Reputation, reputation, reputation! Oh, I have lost my reputation! I have lost the immortal part of myself, and what remains is bestial. (Cassio in Shakespeare’s Othello)
For many years I have been passionate about promoting high standards of ethics, transparency, community and accountability both for individuals and across all areas of business. This passion, combined with my work in the field of education and social media, led me to become an online reputation educator.
Reputation matters, whether you are a teen at high school, a ‘work from home’ mum, small business owner or a CEO. It is just as important for brands to monitor and cultivate a good reputation.
In a world where much of our lives can be discovered with just a few key strokes, reputation matters.
It can take years to build a good reputation, and just a matter of seconds to destroy it, so it is vital that we do protect it, particularly in the online world.
What has concerned me of late, is that “online reputation” has become the catch cry of many, and there have been many “online reputation management “ companies springing up. Many of these use what I would consider risky and often quite unethical means to “repair” reputations. Is this reputation by deception? These methods appear an oxymoron to me.
Often these companies create “mini” websites to push out “positive” content on their clients behalf, they set up backlinks and other affiliated sites to crowd the search engines with positive reviews, use teams of writers to produce content with no alignment to the companies philosophy and “suppress negative court findings”, “create a new positive image”, “obscure negative search results” – but what of authenticity and transparency? How is creating false blogs and reports, written by a totally removed business good for corporate governance? It is prudent to do your homework and make sure you have an agreed strategy before engaging such services.
Certainly pushing negative content further away from searches is important in repairing damage, but we have to look at what is being hidden and why. What if by removing all negative comments we then leave others open to be scammed by an unscrupulous business? Negative content should be repaired via genuine efforts by a business to demonstrate that they adhere to fairness, transparency and accountability. Employing a company to write bogus reviews and posts surely does not reflect such values? It is much better to have real testimonials from colleagues and clients. This is an area which has been concerning me in regards to Linkedin and its “recommendations” but I talk about that in another blog.
There are of course, always exceptions to the rule. A company who has been the victim of a smear campaign by competitors will require a different approach. Often the simplest way is to highlight the poor business practices of the competitor – Karma in the business world! Other exceptions are in the cases of individuals who may have been falsely targeted or have indiscretions from their youth which now affect their adult lives. Although each case is different, there are similarities in the solutions.
Apologising for poor behaviour publically is number one. If someone can find a negative report, it makes a big difference if an apology and honest admission can also be found. Being quoted as saying ‘no comment’ might seem like the most common thing to do, but in the eyes of the public these can appear evasive and raise suspicion. Likewise defensive comments don’t pay. The best strategy is to stay calm, don’t over-react. Take a step back and put yourself in the other person’s shoes. Try and understand what has generated their negativity.
We constantly talk in social media about the need for good ‘engagement’ when dealing with clients, followers or customers in the online environment and this is for good reason.
Authentic engagement builds trust. It demonstrates good intentions and shows that you actually care. Ensuring that your business reflects values which are ethical, and engages in business in a transparent manner are huge benefits in building trust. When you have built up a trusting loyal community, then that relationship will put you in a much better place should you have to deliver bad news, or negative reports appear. When people can see that your intentions were good, or something was beyond your control, they respond in a much more positive way.
Develop a social media policy which outlines how to engage and how to deal with complaints or problems on line and ensure that everyone in your business understands and agrees. A consistent approach is really important.
It is vital to monitor your reputation. Make sure your website and social media pages are regularly checked and comments responded to. Should you discover complaints, make sure you address them, using the strategies I have pointed out earlier.
In closing I would just like to emphasise that the absolute best way to build and manage a good reputation is to be transparent and honest in your business dealings. It’s a simple strategy, but it works!
our latest infograph for business is here
February 5th is Safer Internet Day – 2013 theme is “connect with respect” – we encourage that you do!