Personal online reputation management is becoming vitally important for individuals whose business or careers rely on their own professionalism. Increasingly when searching online for a doctor, dentist, lawyer, accountant or consultant, to name but a few, we tend to check their online reviews on specialist websites. However, we also know that when searching further about an expert individual in whom we are intending to place our trust, it can be very disconcerting and off-putting to read negative news stories and social media posts relating to that person.
Media stories about professional negligence or inappropriate behaviour can be very valuable for prospective clients, IF they are true. Such media coverage of proven facts can inform everyone about the professional standing of an expert. Still, it seems that the more salacious the story the more media outlets appear keen to report it. This can result in the type of press coverage resulting in multiple outlets reporting allegations and claims which then tend to be further amplified on social media.
At Balanced Media we receive inquiries from professionals who have been reported in the news press, were then formally investigated and the claims found to be unproven – whether in court or at hearings at professional bodies. However, the press appears to be less interested when an individual is cleared of charges, perhaps running a cursory story by way of an update; to the extent that the original damaging allegations remain highly visible and the fact that the person has since been cleared of charges appears lower down in the online search results. Thus skewing perceptions.
For an individual, whose business and career practice depends on their personal online reputation, the continued visibility of disproven allegations by the press can be very damaging and in some cases ruinous to that person. When a larger business is experiencing a media crisis, small or large, there is a certain anonymity, however for a sole practitioner there is no hiding place.
As a professional, maintaining your personal online reputation requires commitment. If your reputation needs to be improved then you should follow these steps:
The first step in cleaning up your online reputation is to make sure that you understand what you are dealing with. To do so, you need to ‘Google yourself’. Google is a very powerful tool for getting to grips with your online presence.
When you use Google to search for yourself, everything connected to your name or brand will show up. You must ensure that you have visibility of all posts – including news articles, social media mentions and blog posts. Often overlooked is Google Images which can also sometimes show some unhelpful images, for example of you standing outside of court.
Remove, Take Down and Make Private
One approach to this is to see if a Google ‘Right to be Forgotten’ request can be made to have irrelevant news links and images removed from the Google search results. Although this route can be very effective when a request is accepted, there are a number of reasons why 57% of requests are refused.
The next step to securing a clean online reputation is to take down, remove, or make private any of your own social media posts or information that you don’t want people seeing. Ultimately, if you leave posts to be just taken down, this does tend to leave you with gaping holes in your profiles and presence. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it does not. Taking things private is often a better way to deal with it.
But, regardless of whether it is a comment that you do not want others to see, an image that you are not proud of, or any other post that you feel does not reflect the kind of personal brand you want to project, it needs to be removed from the internet as much as possible. This may involve checking all over the Internet to see if there have been any screenshots taken and reposted that you can have taken down, or making sure you’ve taken down the photo in multiple social media platforms.
Occasionally, you will come across damning third-party content that you cannot deal with. Maybe the owner refuses to take it down, or you cannot make the system do it. Your goal should then be one of implementing something called content suppression. This helps you manage your online reputation through the process of generating and strategically publishing content that more reflects the image you wish to project so that negative links are moved down the search results and so become less visible.
Ultimately, online reputation management is tricky. These are general tips, but the truth is that it can take you a long time to properly manage and deal with any issues that crop up along the way. This is where working with a specialist firm like Balanced Media can help. Just a final thought: You are your brand.