Like it or not, the world is watching in the digital era and keeping a low profile is nearly impossible. While responsible behavior and preventive measures protect a clean reputation, an already damaged one can still be rebuilt, though not without difficulty.
Turning around a tarnished reputation is nothing new. Both high-profile individuals and large companies have staged several reputation comebacks to much public fanfare. Becoming the next Robert Downey Jr. or Microsoft is not going to be easy work, as regaining public trust goes the uphill direction.
It takes a lot more to make up for things like poor life choices or a botched product or service, especially in a time when an entire generation is wary of and cynical about over promotion. Paradoxically, quietly and completely disappearing from the public eye should not be an option either; being reclusive is like walking away from the carcass of a damaged reputation and leaving it to scavenging detractors.
Brand and personal comebacks should be grounded on a sincere acknowledgment of the past while moving on from it. The public needs not only an admission of fault where it is due but also a visible and tangible attempt to make amends for mistakes. The savvy audience member can sense sincerity. Honest gestures can successfully win over formerly turned off customers.
There are also a few behaviors to avoid when attempting to recover from a tarnished reputation. Foremost among these is to avoid poorly thought-out bouts of extreme action. Save lawsuits and forceful takedowns of content for profoundly slanderous and illegal content, and do not even consider arguing or deploying unethical methods altogether.
Brands in particular should commit to the necessary resources to cater best to customer needs and take steps to rectify the original issues at hand. From there, offline and online reputation repair takes care of the rest, mainly by ensuring that the person or brand affected remains visible and self-aware throughout the process.
Being haunted by the past can curtail efforts to look toward the future and build on the present. Repairing a reputation is harder than defending one, but the rewards of rebuilding are worth the effort.