n the third post in this series on business and branding I shared some thoughts about the concept of “Brand You”. An important part of the process of building your “Brand You” is taking steps to protect the brand and its reputation.

When it comes to talking about the importance of protecting our reputation, I can’t improve on The Bard.

Good name in man and woman, dear my lord,
Is the immediate jewel of their souls:
Who steals my purse steals trash; ’tis something, nothing;
‘Twas mine, ’tis his, and has been slave to thousands;
But he that filches from me my good name
Robs me of that which not enriches him
And makes me poor indeed.

William Shakespeare, “Othello”, Act 3 scene 3

Which is why, as individuals, as business owners, we get upset and take action, including legal action, if we feel someone has harmed our personal good name – i.e. our reputation – or that of our business.

Yet I keep meeting otherwise well-informed people who do not seem to be aware that:

  • their name (brand) is online
  • they need to be active in protecting it in that environment

Some people I speak to about this seem to think they don’t have an identity online. Let alone having any need to take care of their online reputation.

Any of us who have spent any time online, posted a comment on a forum, had an assignment on a website somewhere, been a member of an organizing committee for a community event, or simply had our name on a list which happens to be online, should assume we have an online identity.

You won’t always find it on Google, although it could be there. What is potentially very problematic for a lot of people is that if someone – say, someone you want to do business with – googles your name and comes up with that name but as attached to someone the police are looking for, or adverse comments by someone about you or your business, how would that make you feel?

People who start to think about this but may not know a lot about how the web works, and specifically about how search engines work, may feel there is nothing they can do to remedy the situation.

An example I use frequently to illustrate the potential problems and opportunities surrounding online reputation is the Zoominfo site. It is particularly important for anyone in the job market, or likely to be at any time, to check out their profile on Zoominfo, which is an early port of call for recruiters looking people up online. The info on Zoominfo comes from a couple of sources: a) what its robots find about you, or someone with your name, on the web, and b) what you put in (you can also change info there that is out of date or incorrect). I found I had several “identities” there and was able to sort them out so the ones that were about me were consolidated and I could “disown” the others. I was also able to add a lot of information, so now if anyone searches for me either directly on Zoominfo or on another search engine and the Zoominfo link comes up, the information there is what I want people to see.

There is in fact a lot that people can do. And I would say, should do.

In her post Online Reputation Management a few days ago, Meg Tsiamis wonders why so many companies “do not seem to pay attention to reputation management” and points helpfully to Andy Beal’s excellent Free Online Reputation Management Beginner’s Guide, which is still getting favorable comments two and a half years on.

See also:

Business and Branding #1: Built to Last or Built for Now

Business and Branding # 2: Finding What Works

Business and Branding #3: Brand You

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