’s proposed ad partnership with Yahoo Inc. Many objections to that deal are financial, and surround whether Google and Yahoo could unfairly drive up online ad prices.

A bigger long-term concern for Google could be criticisms over something less tangible — privacy. Increasingly, as Google burrows deeper into everyday computing, its product announcements are prompting questions about its ability to gather more potentially sensitive personal information from users.

Why does Google log the details of search queries for so long? What does it do with the information? Does it combine data from the search engine with information it collects through other avenues — such as its recently released Web browser, Chrome?

Data gathered through most of the company’s services ”disappears into a black hole once it hits the Googleplex, it’s impossible to track that information.

Google — whose corporate motto is ”Don’t Be Evil” — generally sees such concerns as misinformed. For instance, the company says it stores the queries made through its popular search engine primarily so it can improve the service.

But whether the criticisms are valid or not, they are likely indicative of the battles Google will face as it, like Microsoft Corp. in the 1990s, moves from world-wowing startup to the heart of the technology establishment.

The September release of Chrome illuminated the budding conflicts.

To Google, the new browser is a platform on which future Web-based software applications might run most efficiently. It also is a sign that Google understands its growing power, since launching a browser is a direct challenge to Microsoft.

In other circles, Chrome provoked suspicion. One group, Santa Monica, Calif.-based Consumer Watchdog, argues that the browser crosses a new line.

In a mid-October letter to Google directors, Consumer Watchdog said it had ”serious privacy concerns” about the browser and the transfer of users’ data through Google’s services without giving people what it sees as “appropriate transparency and control.”

One of Consumer Watchdog’s complaints surrounds Chrome’s navigation bar, which can be used to enter a Web site address or a search query. The group points out that as users type in the navigation bar, Chrome relays their keystrokes to Google even before they click ”Enter” to finalize the command.

The company is literally having this unnoticed conversation with itself about you and your information,” Consumer Watchdog President Jamie Court said.

This ”conversation” stems from the ”Google Suggest” feature, which is built into the browser and other Google products, including its basic Internet search engine.

”Google Suggest” sends Google searches as you type, in hopes of anticipating your desires. So if you’re keying in ”Electoral College 2008 election,” Google will offer multiple search queries. First you’d be given results related to the term ”electoral,” then ones on the Electoral College in general, and finally you’d get links pertaining to November 4th’s presidential vote.

This is what worries Consumer Watchdog: Say you key in something that could be embarrassing or deeply personal, but reconsider before you press ”Enter.” The autosuggest feature still sends this phrase to Google’s servers, tied to your computer’s numeric Internet Protocol (IP) address.

Brian Rakowski, the product manager for Chrome, said Consumer Watchdog’s fears stemmed from confusion about the role a Google Web browser plays.

There was some concern that, given a very naive way of how browsers work, you may think, `Now I’m using a Google browser — Google must know everything on their servers about me,” he said.

Although Chrome is new, Consumer Watchdog is not waiting to see whether it gets too little use to worry about. In October, Court’s group wrote U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey to caution him about Google’s plans to sell ads for Yahoo, saying that its fears about Google’s market power have been exacerbated by Chrome’s release. Of course, this deal has subsequently been abandoned as the parties realized it would never pass DOJ.

It’s about having a monopoly over our personal information, which, if it falls into the wrong hands, could be used in a very dangerous way against us,” Court said.

Monitoring Your Reputation Online

The easiest and most reliable way to monitor your company’s brand online is with RSS alerts from the major blog search engines. We like Technorati.com, Google Blog Search, BlogPulse.com, and Sphere.com. There will be a fair amount of overlap since they will catch many of the same blog posts, but we’re always surprised at how often one will catch a story the others have missed.

Each has a feature where you can search for a keyword such as your business or personal name and subscribe to the results returned. Typically a little RSS button will appear next to the search results and clicking it will automatically insert the RSS feed for that search into the RSS reader of your choice.

Google Alerts can also play an important role in your online reputation management. This is a free service which tracks changes to the Google search results for a given keyword. You can also configure it to track changes in Google News, Google Blog Search, and Google Groups.

  • A ‘News’ alert will track changes to the top ten results for your keyword in Google News search.
  • A ‘Web’ alert will track changes to the top twenty results for your keyword in Google Web search.
  • A ‘Blogs’ alert will track changes to the top ten results for your keyword in Google Blog search.
  • A ‘Groups’ alert will track changes to the top fifty results for your keyword in Google Groups search.
  • A ‘Comprehensive’ alert will combine all the above changes into a single email.

