I am old school. When I think of reputation management, I think of branding strategies, content management, social responsibility, transparency, customer service, and all those old-fashioned ideals that make an organization or person valued and revered in the public’s eye. This kind of reputation management is organizational bedrock. It takes time to build, manage, and recover.
Today, when we talk about online reputation management, the name of the game is SEO trickeration—artificially manipulating search results to push down the bad and bring up the good. Those of us old enough to remember what life was like before the internet know that true reputation is built, not programmed. I do believe, in some instances, that manipulation of online data is needed when there is a clear matter of lying or slander. However, the proliferation of reputation management applications has produced three glaring myths that need to be exposed.
“Your company removed or suppressed all the negative remarks about our company in weeks”
“We fix negative Google results”
“Our reputation services help you look your best when others are searching for you”
“Improve what people see when they Google you”
“(Our product) buries negative online blogs, reviews, forums, articles, and websites in search results”
What we do know is that online reputation management companies are not bound by ethics that prohibit them from hiding the truth. There’s the man who cheated on his wife and she sued for divorce, loading internet social sites with tales of his exploits. He said he needed a reputation management company that could get rid of his indiscretions. There’s the call I got from a lawyer who had a client that needed to suppress an ugly personal feud that had gone public. They had reached the end of their rope and wanted to know if I would manipulate search results for them. They said they had tried the online companies and their fees were too high.
Real reputation can’t be won or lost changing a few search results. Reputation is earned or lost by actions over a period of time.
Real reputation management is a long-term commitment. Despite what people say, you cannot buy a good reputation. As my grandmother used to say, “be sure your sins will find you out.”