On the surface, reputation scrubbers sound like they'd be a good thing. After all, if you're suffering from a bad online reputation(especially one that you don't deserve), what could be better than a company that promises to scrub it clean for you?
There's just one problem: reputation scrubbers, unlike legitimate reputation management firms, employ dodgy means to achieve their ends. Welcome to, as a recent New York magazine article puts it, the world of black ops reputation management.
How can you tell the difference between a legitimate company and a scrubber? Look for these things:
- Create fake sites to publicize fake good deeds. In the New York mag article, Graeme Wood describes the experience of watching a high school acquaintance go from being an accused criminal to a noted philanthropist — as long as you include suspiciously barren sites like "Charity News Forum" and "Venture Cap Monthly" as reliable sites. (Hint: they aren't. They're shell sites, set up for the purpose of redeeming the accused's reputation.)
- Shoot for the stars, wind up back in the gutter. Wood notes that what all these sites had in common, besides their subject, was the high status of the other contributors — Nobel laureates, the chairman of the Fed, etc. If you see a bunch of top-tier players mentioned in an article about a person you've never heard of, alarm bells should go off. It's unlikely that someone who keeps such august company would be totally unknown to the average reader.
- Have unsavory clients. Among the other potential customers of the reputation scrubber in the NY magazine piece were a famous former mistress and a man who assaulted a music producer with a broken bottle.
Reputation Management Companies:
- Know you can't remove all bad reviews — and don't want to. In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, our vice president of sales Brent Franson said, "You can't remove bad reviews. The goal is to make sure the tip-of-the-iceberg reviews are good." If the top search results on the most popular search engines and review sites are good, then your reputation is good.
- Skip the strong-arm tactics, and concentrate on goodwill. A legitimate company will help you encourage your happy customers to be more vocal about their experience with you. Real good reviews are better than fake any day, and if enough of your satisfied clients speak up, it'll eclipse one or two disgruntled voices.
- Help you learn how to monitor your reputation in the future. The best offense is a good defense. Keeping on top of new information about your company is the way to make sure that false stories don't gain traction in the media. A good reputation management company like ReputationDefender will help you find out right away when someone's talking about you online — and respond appropriately.
Images: elhombredenegro/Flickr, Rita Willaert/Flickr