Online, Reputation is everything!

A wise man once said, “Steal my money and I can earn more, but let no man steal my good name.

In today’s world where anyone or anything can be easily “Googled”, hard earned success can be wiped out overnight if companies fail to actively manage their reputation. After all, online, we “are” what people say we are!

Stay Reputable!

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Online Reputation Management Means Knowing Where Your Secrets Are

November 3, 2008

Well, our previous blog post (10/20/2008) opened some interesting conversations…fortunately we moderate comments. Having been in communication with a couple of “buyers” of products from some of these Internet gurus, a message was forwarded to us whereby one of these gurus sent an ominous message threatening to lynch the member. He actually used that word in his email. So, here is a perfect example of how to ruin one’s online reputation. What’s interesting, since today the word lynch is not politically correct — let’s face it, had such an email been sent to an African-American, it would be considered a “hate crime”, a serious felony that would have resulted in the arrest of that Internet guru — is that this so-called smart Internet marketer was so stupid as to write such an email creating a document that will now live forever.

This will seem a little amusing right now, but some years ago I attended a high-level CEO management forum with about 800 C-suite types from all over the country involved in technology and/or the Internet in one way or another. The keynote speaker was then Attorney-General Elliot Spitzer. Yes, that Elliot Spitzer, and how apprapro to now be speaking of him in an online reputation blog. Anyway, his opening remarks, which he often used in these keynotes, went like this: “First of all, I want to let all of you know that before I came in here today, I have already read all your emails.” [This brought lots of laughter, achieving his intention of opening with some humor.] He then went on to say, “Here’s the message I can give you for your business practices. If you can nod, don’t speak, if you can speak, don’t write, and if you have to write, don’t record or save.”

You may recall that it is always discovery of EMAILS that brought down his targets and resulted in so many successful prosecutions for him that eventually led to him being elected governor of New York. Apparently, he forgot to follow his own advice. This is the hubris of success and moral depravity I touched on in my REPUTATION 2009 – THERE WILL BE BLOOD posting below, only now, in some cases, because of the fear in the economy, and job losses, it is spilling into this latest “bubble” of Internet marketing to the gullible and ill-informed. If one is qualified, and has done their homework, great! But when I read about someone who just spent over $5,000 buying one suspect online program in the last 30 days or so, who, for 25 years has spent 12 hours a day as a plumber/welder and is “hoping 2009 is the end of my day joband can’t wait to get started…” [obviously a newbie], my message to the Internet gurus is similar to that given to brokers who sell other types of investments: “Know Your Customer“, avoid obvious over-the-top puffery, avoid earnings representations, and disclose everything with transparency. These are the basics of online reputation management.

How aout this headline from a squeeze page making the rounds now:

“The Turnkey Money Machine
That Prints
Non-Stop Profits
For You
Automatically,
The Lazy Way!”

“…I’ll make money automatically 24/7, even while I’m sleeping or having fun doing something else. I won’t be chained to my computer slaving away.”

===================================================================

Okay, you get the message…the FTC loves this stuff when they come after you.

Let’s move on to another potential reputation killer occurring in offices everywhere.

Profiles Are For Viewer’s Eyes Only

It could have been a workplace disaster of incalculable proportions. But thankfully, Bridget’s professional reputation got by without a scratch.

Here’s the story as she tells it:

“Many of my co-workers are blocked from seeing my more ”social” moments on Facebook . . . such as the booze-fueled housewarming bash I threw a few months back. Not exactly something you want the bosses to see.

So imagine my horror when I saw a co-worker (who had full profile access) not only browsing through my party photos at work — but also showing them to someone who walked by!

Lucky for me, the person who saw it already was my Facebook friend. And that co-worker quickly realized that a social network faux pas had been committed.

I thought I had it under control because I used privacy settings. I trusted that co-worker with access, but I didn’t take into account that the pictures could be shared with others at work.

So the lesson learned goes two ways. First, assume that things you see are for your eyes only. It’s disrespectful to let the whole department huddle around your monitor to look at someone else’s profile.

And, of course, don’t assume bosses won’t see a photo just because you blocked their access. Unless you block all co-workers, someone at work could share it in the office. Nothing is 100 percent safe from being seen just because you use privacy settings.”

