How to rebuild a damaged online reputation mid-career
Remember with an online reputation you are what you write
Social networking can be quite harsh if you get it wrong, when a damaged online reputation can influence your offline activities. Content doesn't have to go viral to have a negative effect. It can be via blog posts, tweets, photos or Facebook and video updates and stories. The choice of platforms to make fatal online errors grows daily. 93% of recruiters report researching candidates online. 55% of candidates are cut because of online content.
We are not always talking about entry-level here. Mid and early career women are equally able to make online blunders, pursuing an online personal branding strategy that they later want to change. Or as the dominant group on some social media platforms are women, it's about a both a lack of thought or strategy.
BG (Before Google) we could share our opinions ad nauseam and unless we were super famous, not many people would hear about them. Today, with everything (yes.... everything) stored on some hard drive in the cloud, and no one knows where deleted stuff ends up, even the smallest thing can come back to haunt us.
This is where the "we have to be true to ourselves" lobby becomes vocal. That maybe so. But if your authentic self has many faces and you want to lose one of them some years later, then it can be easier said than done.
This is an extreme example, but take Marina (not her real name) who after spending her early career in the legal profession, caught her husband inflagrante. As part of her "moving on" process, she quit private practice and started a business supporting divorced women with online legal advice. All this is fine. Her marketing strategist advised her to create a blog, which she did, sharing her voice with unparalleled enthusiasm and energy on her Facebook page.
Think Rebel Wilson meets Amy Schumer. You have now hit the exact tone of the content. Add on what would appear to be an unusual dependency on her two dogs. 70% of recruiters say that sexual content will exclude a candidate and 66% do not care for profanity.
Now 3 years later with about 120 posts and reams of FB updates and photos to her name, Marina wants to return to the private sector and corporate life. She is finding all doors closed to her.
She has dented her OLR (Online Reputation) which is all about trust.
Here are 6 solutions to deal with a damaged online reputation:
1. Remove the site
Dubious content is hard to get rid of permanently. Over time it will be removed from the caches of Google and other search engines. The process can be hastened, after it has been taken down, with a request to Google to remove a page or site from the listings. If in doubt consult a specialist. There are many consultants who claim they can do this overnight, a false claim and to be avoided at all costs. This can be a slow and expensive process.
2. Create new content
The most effective way to drive the drivel down your SEO rankings, is to publish new and better content. No one searches beyond Page 3 or 4 anyway. Research by Forrester Research have shown that video is great for rankings acceleration. A reveal of the new you can be launched. Amy Schumer, shifted her brand with her new movie Trainwreck .
3. Re-purpose existing content
That is a lot of work - but maybe worth it. Even hiring an intern or student to remove the offending content and re-jigging the language could be beneficial.
4. Be honest and sincere
Find some sort of positive spin on whatever has happened focused on what you have learned. In any meetings with business partners or employers, offer an explanation of what was going on and illustrate the changes you have made. What you don't want to appear is unreliable, erratic and inconsistent. Especially in key areas such as tact, discretion and sanity.
To everyone and all you have offended.
6. Walk the talk
Have concrete evidence of a reformed you. Whether its pro bono work, volunteering, anything be able to demonstrate the value you add, despite the historical online blunders.
In our online culture, it can be hard to repair a damaged online reputation but it's not impossible. Sadly bad news always travels fast both on and offline and especially between the two.
Remember, think before you post. Ask the question will I cringe in 20 years time? Unless the answer is a resounding no, think hard before pressing publish.
Contact 3Plus for Personal Branding coaching.
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