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.

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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


How To Use Twitter For Online Reputation Management

December 1, 2008

nick_nolte1

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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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.