Niala has experienced this same problem, a little differently:

“I’ve had a few incidents with co-workers who aren’t on social networks but like to get into people’s business. Hey, we’re all journalists — it’s sort of a hallmark of the trade that we’re all nosy. But I have to draw the line when they are hovering over my computer, and, in some cases, asking me to click on things in people’s profiles. I’m not sure that I’ve done the best job telling them to back off. I usually just tell them they need to open their own account.”

For some reason, people who would never read an e-mail on your screen have no problem being social network voyeurs. Sound familiar?

One more “secret” hideout that we’ve seen come back to haunt people, and companies: too many employees fail to erase or encrypt sensitive data on their mobile devices before tossing them out. To prove this point, one known to us, a university research team recently purchased 161 discarded handheld devices from online auction sites and secondhand outlets.

One in five (20%) contained details about salaries, company finances, business plans, or board meetings. A Blackberry once owned by the European sales director of a major Japenese firm, for instance, had the goods on company clients as well as the executive’s bank account numbers — along with his car make and registration.

Our general advice is to always delete your data, but the reality is not that simple. Someone inside your company has to set policy and tell people exactly what they should do when they get rid of these mobile devices.

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Reputation 2009 – There Will Be Blood

October 20, 2008

I believe our online reputation management business is going to get better in the future. The country is currently already inundated with CEO heads rolling, SEC investigations, banking irregularities and more investigations, ninja loans, sub-prime slime, government’s failure at properly regulating the GSE’s, mortgage fraud, medicare fraud, credit card fraud, credit card repair fraud, car dealership misrepresentations, and the list goes on. There are always the proverbial celebrities, business brands and sport’s figures being tarnished, fairly or unfairly, but I am predicting a new wave of FTC investigations into the business practices of certain Internet marketing gurus peddling what the government will call “get-rich-quick” schemes, their code for scamming the public.

I don’t know about you, but lately, some of these so-called “experts”, and yes, some of them are that indeed – which makes them even a more likely target because of their high profiles – have been filling the inboxes of hundreds of thousands of consumers daily with high-priced programs promising huge profits anywhere from minutes to 60 days from the purchase. All these emails and ‘squeeze pages’ are beginning to look and sound alike, almost mirroring each other in style and substance with some minor twists and power headlines: maybe the guy who was a drunk or drug addict two years ago before discovering his online secret to now banking millions of dollars, or the out-of-work employee who was desperate and losing his home and cars before getting into his or her online marketing program, or reincarnations of the old Yellowbook and local online mall concepts we saw years ago, info products and ebooks, and on and on.

First we link to a video, hear the backstory, then we see the Clickbank or PayPal accounts with hundreds of thousands of dollars in deposits, read all the testimonials, hear about the once-in-a-lifetime bonuses, and then we’re taken to the buy NOW button (that “may not be there again if we dare even refresh the page”). How about all those online teleseminars and videos recycling programs of years ago? I don’t know how these buyers have the time to keep up with all this. They can’t be holding full-time jobs, and I suppose that’s exactly what makes them so vulnerable.

Any idea how many failures this will produce causing frustrated buyers to point fingers at the sellers to rationalize why they failed and lost their investments, some of them quite substantial dollars. Yes, of course today, there are many more millions of people online globally than a decade ago, but my fear is that some of these gurus, who have done brilliant work and are to be truly congratulated for their successes, are letting hubris (and greed in some cases) set in and are dropping their guard in the over-the-top, grey-area ‘puffery’ being used to solicit these more vulnerable and desperate potential pool of buyers, mostly newbies, who are making quick emotional decisions before really doing their homework. Much like the mortgage and Wall Street peddlers that got us into today’s financial mess. These programs use psychological triggers driving the consumer to the purchase by appearing to limit the number of buyers and creating a certain exclusivity – actually a feature touted as a training technique being passed on to these buyers who are just not properly screened as to their ability to actually succeed with these programs.

How many times in the last 60 days have you heard the ‘teach the fish story’, or some version of that? Getting the picture?

Here’s the problem, and why ReputationDr will be looking forward to more online reputation management business. Many of these programs are really “business opportunities” in the true legal description of certain state law and the FTC Act relating to deceptive trade practices designed to protect consumers, but are operating under the radar screen of these state and federal business opportunity laws as if just “product sales”. This will not hold up if a complaint is brought by the government. Oh, by the way, in case you haven’t heard, the federal government is out of money. Agencies that will not receive any government cutbacks, I promise you, are agencies that have the ability to bring revenue into the treasury, such as the IRS, SEC, CFTC, and yes, the FTC.

