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Reputation management is the practice of understanding or influencing an individual or business' reputation. It was originally coined as a public relations term, but advancement in computing, the internet and social media made it primarily an issue of search engine results. Although it is often associated with ethical grey areas such as astroturfing review sites, trying to censor negative complaints or using gamey Search engine optimization tactics to influence results, there are also ethical forms of reputation management, such as responding to customer complaints, asking sites to take down incorrect information and using online feedback to influence product development.
Public relations firm Weber Shandwick claims to have coined the term reputation management in 1997. The concept was initially intended to broaden public relations outside of media relations. Today the rise of the internet and social media has shifted most reputation management to review sites, social media and—most prominently—the top search results on a brand or individual.
In 2007 a study by the University of California Berkeley found that some sellers were doing reputation management on eBay by selling products at a discount in exchange for positive feedback to game the system.
Reputation management was first widely engaged by companies in developed countries. However, as the field grows, it is finding its way into developing nations as well. The Philippines saw its first local online reputation management firm opened last year, specifically serving local celebrities.
Definition and objectivesEdit
Reputation management is the practice of monitoring the reputation of an individual or brand, addressing contents which are damaging to it, and using customer feedback to gain insight or get early warning signals to reputation problems. Most of reputation management is focused on pushing down negative search results. Reputation management may attempt to bridge the gap between how a company perceives itself and how others view it.
Online reputation management is the practice of monitoring the Internet reputation of a person, brand or business, with the goal of emphasising positive coverage rather than negative reviews or feedback. Doing reputation management for individuals is often referred to as online identity management (OIM), online image management, online personal branding or personal reputation management (PRM).
Cyber bullying removal is the practice of removing grossly offensive and potentially illegal comments, often found on social networking sites. Anti-cyber bullying and anti-stalking sites feature a DIY approach aimed at empowering the victim.
The practice of reputation management raises many ethical considerations. There is no agreement within the industry on where to draw the line on issues like disclosure, astroturfing and censorship. One firm, Internet Reputation Management, hires staff to pose as a blogger on third party sites without disclosing they were paid. Another online service is criticized for asking websites to remove negative posts. In some instances the act of unethical reputation management can itself be risky to the reputation of the firm, if their tactics to hide negative information are exposed.
Some firms refuse to lie and practice ethical forms of reputation management. The Online Reputation Management Association tries to promote ethical best practices through a certification program. According to Google, there is nothing inherently wrong with reputation management, but they may take action on companies using spammy or manipulative techniques to alter search results. Google even introduced a toolset in 2011 for users to monitor their online identity and request removal of unwanted content. Many firms are selective about clients they accept. For example, they may avoid individuals that committed violent crimes that are looking to push information about their crimes lower on search results.
According to a 2010 study by Microsoft and Cross-Tab Market Research, 70 percent of companies have rejected candidates based on their online reputation, but only 7 percet of Americans believe it affects their job search. A survey by CareerBuilder.com found that 1 in 4 hiring managers used search engines to screen candidates. One in 10 also checked candidates' profiles on social networking sites such as MySpace or Facebook. According to a December 2007 survey by the Ponemon Institute, a privacy research organization, roughly half of U.S. hiring officials use the Internet in vetting job applications.
There are cases of reputable organizations or individuals—even those with newly created websites—that may find their brand or name listed in search engine's suggestions as scam. Such negative suggestions which are harmful to the reputation of the organization or individual are often caused by negative contents on personal blogs, complaint sites, scraper sites, forums and comment sections. In such cases where it is not possible to ask for the negative contents to be taken down, experts agree that reputation management is justifiable in this regard, and some experts advise that the proper thing to do is to push down the visibility of such negative search engine results through proactively publishing useful, positive information about the organizations or individuals. Sharing his experience on SEOmoz.org's blog, Brian Patterson wrote that "the fastest way to take action would be to push the negative content out of the SERPs with positive content that the client had complete control over. This way, when someone searched the scam phrase, they'd have to dig deep into the SERPs to find anything negative about the brand."
Some examples of websites where a company may conduct reputation management is the feedback system on eBay, the user submitted writeups on Everything2, and Wikipedia. Google search results are the primary target of reputation management efforts. Some of the tactics used by reputation management firms include the following:
- Improving the tagging and search engine optimization of company-published materials, such as white papers and positive customer testimonials in order to push down negative content.
- Publishing new positive websites and social media profiles that outperform negative results in search.
- Submitting online press releases to authoritative websites in order to promote brand presence and suppress negative content. 
