If you don’t take control for your personal, online brand, someone else will do it for you.
By Bruce Provda, Family Lawyer
Twenty years ago, an attorney in California made a very public and damaging error. He spent months regretting the decision and abandoned the field of law for awhile. Later, in 2007, he decided to re-enter the legal profession, and took a promising position with a noted law firm. In 2008, a fellow attorney at the same firm dug up some dirt on Google and the attorney, who spent months cleaning up his name, was terminated.
The first mistake the lawyer made was in making the error online. The second mistake? He wasn’t diligent in polishing his online reputation. The lawyer’s name which only appeared in online legal documents were now a matter of public record.
If potential clients search your name, what do they find? Does the digital data they dig up still show you from your partying and drinking days or does it show the incredible growth you’ve experienced?
Why Worry About an Online Reputation
Face it. Attorneys, especially divorce attorneys, are sure to upset somebody at sometime. Even if a divorce lawyer wins 99.9 percent of their clients’ cases, there is still the losing side to consider.
An ex spouse can become notoriously bitter, controlling and vengeful. The attorney representing the winning side is in a perfect position to receive some of the wrath. Divorces have left people in a state of mind where they are willing to go online to review sites such as Rip Off Reports, and destroy — or at least attempt to destroy- even the best attorney’s reputation. Even if what the bitter individual says isn’t true, it can still wreck a reputation that has taken years to build.
Remember: If you don’t take control for your personal, online brand, someone else will do it for you.
There are a greater number of places now where a person can quickly rank negative and/or slanderous information. Failure to maintain your online brand means that someone can easily post a comment, make a video or create a blog post. Worse, they could file a complaint, promote your competition or develop a hate site.
Managing your online “brand” isn’t self-promotion. It’s a good defense and best practice.
How Can a Bad Online Rep Hurt You?
A negative online appearance can be as subtle as someone clicking on a competitors search result instead of yours or starting a boycott of your services. Setting aside the financial implications of having your credibility questioned, there are also possible legal ramifications that could cripple you financially.
Assessing Online Reputation
Many Internet surfers won’t look past the first couple of pages of search results. Starting with the big search engines such as Google, Bing and MSN, search for:
- Your Name
Depending on your location and search history, the results can be varied. To get the best search results, log out of your account in the various search engines and search again.
Once you’ve searched for, and had removed, negative comments, posts and pictures, the next task is to track your online reputation.
Set up alerts and feeds which will find your name, company or brand every time it is mentioned online. It’s best to get an alert prior to a problem escalating or entering the top search results. There are many tools that can help manage your online presence, but one of the best methods includes four steps and is something you’re probably already using.
The speed and spread of the Internet means that greater amounts of personal information shows up online. Just one example: If a friend of yours mentions your name on Facebook, or tags you in a photo on Flickr, your identity might end up appearing in blogs and elsewhere.
The first stop for most people seeking information published about themselves — or others — is Google. There are several things a person can do to manage the online persona and control what individuals may find when they “Google” you.
1. Conduct a search. Google your name and see what data turns up.
2. Open a Google Account. Having a profile on Google, will help better manage the data and information that persons find. Hyperlink to other websites that have positive information about yourself.
3. Take down unwanted content. If you find an embarrassing image of yourself, your first step is to determine who controls the page’s content. If the photo you want to hide is part of a Picasa account in your name, you can merely alter the photo visibility settings. If the unwanted content is on a site you don’t control, you can still request removal by Google.
4. Set up notifications. Set up a Google Alert in your name. Then, when your name shows up almost anywhere online you will get a notification via email that will even give you the link to the webpage.
Setting aside several hours a week to monitor your online brand personally, or hiring someone to do it for you, may make the difference between having clients come in your door — or shy away from you.
Bruce Provda is founder of Provda Law Firm in New York City. Bruce is a published writer and an active community leader. nydivorcefirm.com