Before the Internet age, it took a big crisis to damage a personal or company brand. Today, thanks to the advent of social media, even minor slip-ups can spin out of control. An off-the-cuff comment can be rebranded as “offensive” and, in a matter of hours, overshadow the reputation that you’ve worked for years to build.
The best way to protect your individual or company brand is to create a reputation management strategy before something happens. When the Web contains enough good information about you, you’ll recover more quickly from any social media snafu. Don’t leave your fate to a marketing department scrambling under an unexpected PR microscope. Instead, disaster-proof your reputation before anything comes along to derail it.
1. Develop Your Profile.
Start by taking a look at your resume or CV and your LinkedIn profile. Ask whether these tools tell your story effectively. If they don’t, take some time to refurbish them until you’ve developed a solid narrative about yourself, your skills, your strengths and your accomplishments. This exercise should make you more conscious of how you want to brand yourself. Next, compile a list of where you’ve worked, what organizations you’ve belonged to and who your associates have been. All of these entities have their own public narratives, and those stories could reflect on how the public perceives you. Take note of anything that you want to bring to the forefront, and anything that you want to de-emphasize when presenting yourself online.
2. Know What You Own.
The next step in building your strategy is to take an inventory of your current Web properties. List any items that you’ve published online or items published about you, including:
- Social media profiles. Make a list of any Facebook, Google+, Twitter and all other social media accounts opened in your name.
- Your publications. If you maintain a blog or have published guest posts on other blogs, make a list of the URLs. Also, list any articles, editorials or reviews that you’ve published both online and in print.
- Domains. If you’ve purchased any domains, especially if you’ve built websites under those domains, list them.
- Company websites that mention you. Note whether you’re mentioned on an “About” page or as part of a company press release.
- Publications that mention you. Try to find out whether you’ve been mentioned in business or industry publications. Also, look for postings about you in others’ social media feeds or any articles or blogs written by others about you.
3. Gauge Online Sentiment.
Avoid making assumptions about the current state of your online reputation. Instead, research what others are saying, make notes of specific examples, and then draw conclusions about how you’re being judged by others online. Most importantly, gauge whether any negative perceptions have produced measurable reputation or business problems for you. Augie Ray, Prudential Financial’s director of social media, has coined a term he calls “slacktivism.” According to Ray, people may take to social media to complain about you or your company, but they may not actually follow up by switching to other products or services.
4. Develop a Content Plan.
In this step, think less about the kind of material you want to see about yourself or your areas of expertise and more about what your audience wants to see from you. Ask yourself how the content that you currently have online compares to the content that you need to produce. Also, ask yourself the best way to place your content where your audience will find it. If you need to leverage social media networks or use guest posting, then create content that would be easy to share through those venues.
5. Deploy Your New Web Properties.
If you need a new website, a blog, a social network presence or just a strong content push, it’s time to deploy your new Web properties. Decide whether you want to do the work yourself or outsource it to someone else. When reputation management is done well, it can help you to rebuild after a crisis and to dampen the effects of any future problems. If the work is too much for you to handle on your own, enlist a good reputation management firm to develop a strategy for you.