I recently had a conversation with Michael Fertik, CEO of Reputation.com, regarding online reputation management. We discussed the monumental shift that has happened with our reputation, brand and privacy. Michael said that without ever announcing it, the Internet has taken control of our reputation.
That is a scary idea. People can post anything they like about you, true or not. Additionally, your private information can be freely shared, and you are supposed to just deal with it because that is the ‘new normal.’
When I asked Michael why he started Reputation.com, I expected him to answer with some elaborate story of how his brand had been damaged and that caused him to be fired or passed over for a job. That was not the case. He said, “I saw the way that we were losing control of ourselves and our dignity. I only saw this problem getting bigger, not smaller.”
The Bunker Mentality
The sad truth is that people and organizations tend to see personal branding and reputation management as either not important or far too big of a task. Instead of learning about ways to truly manage their information and reputation, they do a few low-level actions with the hope that it will solve all of their problems. Michael said, “People change a few privacy settings in Facebook and think they’ve done their job. The ‘bunker mentality’ is not online reputation management, or as you [Patrick] call it – personal branding.”
No distinction between personal and corporate brand
We also talked about the difference between corporate reputation management and personal branding. He said, “There is no meaningful distinction between a corporate and personal brand.” Unless you are sitting in the bowels of a huge corporation, your personal brand is the corporate brand, and vice-versa. The idea that these two brands are connected should scare many executives. There is little focus in the insurance industry right now on organizations helping their employees manage their personal brand. That lack of education, training or management creates a huge risk. All it takes is one employee to cause a lasting effect on your organization. And most agencies and brokers aren’t educating any of their employees in personal branding.
Doesn’t have to consume your life
One of the biggest pushback comments that I typically get when discussing personal branding is the amount of time that it takes. It’s a common misconception but the reality is, this doesn’t have to consume your life. Michael said, “You don’t have to be a social media power user. You just need to be in the stream (whatever that looks like for you), doing your thing.” The key is to manage your online reputation, so that the ‘you’ people find online matches the ‘you’ that goes to work every day.
The cost of doing nothing
No business or individual can ignore the scariest part of Michael’s advice: “If you don’t have potential clients coming to you on a regular basis, if recruiters aren’t approaching you weekly, if opportunities aren’t knocking down your door, then you are doing something wrong.”
What does that mean to you? What does that equate to in lost revenue? The cost of not proactively managing your brand could be millions of dollars. That is not an exaggeration.
This is a scary time in history and many individuals and organizations are falling victim to brand damage. The good news is, there are several resources and easy-to-use tools to help you manage your brand and reputation. You just need to take the first step and acknowledge the fact that the Internet has taken control of your reputation. And then do something about it.