What’s Your Online Reputation?

How often do you Google yourself? How about your company, or even the leaders of your business? Are you receiving daily updates about what’s being posted about you online?

It isn’t vain to want to know what’s posted about you online. In fact, it’s imperative to know what people see when they type your name or your company’s name into a search engine. The next time you solicit new business, apply for a job, or even meet someone at a party, count on your name appearing in Google’s search box in the near future.

To ensure that you are happy with what the results show, take an active role in building your online reputation. Companies focusing solely on reputation management are popular these days and many of them use both reputable and not-so-reputable means to manage reputations, according to CNET. Reputation management should be part of any organization’s communications plan, and there are many simple ways to manage your online persona yourself.

While most people still fear an exposé on 60 Minutes more than a handful of disgruntled posts on Twitter, it’s no longer safe to assume that your organization’s reputation remains untarnished just because Mike Wallace isn’t knocking on your door. Anyone with a mobile phone has the ability to post online and take a sledgehammer to your reputation – even unintentionally – but it’s possible for you to fight back.

For a corporation or other organization, building a positive online reputation is the best defense against attacks. Start by developing a comprehensive Web site that reflects your brand and your intended messages and keywords (for SEO), then go beyond your own domain name. Promote your brand on third-party sites, such Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and anything else appropriate for your needs. Having these channels in place will benefit you when a crisis hits, as demonstrated by Pepco’s social media success after summer storms in 2010. Develop partnerships with other organizations, sponsor events and initiatives, and showcase yourself as an expert in your field.

For individuals, the strategy is essentially the same, minus a personal Web site for most people. Create an online presence for yourself using professional sites such as LinkedIn, and build personal profiles on social media sites using only information that you’re comfortable sharing with the world for all eternity. Be prepared to vigorously defend any personal attacks.

It’s important to constantly monitor what’s being posted about you or your organization in cyberspace and respond accordingly. Setting up keyword alerts and following news feeds can help you monitor online chatter. It’s also a good idea to search for information about key employees or others with relationships to you or your organization. Make sure everyone in your organization is aware that their professional and personal actions online could potentially reflect on your entire organization.

Reputation management has been a central component of public relations since the beginning of the trade, but it’s more important than ever for organizations and individuals to be vigilant about building, monitoring and maintaining reputations online.

A few tips:

  1. Google yourself, your organization and your employees: What’s being said about you online?
  2. Set up alerts: Create Google Alerts for your name, organization name and keywords, and set up RSS feeds for news sources and blogs that relate to your industry. Both are free.
  3. Establish yourself: Secure your name on social media sites and other online destinations, even if you don’t use the accounts. That way you at least own your name if someday you want to use the platform.
  4. Flood the Internet with your messages: If you saturate the Internet with your messages, it is more likely that people will find your content instead of information from third parties that could be critical of your organization.
  5. Respond to negative posts online: Don’t ignore negative blog posts or tweets; you often have the ability to respond and should correct any mistakes and provide your point of view.
  6. Remember that the Internet is permanent: You may be able to delete a post or photo from a Web site, but in reality, that information may have already been archived somewhere and could resurface in the future.

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