Why You Can’t Just “Destroy” Your Online Past

    April 9, 2007

The latest Business Week article, “Web Attack“, looks at how you should monitor your web reputation and steps you can take to try and respond to negative reviews, blogs and forums, etc.

Reputation monitoring and management is a vital tactic for any company (or individual) interested in what the web has to say about them, but it’s important to know that “engaging” your critics does not mean using an automated process to squash them. You can’t hope to hire a firm to wipe out your past transgressions, if you’re not changing your habits and reaching out to those who challenge you.

That’s why it’s important to highlight this bold claim by ReputationDefender…

For executives there’s a new, $10,000 premium service from ReputationDefender.com that can promote the info you want and suppress the news you don’t. The company also claims it can make information disappear altogether. One CEO, it says, watched a negative story about wrongdoing at his company drop from the first page of his Google hits to the third.

We already know from past reports that ReputationDefender claims to “destroy” any negative information online that is associated with your brand. While the company may well have success with their clients, it’s impossible to “destroy” any negative content, if there’s not a sincere motive behind the initiative. Simply trying to bury a negative web site or blog post, will be futile – someone else will take its place – if the behavior by the company has not changed too.

So, if you’re looking to clean-up your online brand, you need to do more than simply create new content or try and “suppress” the negative stuff. In order to succeed, you need:

  • Sincerity. If you’re called out for your past practices, simply saying “sorry” is not enough, if you’ve not changed the associated behavior. While you may appease one critic, many others will be standing by. And, should you continue to make the same mistakes, your critics will feel duped by your false apology and likely attack with greater fervor.
  • Transparency. Once you’ve realized the error of your ways and decided to make a change for the better, you’ll need to admit your mistakes and demonstrate why your critics should believe you have changed. Whether it’s an open letter to your customers, an interview with your critics, or your own company blog post, it’s important to be open and honest about your mistakes and future plans.
  • Consistency. If you’ve made just one screw-up, chances are you’ll be able to make amends with just one single action. However, if your company has built a reputation for one mistake after another, it will take a lot more to convince your detractors that you have changed your spots. Your sincerity and transparency will buy you a reprieve and some breathing-room, but it’s your consistency in your future actions that will change the ongoing perception of your critics.

Sincerity, Transparency, Consistency. Reputation management is a complex task, akin to crisis communications and as involved as any marketing campaign, but if you keep these three points in mind, you’ll be on your way to better changing the opinions of others.

For more free advice, check out our free online reputation management guide. Alternatively, drop me a line.