Marketing Pilgrim's Reputation Channel

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Why You Can’t Simply "Destroy" Your Online Past



The latest Business Week article, “Web Attack“, looks at how you should monitor your web reputation and steps you can take to try and respond to negative reviews, blogs and forums, etc.

Reputation monitoring and management is a vital tactic for any company (or individual) interested in what the web has to say about them, but it’s important to know that “engaging” your critics does not mean using an automated process to squash them. You can’t hope to hire a firm to wipe out your past transgressions, if you’re not changing your habits and reaching out to those who challenge you.

That’s why it’s important to highlight this bold claim by ReputationDefender…

For executives there’s a new, $10,000 premium service from ReputationDefender.com that can promote the info you want and suppress the news you don’t. The company also claims it can make information disappear altogether. One CEO, it says, watched a negative story about wrongdoing at his company drop from the first page of his Google hits to the third.

We already know from past reports that ReputationDefender claims to “destroy” any negative information online that is associated with your brand. While the company may well have success with their clients, it’s impossible to “destroy” any negative content, if there’s not a sincere motive behind the initiative. Simply trying to bury a negative web site or blog post, will be futile – someone else will take its place – if the behavior by the company has not changed too.

So, if you’re looking to clean-up your online brand, you need to do more than simply create new content or try and “suppress” the negative stuff. In order to succeed, you need:

  • Sincerity. If you’re called out for your past practices, simply saying “sorry” is not enough, if you’ve not changed the associated behavior. While you may appease one critic, many others will be standing by. And, should you continue to make the same mistakes, your critics will feel duped by your false apology and likely attack with greater fervor.
  • Transparency. Once you’ve realized the error of your ways and decided to make a change for the better, you’ll need to admit your mistakes and demonstrate why your critics should believe you have changed. Whether it’s an open letter to your customers, an interview with your critics, or your own company blog post, it’s important to be open and honest about your mistakes and future plans.
  • Consistency. If you’ve made just one screw-up, chances are you’ll be able to make amends with just one single action. However, if your company has built a reputation for one mistake after another, it will take a lot more to convince your detractors that you have changed your spots. Your sincerity and transparency will buy you a reprieve and some breathing-room, but it’s your consistency in your future actions that will change the ongoing perception of your critics.

Sincerity, Transparency, Consistency. Reputation management is a complex task, akin to crisis communications and as involved as any marketing campaign, but if you keep these three points in mind, you’ll be on your way to better changing the opinions of others.

For more free advice, check out our free online reputation management guide. Alternatively, drop me a line.

  • http://smbconsultinginc.com Business Marketing

    Good article. I agree in that it’s difficult to undo what is already done online more often than not, but your tips SHOULD help people avoid many pitfalls.

    It’s one of those things that once you decide you’re going to use publicity, internet marketing, and social networking to grow your business, you’re risking taking a few shots along the way because all types are online with many just looking to bring someone down into a dark hole with them.

  • http://www.douglaskarr.com Douglas Karr

    Sounds like it might be a lot cheaper just to be nice guy.

    :)

  • http://www.wolf-howl.com graywolf

    Well as far as Reputation Defender I might be a little concerned about a company who can’t even control their own top 10

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  • http://www.rogerd.net/ rogerd

    Excellent points, Andy. I’d be concerned that an attempt to drop negative commentary off the first few pages of results would be so heavy-handed that it would be discovered and generate its own wave of negative publicity.

    Roger

  • http://www.bushidoblog.com.ar Dario

    A cool idea would be writing the apology on the same page that is giving you a bad name and a link to your site. Some of us call it “linkbait”. ;)

  • http://searchenginetigers.com Simon Heseltine

    Then there’s the proactive approach taken by Splenda, where they purchased 200-300 negative domain names, trying to get ahead of any issues that may arise…

    http://searchenginetigers.com/2007/03/getting-right-and-wrong-domain-names.html

  • http://philospeak.com philospeak

    Definitely a topic of value to some of my clients at larger companies. Thanks for the overview.

    On the ReputationDefender.com side, $10K is not much for the larger ones, whose time for internal attorneys alone might be more when reviewing items, as long as it proves of value. Definitely something I will be looking into.

    Thanks for the “heads up”.

    Brian

    http://philospeak.com/

  • http://www.searchenginepeople.com Jeff Q

    Sometimes coming clean and owning up to past indicretions is an opportunity, especially if there is a way to resolve the outstanding situation. It will never entirely go away otherwise, and anybody digging will ultimately find it.

    Without such services though, many companies will surely have to be more tuned into satisfying their clients.

  • http://www.tupac-amaru.com Luke

    I agree with what Business Marketing says.

    Anyway, perhaps when I’m rich enough I can afford to pay somebody to erase my Internet Identity :D

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