The latter employs approximately 500 attorneys, a group of which just love to target the companies and individuals they believe they can roll over due to the high cost of litigation and, thereby, put a few success notches in their belt. There is no relationship between what the government will spend in relation to the final judgment they will secure. I have read many stories of them traveling in two’s to dozens of cities, after issuing subpoenas, to take depositions of all the buyers and spread fear into a seller’s customer base. Oh, and by the way Mr. Internet Guru, do not be surprised if some day in the future you find out that one of your purchasers is, in actuality, an FTC mole operating with an alias name, alias address, phone numbers and credit cards. You won’t know until you been served and read the transcripts of all the telephone calls that have been recorded, emails that have been exchanged, marketing materials that you have used, thousands of pages, really. No, sorry, the feds do not need to inform you that the telephone calls are being recorded when they are investigating you and preparing to identify you as a “target”. This could take them six months to a year, they are a patient bunch. To be forewarned is to be forearmed, as the expression says.

 Listed below are some general criteria that, if not adhered to by the sellers, may put up a red flag for them AND the buyers:

  1. A “business opportunity” involves the sale or lease of any product, service, equipment and so on that will enable the purchaser-licensee to begin a business.
  2. The licenser or seller of a “business opportunity” declares that it will secure or assist the buyer in finding a suitable location or provide the product to the purchaser-licensee.
  3. The licenser-seller guarantees an income greater than or equal to the price the licensee-buyer pays for the product when it’s resold and that there’s a market present for the product or service.
  4. The initial fee paid to the seller to start the business opportunity is more than $500.
  5. The licenser-seller promises to buy back any product purchased by the licensee-buyer in the event it can’t be sold to prospective customers of the business.
  6. Any products or services developed by the seller-licenser will be purchased by the licensee-buyer.
  7. The licenser-seller of the business opportunity will supply a sales or marketing program for the licensee-buyer that many times will include the use of a trade name or trademark.
  8. Any reference to “earnings projections” for the buyer, either orally, in emails, or in marketing materials.  

This is a short list, and any one of these points is enough for the government to make its allegations, let alone just one strong consumer complaint. I’m not even going to get into compensation and mark-up issues here, but these, too, are favorite FTC arguments as they make for very lively pleadings stripping away empathy for multi-millionaire defendants when presented to a jury of your “peers”.

Our research seems to indicate that when they do bring a case, not only will one’s reputation be irreparably damaged, but they should be prepared to disgorge to a redress fund, and the treasury, anywhere from five to thirty percent of their revenue in a final settlement IF one goes all the way through the legal process by deciding to vigorously defend themselves and go to trial in order to reach a final court ordered verdict. Most small businesses cannot afford the time – typically two years from filing – the distraction, the stress, and most importantly, the financial resources to prove the FTC targeted the wrong defendant(s). You could be talking a Million Dollars in legal fees and costs. The government knows this, so once they have the seller somewhat convinced that their chances of a complete victory are rather slim – remember, they are patient, so they will “pile on” first and take their time, maybe start by filing an exparte TRO freezing one’s assets before taking depositions and interrogatories – the sellers may not be offered a pre-trial settlement right away. It will come — the government victory is important to the assigned attorneys – but it will come at a very high cost in dollars and reputation.

So, to the point of my original thesis of this blog message: the online reputation management business is likely to grow dramatically because of the daily over-saturation of these online marketing pitches from those who need to pay closer attention to their trade practices and not let their past successes go to their heads, especially in the vulnerable times in which we find ourselves today.

So, how to always maintain a good online reputation?

First, of course, the obvious. Always treat the consumer fairly and ethically. This goes beyond offering money-back guarantees if not satisfied with the purchase. It means ongoing support and answering questions in a timely manner. Being transparent and truthful at all times. Know the difference between “shills” and references or recommendations.

Next, if you are a seller of a “kit”, “business-in-a-box”, training program, etc., costing more than $500, and you are maintaining an ongoing relationship with the buyer, I would strongly urge that ALL your marketing messages and materials be first reviewed by an attorney who is familiar with federal and state business opportunity laws. You may not be a “franchise”, although I have heard the words “business opportunity” and “licensing” used very loosely, but if you happen to fall within the ambit of FTC franchise and business opportunity rules, you could potentially have a problem if your advertising documents or legal structure has not already taken this into account. Also, if you don’t know, ask your lawyer if he or she knows what a state AIN is. If they don’t, you need another attorney.

