Professional Reputation Management Services: Stress or Necessity?

While reading Phil Baumann’s blog, I came across a suggestion for readers to get a professional reputation management service.

I have heard of large companies using these kinds of services, but am less familiar with the idea of small companies using them. Small Business Search Marketing has a killer post on why small businesses should use reputation management services.

I’m not entirely convinced. I see the merit of these services for businesses in certain niches, but have two counterpoints that I can’t reconcile with the benefits of constantly monitoring your own reputation:

1) Reputations are cyclical. Google and Britney Spears come to mind as famous names that have cycled in and out of the wringer a couple of times.

I recognize that cycles don’t have to be quite as bipolar as Britney’s. Companies and individuals can make efforts to ensure that their reputation cycle errs on the positive side.

But digital monitoring is a mixed blessing. It can lead to obsession. In fact, I think that in some scenarios, it is obsessive (like using it to monitor your popularity among friends). Why add another technology with potential for obsession to your army of toys, when simply adhering to good principles will probably ensure your reputation anyway?

2) Reputation comes from the heart. This is where the good principles come in. If, on principle, I am consistent, honest, and interested in providing a good experience to my clients, why would I need a reputation monitoring tool?

If the tool caught a bad remark, I would become concerned with upholding my reputation as a separate entity. I’d be chasing an elusive concept rather than providing good service as a matter of principle.

There’s no such thing as a perfect reputation if you’re in the game long enough. Reputation technology encourages people to chase perfection as a standard. I would rather spare myself the stress of chasing an externality by acknowledging that mixed feedback is inevitable–and even instructive.

For those reasons, reputation monitoring technology–as with any technology with obsessive potential–needs to be used with discernment. There is a trade-off, and it has a lot to do with an increasingly scarce concept: Peace of mind.

  • What I hear in your response to reputation management is someone who is comfortable with their persona. I would suggest that his comfort is not that wide spread. In those cases where is some question or uncertainty keep those situation in mind is important. The accompanying point is with that uncertainty would also could benefit from planning a strategic plan in place to set in motion the kind of reputation that suits the leader’s need.

  • There are multiple reasons for monitoring and managing your company’s reputation online, regardless of size. Let me offer a perfect example:

    One of my clients was a small oil and natural gas drilling and investment company (approximately 12 employees). Early on, this company made money by buying into larger drilling projects and reselling percentages of their share to investors.

    Due to SEC regulations, a qualified investor must own so much in liquid assets and meet the minimum income requirements. This type of person does not invest without research, and they always Google the name of the company and the CEO to learn more about their reputation, integrity, and history of success.

    Someone went to a public forum for oil and gas investors and began submitting falsified information about my client. This information was the first impression many investors had when seeking to learn more, and we still don’t know how many potential investors were lost during that time period because no one was monitoring the company’s and CEO’s reputation beyond simple vanity searches. We’re talking potential millions of dollars lost due to a bad impression. There are too many oil and gas companies out there. Investors will find someone who doesn’t have a major black mark on their record to trust their money with.

    This small company benefited from online reputation management, but would have saved money had they been monitoring and managing BEFORE a crisis occurred. Now they know better. Sadly, this is the most likely scenario for most business owners. With tight budgets and a struggling economy, CEOs and CFOs gamble on their future reputations and profits by waiting to spend on online reputation management until disaster strikes (and they’re just hoping it never will). The buried ostrich head in the sand approach is a gamble most companies might not take if properly educated about the risk versus reward of proactive management.