You know your professional reputation is your most valuable asset. But are you protecting that asset online? For better or worse, the Internet has evolved in a way that has turned just about everyone into a publisher of one sort or another. Between blogs, social networks, and online review sites, people that may previously had no way to have a voice online, can now share what’s on their minds. In terms of monitoring & managing your professional reputation online, this environment creates several new challenges.
Monitoring Your Reputation
Before you can “do anything” about what people are saying online, you first have to know what they are saying about you. One of the easiest ways to monitor what is being said about you online is Google Alerts. Google Alerts can provide you RSS or email updates of Google results (web, news, etc.) that contain a particular search query, like your name. You can also specify if you would like alerts sent to you for a particular type of result (i.e. news, blogs, real-time, discussions, etc).
Here’s how it works. You set up an alert for “your name.” Someone writes something containing “your name” online. You receive an email or an RSS feed of what was said and where it was posted online. Then you can decide what action you might want to take in response.
Recently, Google announced a new tool called Me on the Web to provide users with even more tools for online reputation management. They also provide helpful links for online reputation management and suggestions for dealing with its impact such as removing unwanted content and the associated search results and getting notified when your personal data appears on the web.
Managing Your Reputation
Once you’ve set up a way to monitor what is being said about you online, the next step is deciding what, if anything, can be done about it. It’s important to keep in mind that how you respond to what people say about you online will often say more about you than what was posted in the first place. My advice is to not respond in anger or frustration. The web has a long memory and posting something regrettable may do more long-term damage than you can foresee.
Once you are no longer in an emotionally charged state, the first question is whether you will respond at all. Not everything that is said about you online (or offline for that matter) is worthy a response. Consider the nature and visibility of what was said.
In addition to reacting to statements made about you online, you should encourage positive statements, and help your clients understand how and where they can post positive reviews of your work if they so desire. Of course, you should check with your state’s ethics rules about the acceptable manner in which you can participate in publishing client testimonials online. Positive testimonials and professional reviews of your work are the strongest builders of trust online and also factor into your visibility within search results.
I recently came across the ABA Journal Podcast, Can My Client Say That? Guests Discuss Lawyer Ethics and Testimonials on Rating Sites. I encourage you to listen to the podcast, or read the short transcript. It discusses some of the challenges facing attorneys related to online client testimonials.