10
2008
Mar

Online Reputation Management, a Cautionary Tale

Rob Dumouchel

Business owners are very careful about managing their reputation but for some reason they have not come to realize the risks involved in the Internet or more specifically what is called social media.

I would like to tell you the story of Kevin, and trust me there is a business story here, but let’s watch the train wreck first.

Meet Kevin

This is a true story and an absolute Reputation Management Disaster. Kevin, who happens to be pictured here in a dress, carrying a wand and a fine malt beverage, lost his job and embarrassed his employer with a quick post intended for his friends and peers. Kevin was an intern at a large New York bank. He sent his boss an e-mail letting him know that he had a family emergency and would be out for a day or two. In reality Kevin blew off work to go to a Halloween party back home and take some unfortunate pictures. Wanting to share the excitement of his Halloween costume with his friends he posted the picture to the left on his Facebook Page. By the time Kevin got back to work the picture he posted had already made it to his boss’ inbox. Kevin, as you would expect, got fired.

But our story doesn’t end with the indignity of getting fired. Kevin’s boss forwarded the e-mail exchange to a few people with the attached picture. It ended up making Kevin an overnight Internet sensation. Social bookmarking sites like Digg.com and Reddit.com picked up the story and it became a viral hit with hundreds of thousands of readers enjoying his pain.

Kevin went from being a guy with a bright future and a good internship to being famous for dressing like a fairy godmother, lying to his employer, and getting fired. Not exactly the legacy one would necessarily desire. Not to mention at this moment every Google search for his name is dominated by this story, and he even made the front page for his employer’s name!

Anybody nervous yet? Is your mind racing wondering what your employees have ever done online? Or how that might play in front of the next big client proposal? Need to do a Google Search? It’s cool I’ll wait…

Now for the business angle… How would you like to be the business behind Kevin’s story? Oh sure you would get lots of hits on your web site, but those would also be hits to your reputation. Managing your reputation online is serious business. Many prospects will do a search on your business name before they ever contact you and is a drunk kid with a wand the image you want to share with the world? Here are a just a few of the issues to discuss at your next management team meeting.

  • Do you understand what social media is?
  • What is your policy regarding posts in social media?
  • Have you trained all employees on this policy?
  • What if you hire the next Kevin and the story gets away from you?
  • Should you proactively manage your brand in social media?
  • What is the policy of employees using the business name/brands?
  • How should your business be represented in social media?
  • Are you leveraging social media or just watching the world go by?

In closing we recommend that you proactively manage your reputation or it will manage you. Things happen fast on the Internet and you need to stay ahead of the curve or you could be the next train wreck.