Protecting Your Online Reputation


By Tony Kontzer

If you haven't heard of Reputation.com, you should have, because all of us probably will need its expertise at one time or another. To be truthful, I never would have taken note of the company if not for a particular sales phrase used in an ad I saw during a recent football game broadcast. That phrase? "Call now for a free reputation assessment."

Funny, but up until that moment, I had never even considered the concept of a reputation assessment, much less my need for a free one. But it turns out that this newfangled Internet contraption apparently has made it impossible for us to retain control of our public image. In a clear indication of how superficial our society has become, it seems we must tame this digital chaos if we're to have any hope of succeeding in the outside world, whether we're seeking a job, a bank loan, new customers, or a love interest.

Just to be clear, this wouldn't come into play for addressing Ashton Kutcher's recent Twitter snafu, in which the star of TV's "Two and a Half Men" expressed dismay over the firing of Joe Paterno, the long-time football coach at Penn State University who was dismissed last week amid allegations that he turned a blind eye toward repeated sexual abuse of children occurring within the school's athletic facility.

Kutcher, being a star who's followed by the millions, has to mobilize a fully fledged PR crisis team--and hand over his Twitter feed to his production company--to handle the damage control when he puts his foot in his mouth so dramatically. (He subsequently admitted not having been aware of the stomach-turning particulars behind Paterno's dismissal.)

For the rest of us, there's no need to invest in a high-priced crisis management crew when our online persona is weighing us down. Instead, we can turn to --what else--the cloud. That's because we have lighter-weight needs than big Hollywood stars do; few of us have the reach to be quite so damaging to ourselves as Kutcher. That said, we can be damaged just as badly, if not worse. For instance, while Kutcher can pick up right where he left off, earning six-figure-per-episode paychecks, the rest of us might find our businesses being dragged down by unflattering online reviews, our job search efforts undermined by character-assassination blog posts, or our dating prospects torpedoed by embarrassing photos and video.

This is where Reputation.com steps in. For an annual fee starting at $3,000, it cleans up your online image by bringing all the good, positive content about you to the top of any search results, while suppressing any false or misleading results. How it determines what is true, positive content versus false, negative content is a mystery, but suffice it to say there are a bunch of great Silicon Valley brains behind it, so it MUST work, right?

The idea is to prevent unfounded word-of-mouth from handicapping a small business, or preventing a qualified job seeker from landing a position. Think of it as a way to ensure that you get a glowing review from the Net.

I don't know about you, but I'm relieved to know that a free reputation assessment--and presumably, the road to a more revered you--is only a phone call away.