Suppose you do an innocuous action and comment on a blog or forum, only to find out that the original creator of the content had lost control of the blog to a typosquatter who now litters the original page (with your name on it) with undesirable content. What should you do? If you’re not careful with how to address the issue, the results could be disastrous, as one woman under a similar situation found out when she overreacted with a frivolous lawsuit against Yahoo! (rather than the typosquatter) and ended up in a much more controversial position.
Managing one’s public image in the Internet age is a tricky process, particularly when dealing with negative attacks from online sources. Attempts to stamp out negative publicity head on, if not handled well, frequently backfire. Popular perception calls this the Streisand Effect, after the controversy surrounding Barbra Streisand’s legal action against a website showing a photograph of her house, which only led to the said photograph and controversy gaining more traction.
Akin to the forbidden fruit of lore, merely hiding something from public view only invites stubborn interest to see it. Hence, actively campaigning to remove negative content may only attract unwanted attention, particularly if it is done in a blatant and extreme manner. In these cases, it helps to have online reputation management on hand to accompany any legal action to remove the content. Online reputation management works by suppressing exposure of the negative publicity by drawing web traffic away from the offending content rather than taking it down.
Clumsily handled action against slanderous material can make possible blowbacks hard to control, particularly in the age of social media where negative content can spread like wildfire once interest has picked up. Avoiding extraneous or extreme action is a crucial first step to preventing bad publicity from blowing out of proportion. With this in mind, the opening moves that accompany an efficient online reputation management campaign should take a subtle approach.
In ORM, the key is to be proactive in establishing and promoting your positives instead of being reactive to the negatives. An efficiently executed, sustained, and subtle reputation-building campaign reaches more eyes and ears than would a knee-jerk reaction to otherwise manageable smear tactics.