How to Manage Online Reputation Remediation
It’s office holiday party time again, and amid all the festivities, a number of participants might have a few too many drinks. One toast leads to another and soon someone at the gala is poised to do irreparable harm. No, this article isn’t about the potentially deadly effects of drunk driving. This article is about what happens when you stop thinking with the rational part of your brain — and do irreparable damage to your reputation.
It’s not as unlikely as you might think. Mobile phones equipped with cameras are everywhere. Photos or videos of indiscretions posted on Facebook by a friend or colleague to elicit chuckles might be dragged into the broader Internet arena — gaining you notoriety and, perhaps, an employment termination notice. This article is about how use online reputation remediation in this all-too-common scenario.
Tragedy and redemption: cleansing an online reputation stain with online reputation remediation
Having taken this unfortunate fable to its sad conclusion, there is some hope of redemption. Assume you were the employee at the party who said or did something highly out of character, and those embarrassing photos or comments didn’t go away. If you don't have much of an online presence, an example would be a young company like Property Force in San Francisco, then any comments you made about your employer’s corporate structure surface quickly on the Internet rumor mill, presenting your company in a less-than-flattering light.
Now you are unemployed, with a stain on your online reputation. Worse yet, this negative information invariably pops up in the Internet search that any prospective employer will perform when prescreening job candidates.
There are several things not to do when faced with such a difficult online reputation situation. The question then remains: How do you repair the damage done to your reputation? The good news is that the damage in this case was confined to a single incident, one whose source you might be able to pinpoint and control.
Online reputation remediation begins with a thorough assessment of the source and extent of the damage. You’re probably well past the stage where you can simply disassociate your name from a photo or comment posted on Facebook, but it’s still important to contact the website sources that bring up the damaging information. Some websites might be willing to take down offending material based on a simple request, while others won’t. If the incident is widely enough reported, however, a link removed from one website might have popped up on another.
Create a new identity and restore your online repuation.
The next step is crafting finely tuned biographical materials on websites like Facebook, LinkedIn, Google Profiles and Twitter. Blog and post proactively on forums related to your interests and profession in an intelligent way, indicating knowledge and experience to prospective employers. Continue this regularly for months, even years. Eventually, references to an isolated incident should be nudged down from the top of Google’s search results. Eventually, you might be able to rinse the stain from your online reputation. This is online reputation remediation in action.
The problem with this approach is that it might not produce positive results quickly if the story is deeply embedded on websites that Google trusts. It could be that your name was mentioned in connection with the incident in a major newspaper’s industry-watch blog. You can take proactive reputation-enhancing steps for years and still fail to bury this kind of material.
Fortunately, there are ways of fighting fire with fire. Professional online reputation management companies offer all levels of strategic reputation enhancement and remediation. If you’ve done everything you can do on your own, consider allowing one to help you strategically take back your online reputation.
Damon Shulenberger is a San Francisco Bay–area freelance writer with experience in Internet privacy and reputation management.