Can reputation management services do more harm than good?by
Reputation management services come in all shapes and sizes. But sometimes reputation management needs to be approached with caution.
Today, information moves at warp speed. We now live in a cloak and dagger, dog-eat-dog digital universe, replacing the good old days when filing it away, meant filing it away.
Therefore, if any business, business executive or employee makes one misstep it can go viral in no time.
When this occurs, reputation management services may be the best choice in getting back on track in the eyes of customers and competitors alike.
Yet, there are times that using such a service could raise more red flags and end up imploding an otherwise valiant attempt at cleaning the slate. Taking a look at the full spectrum of reputation management services may be a good idea before diving into its behind the scenes world.
Different kinds of reputation fixes
Reputation management services come in all shapes and sizes. Most offer online reputation management (ORM). There are also other applications such as print and television, however it is the digital world that can be manipulated to one’s advantage and offer the most beneficial results in rapid time.
From the housewife with a mugshot taken when she received a DWI in her bathrobe to the CEO who overdrew on his credit cards and sunk himself and his business into debt, a reputation overhaul could be appealing. But for business-related issues, when billions of dollars are at stake, it can be even more attractive.
Some of the platforms where reputation management might be used include:
- Social media - Regrettable rants; political diatribes you may no longer believe in; old photos or comments from inebriated college days; these may all still be linked, to the user, circulating the web on any social media platform. Some social media sites can be asked to remove them and others can be flooded with supportive, encouraging content that may push aside the unwanted postings.
- Print and television - There are many sensitive subjects that can turn a reputation on its head. These include disclosure of medical info, personal relationships, sexual preference, legal challenges and addictions, to name a few. Positive photos, articles and an on-camera presence diverting people away from these exposures are often the path taken by a reputation repair service.
So how does it work? Whatever the situation, making sure unwanted content is either turned around, buried, diverted or removed is what clients essentially want. To achieve this, a reputation management company may offer different tiers regarding how much leeway you agree to give them.
Bury it, turn it around
For starters, burying negative content that has made it to a first page Google search is one of the standard actions taken. This entails flooding the internet with positive content that eventually push the negative content deep into a multiple page search.
When this is done successfully, not only is the unwanted content buried it is turned around at the same time with continued positive postings. To remove content from a public search engine such as Google is near impossible.
Another tactic to repair a negative standing is by diverting the content. This means adding things like hyperlinks, SEO keywords and content tagging.
- Hyperlinks aka anchor text - 'Blue' words or phrases within online content that when clicked on can take the user to 'friendly' content regarding the reputation management customer.
- SEO keywords - Search engine optimisation keywords are specific words within content that adhere to SEO algorithms causing the page to move into the aforementioned, coveted, Google first page.
- Tagging - This is the practice of adding words or phrases as predictions of what may be entered into a search engine bringing friendly content to the searcher.
- Press releases - These can be applied online or in print.
- Testimonials - Positive testimonials, including customer endorsements, incorporated into any of the above may work well.
A reputation management service could handle the problem head on. Social media expert and CEO of Trackur Andy Beal has suggested that if negative content arises, you should contact its creator.
Adopting a professional approach, offer an explanation in the form of a rebuttal or displaying alternative evidence. Not only might this result in the content being removed but it could very well be replaced with more optimal info.
If the creator refuses to take down the negative content, a comment (or more) could instead be posted on their site telling the more favourable side of the story.
Some possible downsides of reputation management
However, sometimes reputation management services can do more damage than good.
- Negative momentum - Posting a positive response on a creator’s site is one thing but continuing a negative thread is another. If a reputation management service does this, it can create a bigger problem.
- Cost - Depending on how deep a reputation management service needs to go depends on the cost which could become exorbitant.
- Kickback - Hyperlinks must be used sparingly. If there are too many it can potentially keep the negative content within a high SEO ranking.
- Scams - Negative content shows up on a site. An email is received for a fee-based removal from this site. The customers pays and the content is removed. The content shows up on another, similar site. Another email is received for a fee-based removal. The cycle continues.
- No need - You may not have enough of a presence to need a reputation management service. One bad review can easily be deciphered by a reader seeing a sea of good reviews.
- Fanning the flames - A reputation service that overdoes positive reinforcement may send a red flag to savvy observers who quickly interpret the attempt as a cover up.
Watching your back
If employing a reputation management service, do not treat it as a magical fix. Stay connected and engaged with the contact 'counsellor', getting daily or weekly updates on the status of the order. This can help avoid some of the downsides mentioned above.
In addition to staying in contact with your provider, keep on top of your reputation yourself:
- Monitor your search results (including your Wikipedia page if you have one) several times per month.
- Notate any positive or negative info. Report back to your reputation manager to make sure your are both on the same page.
- If you are on top of it more than your service, think about finding a new provider.
- Treat your offline reputation just as importantly as your online persona.
Andy Beal comments:“Your reputation in the offline world will translate to the online world. Treat your customers and clients well, and encourage those who are happy with you to leave reviews on Yelp [consumer review board]. Focus on your reputation in the offline world, and your online reputation will fix itself."
Reputation management services can be worth it for the right fit. Always check with prior customers and the Better Business Bureau to make sure the chosen reputation company you choose has a good track record.
Dave Landry is a freelance contributor. He can be reached on Twitter: @davelandryjr