Congratulations! You have a global audience. Over 3 billion people worldwide now use the Internet. The world is truly a stage and you’re on it. How big or small is your role online? And what information can the world find out about you?
Welcome to the digital age, where search engines ensure that each of us have an online reputation whether we want one or not. And too often, that reputation is misleading or a scattered list of information, adding up to a less than satisfying projection of our real selves.
Reputation management is centuries old
From ancient times right up until a few decades ago, your reputation preceded you in business, trade and society. The more prominent your family, the safer and more valuable your reputation. You benefited from more opportunities economically, politically and socially. When you traveled abroad, your letters of introduction from trusted sources ensured your business and personal success. You developed relationships that would advance your reputation. Social structures segregated those born into poor and less prominent families. Education and opportunity eluded them; their opportunities to rise were minimal.
When they did succeed, it was often by performing a skill or trade so well that word-of-mouth referrals enabled them to move up in the world. Thus, reputation has always been powerfully driven by what people say about you to one another.
Reputations could be carefully constructed over years and decades—but they could be destroyed as well. Before the advent of mass media, gossip was a powerful medium for building and destroying reputations. (Among other things, it ensured communities that con artists, criminals and other dangerous individuals would be exposed.) Reputations were also destroyed by unfounded innuendo and gossip designed to keep certain individuals out of exclusive communities. Classic books, films and poetry abound with tragic endings for people whose failed reputations made them outcasts of society.
What hasn’t changed?
- The importance of personal relationships and connections.
- The social capital that being respected as a doer or thinker confers.
- The impact of damaging factual information on a reputation — as well as unfounded accusations, false innuendo and rumors.
What has changed?
Almost everything. The Internet enables us to build our reputations without a middleman. That is nearly unprecedented in world history. It doesn’t matter who you are or where you live. Simply by going online, you can introduce yourself to the world. By communicating your abilities, world view, skills and talent online, you can attract unlimited connections and opportunities. Fail to establish yourself on the Internet in a way that is appropriate for you, and the world may do it for you. Or it may overlook you.
A powerful transformation and success growth tool:
- The Internet levels the playing fields in much of business and society.
- The Internet enables people in many cultures to establish their own credible image… and to attract, develop and profit from relationships that once required an introduction or facilitator.
- The Internet provides you with the opportunity to rebuild your reputation if necessary. If you can’t change the facts, you can proactively present a well-balanced image that effectively counteracts damaging content about you.
Yes, the Internet floods us with daily headlines about the newest celebrity, corporate and every-person’s reputation crisis. And according to many online reputation management firms, we are all one click away from reputational disaster that we may never recover from. (We aren’t…and we can.)
One thing is true: once you have a presence on the Internet, you lose control over how you are perceived.
Unless you have an online reputation management (ORM) strategy.
As a nationally recognized expert in online reputation management, I blog about reputation management to help executives and professionals take a proactive approach to building, managing, amplifying and repairing their digital reputations. My mission is to show you how to make the Internet a valuable ally for achieving your goals. I also want to help you prevent reputational risks before they become problems.
If you are a CEO, executive or professional and would like insight and guidance into how to plan the most effective reputation management program to reach your goals, our consultation can help you create a focused strategic plan that you can implement using your own resources, or with our help. Contact us today to learn more.