Reputation Management Should Be Proactive, Not Reactive

Avoid the Legal "Black Hole"

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Fionn Downhill, CEO of reputation management firm Elixer Interactive and Attorney Geoffrey Wozman spoke in a session at SES Chicago called "Brand, Trademark & Reputation Management." Downhill says online reputation management combines marketing and public relations. 

The web can be great place for a brand to thrive and pick up steam, but it can also go the opposite way. A single blogger can take down a brand. "That’s the reality of the web," says Downhill. It can go the way of Dell or it can go the way of Tiger Woods (or somewhere in between). 

Downhill’s advice is to be proactive, rather than reactive, when it comes to brand reputation. I take this to mean that you should be putting yourself out there with as much positivity as possible to begin with, as opposed to waiting for someone to trash your brand, then defending yourself. Even if such trashing is unjustified, like Downhill says, it only takes one blogger to hurt your brand, and there’s a chance some potential customers will only see that side of the story. The more positivity you put out, the more likely they are to find something good to latch onto. If someone sees a lot of good things, then one bad blog post won’t carry as much weight. 

Downhill Talks Reputation ManagementIn fact, Downhill suggests never engaging brand attackers at all. If they’re attacking you on blogs, forums, and social media, you might be better off simply addressing such complaints on your own blog and defending yourself from there, than using SEO to work on the visibility of your side of the story. Taking legal action, can be an expensive "black hole", she says. As far as as responding to attackers on blogs, social networks, etc. I would say it’s a judgment call. If I’m getting trashed on a well-trafficked forum that attracts a lot of interest within my niche, for example, I’m probably going to want to respond accordingly. 

Wozman adds that free speech is protected online by the Constitution (at least in the U.S.) and that only false accusations are considered defamatory – not opinions. You can call someone a jerk, but not a criminal. Commenters cannot be held liable because of the Communications Decency Act, and ISP providers cannot be held liable for commenters. 

Downhill recommends buying domains like "yourbrand sucks.com" and any other version of your brand’s domain that is defamatory, that you can think of. Not a bad idea, but it could get expensive depending on how creatively your mind works. Either way, those out to ruin you can probably get pretty creative in that department. 

At BlogWorld last week, I attended a session about brand monitoring. This was not so much about reputation management only, but simply being able to spot the conversations that are happening in relation to your brand, and getting involved in conversations (including positive ones regarding your brand). Ann Peavey, Becky McCray, and Sheila Scarborough gave some good tips. More on that here.

WPN’s Mike Sachoff contributed to this piece. 

Reputation Management Should Be Proactive, Not Reactive
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  • http://www.q3tech.com shawnfrankk

    This is interesting information. Reputation management is widely used now-a-days with the advent of widespread computing. We can track an entity’s actions as well as its opinions related to the actions. Check out Q3 technologies for more details.

  • http://freshseo2010.blogspot.com Atul Vhale

    Exactly happened with one client I don’t like to name here, but a single forum user brought down the reputation one of website. He created a thread about complain of services. And this is great pain in but to beat them. Anyway I always wonder, are branding and online reputation management same part? I would like give kudos for whole article.

  • http://ReputationAccelerator.com Jeff Carrier

    Bottom line is that people need one type of online reputation management and companies need another. Companies need sites like http://ReputationAccelerator.com in order to provide proper distribution of content while stand alond individuals can probably get by with products such as Reputation Defender.

  • http://www.jhowardco.com Jim

    Who wants to do business with a bad company? It is worth it to consider the facts behind the claims made on both sides of the Internet postings and advertisements.

    When a deadbeat customer has not paid for services, The Internet is an easy and effective tool to promote the situation with facts and dates to expose the deadbeats for what they are, for example.

    Usually Internet leverage can be used to persuade the deadbeat to pay their invoices by alerting them to the idea (and even showing the prepared document) that will be released on the Internet if they do not pay their bill. Once the deadbeats grasp what the Internet can do to damage their credibility and their name, they usually see that it is in their best interest to do the proper thing and pay their invoices.

    But once that information is released, the cat is out of the bag and there is no economical recourse. So be careful, be factual, and be honest in what is posted to avoid court costs and inconveniences.

  • http://aWiserStart.com Rey Tamayo

    Man I am soooooh sorry for pointing the obvious, I would never hire a reputation management firm if the CEO is named Downhill. Talk about predicting your future, just puns with her name representing you is enough…Xyz’s Downhill slides in by stating…. and you have a downhill slide of your reputation.

    I get last names are yours for life but managing that one is the first step I think.

  • http://www.WeFixReputation.com Andy (WeFixReputation.com)

    I am not sure I get what Downhill means. If you notice an online reputation management issue and see a blogger or some community talking trash – recommendation is do nothing?

    I can understand that in certain cases that may be the best, but definitely don’t think that should become a policy.

    In terms of attorneys and reputation issues online – unfortunately, it seems that involving legal help pretty quick can create Streisand effect. I have yet to see (and don’t get me wrong, I would love to!) where legal could be involved to help with reputation and removing your name from google issues. We actually advise clients not to involve legal help unless every other resource has been exhausted.

    Good tip Wozman about what can and can’t be said online. I wish there was more info on that!!


  • http://www.cogzidel.com RajanRufus

    The above given information is very useful. Reputation management should be proactive because trashing a high traffic forum, blog or etc. will surely affect the hit rate. You can do it for your own sites but it should not be in the others

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