Is Reputation Management Pointless? Response to Techcrunch

by Chris Silver Smith

Techcrunch is saying that reputation management is so impossible to control and limit that it’s pointless to even try, much like big labels trying to fight the illegal sharing of music (see Reputation Is Dead: It’s Time To Overlook Our Indiscretions).

I’ve worked on a lot of online reputation management cases, and until there’s a major paradigm shift in how our society views past behavior, I simply cannot agree. I worked on one friend’s issue of having a past citation from a state licensing office dogging his career – a decade back he was fined by a state agency for breaking a rule in the performance of his civil servant job. He still works for the state and has had a fine work performance ever since, but having that one thing ranking for searches for his name makes him look bad.

I’ve also worked on a family member’s criminal record – they got in trouble as a teenager and they plead to a suspended sentence in return for shaping up. That suspended sentence can be expunged some years later, but the specter of the record for the initial arrest still haunts them, and is something that pops up each time someone does a background check on them.

I’ve worked on a lot of other issues where unbalanced individuals were trying to harm companies online in blogs and social media. Businesses have reason to know that their reputation has a direct correlation to their financial performance as well.

Companies with particularly bad reputations basically have to shift to completely different brandnames – Valujet is one of the most famous cases.

I’d say that the current class action lawsuit against Yelp further highlights just how sensitive individuals and businesses are to their reputations.

So, unless our culture shifts more towards the philosophy of “letting bygones be bygones”, Techcrunch’s suggestion to just let it all go is merely bluster. Maybe the post was intended to excite conversation and controversy. But, it’s not a serious suggestion – we don’t see Michael Arrington actually disclosing his “pics of shame” proactively as he jokes about.

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