One of the largest growing markets is online brand reputation. In today's world, nothing online is protected. Our Facebook photos, angry blog posts, and late Instagram pictures have a chance of getting out to millions of people in seconds. The internet is written in permanent ink. Now there is a way to get a second chance with an erasable pen.
With that said, it's never been more important to protect your online reputation. When discussing the topic, a story from a few months ago immediately pops up in my mind regarding Lakers draft pick Larry Nance Jr. The newest member of the Lakers team tweeted about Kobe Bryant being a rapist a long time ago, only to have it resurface after draft day. Whoops!
To learn how to protect yourself from having an embarrassing experience like Nancy Jr., I interviewed the online reputation management team at Profile Defenders, who specializes in online reputation management and the ability to permanently remove anything negative or bad from sites like ripoff report and pissedconsumer that could badly hurt somebody who is trying to find a job. These postings often prevent companies from growing their business because of disgruntled clients remarks online that are often untrue but couldn't be removed until profile defenders launched their removal service an industry first.
Below, I've listed a couple of questions I asked the Profile Defenders team to get their advice on how to best protect our online footprint. I encourage you to start implementing these strategies today before you make a mistake that you can never take back.
1. What are the biggest reputation management mistakes clients make today?
It is almost always a re-active approach instead of proactive. We have been doing suppression and brand promotion work for clients over the last five years. In that time 99% of our clients come to us for help after the fact. In one case we ensured a giant PR disaster was averted with one of our crisis management strategies. That client loves us because we saved them millions of dollars in lost revenue. In another unfortunate case a family lawyer advised the client to not do anything and now the child is doomed and can not even get into a college of their choice due to their tarnished reputation that they choose not to protect at the lawyers discretion.
2. What are preventive measures people can take to protect their online reputation?
It may sound simple, but thinking twice before posting goes a long way. This new app coming out called Peeple will let you rate other individuals. When I was interviewed for a story on how Peeple will change reputation management I applauded it as it gives people more accountability of their actions. If you know the whole world will take note of your actions you are going to think twice before you do something. In the long run this will lead to more accountability.
I can't tell you how many people we've seen that accidentally take drunken late night photos only to strongly regret posting them in the morning. By the time they take the photo, it's too late and is a PR disaster that is costly for us to go in and remove after the fact.
Many people think they're invincible from these photos getting out, because they keep all their social media profiles private. Unfortunately, if you're with friends or at a live event there are other people who could have access to the photo. And once they start sharing it, you'll need to pay to clean up the damage.
3. Are There Situations Where Companies Have Bad Reputations Online But Don't Know It?
All the time! In fact, you'd be surprised how many sites there are that are strictly meant to hurt business reputations. While many people think Yelp is the only site that matters, in truth there are tons of other ones that are much harder to track down.
As an individual or a business, it's important that you find a way to see everything that's being said about you online. For some, one bad review can spark an illegitimate rumor. And in today's world, rumors spread like wildfire on the Internet. There are even companies who know that they have negative results and continue to waste their money with in house amateurs trying to suppress these listings. Profile Defenders remove any negative webpage service is meant to help those companies who have struggled internally for years trying to get rid of these false or defamatory posts. A big energy company has reached out to us for help through a big PR firm they employ in New York City and for some reason or another after two years of waiting to hire us they continue to receive more and more negative reviews and are costing their clients hundreds of thousands of dollars a year by not hiring us. If the CEO of the company knew about this he would be furious but unfortunately the PR firm continues to try and suppress these negative results with no success and continues to tell us that they are working on it and happy with their in house service despite the clients dismay.
4. What reputation management companies and services are good and which are not?
That can be a long winded question. Any based in India or that are very cheap are not going to work. I have seen way too many clients trying to save a buck only to have their reputations and wallets hurt more by going cheap. A good reputation campaign requires a lot of work. While our take down services are a huge hit they come at a hefty cost. There is a lot of work involved in removing unwanted webpages whether its from ripoffreport.com or a news article that requires craftmenship to have details either redacted or removed requires a lot of work and connections which we have taken years to establish and build. On the public relations side. It helps when a client has a great story to tell and promote. That makes our job easier but often times we have to improvise and create campaigns for clients to help them build momentum with both evergreen and viral stories. This requires a lot of creativity something you just don't get from an average ORM company. A few salesmen from a company called reputation.com that is heavily ventured funded have come to us as they see a dismal 8% success rate for their clients and after hearing from enough clients who came to profile defenders to fix their issues they wanted to join our team and give their clients a solution that actually works. Reputation management services do not scale very well so we have to be selective on who we can help and who we can't. Brandyourself.com has done a great job of creating a lot of impressive automation tools. Patrick their founder and I use some of the same internet attorneys. I've asked to connect us as we'd be willing to invest in them and help them with some of their weaknesses on the reputation management side. If somebody has a very minor issue their product is a good solution but in a recent example we were able to complete remove any webpage from Voice Media Group. The client didn't want to pay the $10,000 for the permanent removal and decided to pay $300 a month to Brand yourself. Now a year and a half later he has paid over $5,000 and still has the same horrible results and can't get a better job because he wanted to save on the up front cost.
5. Should you respond to bad press?
When we were interviewed for this Forbes article I advised that it's not essential to comment and make a bigger problem online after a bad review is left. This tends to optimize the page and makes it rank higher in the search results. The only case where I see somebody responding to negative press and it's working to their advantage is Donald Trump right now with his presidential campaign run. He is taking every single negative and reversing it in his favor. The media is at a loss on how to squash him.
6. How much attention should business owners and individuals focus on their online footprint?
It really depends on the person and the business. If you're an entrepreneur and the Founder/CEO of your current company, you need to be spending a few hours a month making sure nothing nasty is out there about you. As entrepreneurship has taken off and founders are now being considered "celebrities", it's never been more important to make sure your online image in check. There are cyber bullies everywhere and it's almost impossible to avoid them if you are successful. Success breeds hate and with the internet being the "Wild Wild West" it's hard if not impossible to avoid attackers. That is why it's so important to be proactive.
And as a business, it's even more essential. With new social networks popping up, and more bloggers online, protecting your online reputation will only become more and more important as time goes on.
Essential Tips for Proactive Reputation Management
Here are tips to being proactive in protecting your reputation and branding yourself online:
Learning how to protect your business now and investing time and resources to get your online brand right from the start will save you major headaches down the road but in case you forget to do that profile defenders will be there to give you that second chance.