- Submitting legal take-down requests if someone believes they have been libeled.
- Getting mentions of the business or individual in third-party sites that rank highly in Google.
- Creating fake blogs pretending to be a different person that shares the same name in order to push down negative search results on the actual person or brand.
- Using spam bots and denial-of-service attacks to force sites with damaging content off the Web entirely.
- Astroturfing third-party websites by creating anonymous accounts that create positive reviews or lash out against negative ones.
- Proactively offering free products to prominent reviewers.
- Proactively responding to public criticism stemming from recent changes.
- Impression management
- Online Identity Management
- Search engine image protection
- Spin (public relations)
- ↑ includeonly>Paul Harris. "Mel Gibson, Lindsay Lohan... and you too. Why your reputation needs an online detox", Guardian Media Group, August 1, 2010. Retrieved on August 3, 2012.
- ↑ Bruce Sterling. Online "Reputation Management". Wired (magazine) Blog. Condé Nast Publications. URL accessed on August 3, 2012.
- ↑ includeonly>S. Jai, Shankar. "Reputation is everything", June 1, 1999. Retrieved on June 12, 2012.
- ↑ 4.0 4.1 4.2 includeonly>John Tozzi. "Do Reputation Management Services Work?", Bloomberg L.P., April 30, 2008. Retrieved on August 3, 2012.
- ↑ includeonly>Bilton, Nick. "The Growing Business of Online Reputation Management", April 4, 2011. Retrieved on June 12, 2012.
- ↑ includeonly>Mills, Elinor. "Study: eBay sellers gaming the reputation system?", CNET, January 11, 2007. Retrieved on July 14, 2012.
- ↑ Spot
- ↑ includeonly>Lieb, Rebecca. "How Your Content Strategy Is Critical For Reputation Management", July 10, 2012. Retrieved on June 12, 2012.
- ↑ includeonly>"MT Masterclass - Reputation management", May 1, 2007. Retrieved on June 12, 2012.
- ↑ New York Times
- ↑ Times of India
- ↑ includeonly>Clark, Dorie. "How to Repair a Damaged Online Reputation", The Huffington Post, January 19, 2011. Retrieved on July 13, 2012.
- ↑ Budd, Laura To Sext Or Not To Sext: Exploring The Consequences And Remedies Of Digital Flirting. The Legality. University of Oregon School of Law. URL accessed on 7 October 2012.
- ↑ 14.0 14.1 14.2 14.3 14.4 14.5 14.6 includeonly>Krazit, Tom. "A primer on online reputation management", CNET, January 11, 2001. Retrieved on July 13, 2012.
- ↑ 15.0 15.1 includeonly>Thomas Hoffman. "Online reputation management is hot -- but is it ethical?", John Amato, February 12, 2008. Retrieved on August 3, 2012.
- ↑ includeonly>"Reputation management: Glitzkrieg", Economist Group, March 10, 2011. Retrieved on August 3, 2012.
- ↑ 17.0 17.1 includeonly>Kinzie, Susan, Ellen Nakashima. "Calling In Pros to Refine Your Google Image", July 2, 2007. Retrieved on July 12, 2012.
- ↑ includeonly>Kessler, Sarah. "Google Launches Tool for Online Reputation Management", Mashable, June 16, 2011. Retrieved on July 13, 2012.
- ↑ includeonly>Purewal, Sarah. "How to clean up your online reputation", January 11, 2011. Retrieved on July 13, 2012.
- ↑ Cristian Lupsa. Do you need a Web publicist?. The Christian Science Monitor.
- ↑ Ellen Nakashima. Harsh Words Die Hard on the Web. Washington Post.
- ↑ Susan Moskwa. Managing your reputation through search results. Google Official Blog. URL accessed on August 3, 2012.
- ↑ Brian Patterson. Our Online Reputation Management Playbook. SEOmoz.org. URL accessed on August 3, 2012.
- ↑ (May 2, 2001). "Trust among strangers in internet transactions: Empirical analysis of eBay's reputation system". Emerald Group Publishing Limited. Retrieved on May 30, 2011.
- ↑ includeonly>Stephan Spencer. "DIY reputation management", CBS Interactive, September 12, 2007. Retrieved on August 3, 2012.
- ↑ Leimgruber, Jesse Online Reputation Management. Rank Executives. URL accessed on August 31, 2012.
- ↑ 27.0 27.1 includeonly>Thompson, Nicholas. "More Companies Pay Heed to Their 'Word of Mouse' Reputation", June 23, 2003. Retrieved on July 13, 2012.
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