A man’s reputation is one of the most valuable things he has. A clean reputation will take a man far, both in his personal life and in his professional life. A man with a sullied reputation, though, may find that his list of online contacts and romantic possibilities is ever-diminishing—and repairing a broken reputation is easier said than done.
The question is, what does a man’s reputation really look like, in the 21st Century? There was a time when preserving your reputation was as simple as keeping DUI mugshots out of the local newspaper, and of simply ensuring that your clients, customers, and co-workers were dealt with honestly and equitably. Those days are sadly over, and the very nature of a man’s reputation has changed considerably in light of the new, ever-shifting online landscape.
What is Online Reputation?
Simply put, a man’s online reputation is more important than ever before. His online reputation consists of anything and everything that people are saying about him online; or, of any information about him that has found its way onto a major search engine, like Google, Yahoo, or Bing. A big part of a man’s online reputation is self-generated, then—for example, the content on his LinkedIn profile or his personal blog. These things reflect on a man’s character—the level of respectability that he brings to his job, his love life, his family, and his involvement within the community.
This cannot be said for every aspect of online reputation. We mentioned police mugshots before; if a man is arrested or accused of any kind of wrongdoing, and a record of this unpleasantness makes its way onto the Web, then his online reputation has been sullied. Additionally, negative reviews about his company—posted to consumer review sites, such as Yelp.com—can negatively impact a man’s personal reputation just as surely as they drive his business into the ground. Even an embarrassing frat party photo, perhaps of a man hitting on a younger-looking woman, can surface on Facebook, and his online reputation can take a serious hit.
Of course, assessing one’s current online reputation is a fairly straightforward matter.
Here is something any reputation-conscious man can do: Head to Google, and enter your name as a search query. (If you have a relatively common name, like John Smith, then you might also include geographic data—“John Smith Asheville NC,” for example.) The listings that show up on that first Google search results page effectively make up the sum total of your online reputation. The question is, do you like what you see? Hopefully, the answer is yes—because what you are seeing is the same as what others are seeing.
How Does an Online Reputation Get Derailed?
Your online reputation may look pretty sterling right now, but it is important to remember that a reputation can go off the rails, at more or less any point. In fact, an online reputation can be tarnished through forces both innocuous and beyond your control. Take the example of the old frat party photo, innocently posted to the Web as a playful reminiscence; the buddy who posted it was not trying to make you look like a goofball or a pervert, but that is how these things tend to come across.
In other instances, the cause of reputation damage can prove more nefarious. For example, a business rival might post falsified reviews or defamatory posts, simply to tear you down and tarnish your good name—hurting you at work, and perhaps losing you respect among friends and romantic interests.
There might even arise some cases in which you do a disservice to your own reputation. Think again to the example of a police mugshot or an arrest report. There have been cases of men whose reputations were sullied because they were wrongfully accused, but, more often, this damage is done because men make a bad mistake or exercise imprudent judgment—as simple as that.
Is it Possible to Repair an Online Reputation?
Naturally, men whose reputations have been destroyed by the merciless forces of the Web can find their personal and professional lives impacted greatly; after all, in this day and age, Google search is a primary means of information-gathering. If a search for your name reveals embarrassing or damaging information, you could lose a job opportunity, you could lose a client, you could even lose your woman!
The good news is that reputation repair is possible. In fact, there is an entire industry, the online reputation management industry, that is founded on the notion that we all deserve a say in how we are portrayed on the Internet—and that a single poor judgment call or a customer complaint should not define our online identities for the rest of our lives. Reputation management companies can give any man a second chance at a first online impression.
What an online reputation management agency seeks to do is to give clients greater control in how they are presented on the Web, suppressing negative and unwanted Google listings and replacing them with listings that highlight the client’s positive attributes. To some, this enterprise comes across as a little disingenuous, but in reality it is anything but.
Take the following example. Three years ago, a man was arrested on a minor charge, and that arrest record—complete with embarrassing mugshot—lives in infamy, the first listing someone finds when they Google the man’s name. If a potential employer sees this listing, the man’s career prospects could be sunk—but an online reputation management company can help push that arrest record off the first page of Google. Then, when someone searches for the fellow’s name, the searcher finds only a LinkedIn page, a blog, perhaps an article or two about the philanthropic work he has done in the community.
At no point does the online reputation management company lie about the arrest record, to attempt to deceive. This is not about erasing the past, but rather, it is about giving men a chance to voice some of the positive things they have done—and not to let search engine algorithms dictate their online reputation.
The Truth About Online Reputation
For all of this, the most important thing to remember about an online reputation is this: You can work for years to establish yourself as a hard-working, morally upright, respectable man, a man who loves his wife and excels at work. Then, in an instant, all of that hard work can come crashing down, either through your own indiscretion or through someone else’s act of negligence or malice.
Reputation defacement is serious business, in the online world—but it does not have to be final. Online reputation management is possible. It all begins with simply taking the time to value your online reputation. Conduct online searches for yourself regularly, and keep tabs on how the Internet is portraying you. Remember that a man’s name is worth its weight in gold—and that in today’s modern world, that name is largely defined by Google, Yahoo, and Bing.
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Boy_in_stocks_posing_for_photograph.jpg