Above all, your good name and integrity is truly your most valuable asset. Protect it, value it, and don’t allow a misstep in judgment, or, worse, a competitor or complainant, destroy it because you failed to implement sound preventative measures. If not, we’ll be hearing from you!

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Were You Bad (Cool) or Good (Uncool) In College?

October 2, 2008
Student Profile Search ResultStudent Profile Search Result
Random results for “Student Profile” search term found on MySpace or Facebook

How does your past behavior in college affect your job prospects relative to your online reputation? Let’s face it: the job market is very tough today and, typically, many, if not most, individuals change jobs more often in their careers than ever before. I have seen statistics that indicate it is not at all unusual to see today’s workers change employers six or more times in less than twenty years. Years ago the HR wonks and hiring executives would look at this in the interviewing process to determine whether or not this person was “unstable”, unable to even hold down a job, and dig deeper into their social lifestyle to perhaps discover some “problems”, real or imagined. I am probably guilty of having done this myself years ago with such a resume and candidate in front of me.

But wait! Speaking of “social lifestyle“, with the tools available today to that prospective employer not available as little as five years ago, “you better watch out, you better not cry, better not pout, I’m telling you why: MySpace/Facebook has come to town.”

We have recently had the opportunity of working with some late Generation X-er’s and early Generation-Y’s who have been shut down on some recent job interviews or resume submissions. They were great candidates, clearly qualified for the positions they sought. After getting blown out, these individuals spent some time doing deep searches of their own names, and guess what? The search engine results surprised them, but you know what happened: yes, today, they are great parents, well educated employees, community participants, maybe struggling a bit with desire for more income or debt reduction, hence, seeking the new opportunities, but they were JERKS in college. Just STUPID. Wait! Let me take that back a little and restate it so I do not appear so harsh. They exercised very poor judgement for whatever the reason may have been. Often they just had a need to appear “cool” to their peers and in their immaturitythe major culprit— were not capable of foresight and how their actions and behavior could possibly affect their future.

Okay, granted, we have all done stupid things in college, but twenty plus years ago, if you told me I would be carrying a telephone in my pocket the size of a playing card cabable of world-wide calls and viewing almost all the known information in the world, I’m sure I would have dismissed you and urged you find a new hobby other than science-fiction. Hence, in today’s new paradigm, we must be cognizant of this public dissemination and adjust our behavior accordingly.

So, when those old offline college chronicles were published and distributed on campus, or in the community, who would have thought those publications would be archived and converted to digital format for page upload to the World Wide Web? What if the article was negative: you got suspended; caught in the wrong place at the wrong time; arrested? And, pow, even if it is a decade old, or more, there it is on page ONE of the major search engines as a search result for your name. Bye, bye new job. Want to compute what this damage to your online reputation may be costing you? Many thousands, and more, between now and your hoped for retirement, so I’m not going to do the math for you to see because it is very disheartening.

So some of these “cool” ex-collegiates seem to now be searching for something new: online reputation management. Of course, all the work we do, the clients with whom we work, and the techniques we use must be confidential, for obvious reasons. However, we just completed a campaign whereby in less than thirty (30) days we were successful in removing 1999 negative web pages for our client from Google (and other SE’s) and replace them with all positive, informative web sites, positive buzz, and total reputation repair. An online search for this individual today will reveal a highly desireable candidate for any employer. And you know what? The client really deserves only the best! A terrific knowledgeable person, a wonderful family, and deserving of a great future. Just made that one mistake so many years ago. Yeah, real “cool“, right?

The point of this message is that whether this sounds familar to you as an adult now part of the working population, an entrepreneur seemingly being held back from getting your deals done or business growing, OR a collegiate who happens to be reading this blog, take this conversation very seriously and think smartly about the content and/or images you are posting to your social media Web 2.0 sites. They will be there forever! Would you want your chidren or potential future employers to see this content five, ten or twenty years from now? Did you exercise good judgment, a critical trait for employers, even more keen if you are in a professional endeavor. Or how about if seeking a political position? (heh-heh)

The images at the top of this page were easily found and publicly available…I have no idea who these people are and certainly do not seek to draw attention to them, only the important issue under discussion. And these are mild pictures…imagine what the “private” posts contain. Beware: “private” posts may NOT be private, the content and images could remain on those servers forever, or saved by others, and when you least expect it, or even remember them, “whoops” there they are!

Oh, by the way, it wouldn’t hurt to use these same rules on YouTube.