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April 23, 2009


by stevenwyer

Have you ever spent three days working on a document, a very important document? First draft, improvements. Second draft, more corrections and edits. It’s a lot of work.

Paranoid about your work disappearing without warning, you have been diligently hitting “save”. There’s a battery backup plugged in, so that even if there is a power outage you are covered. Your document, a seminal work that represents your life, is protected from all angles.

Then you hear it–a funny sound, a little smoke–the screen goes dark, and nothing. This has got to be a bad dream, you think, so you press the power button hard, several times. Still nothing. You hadn’t thought much about a failure at the foundation of everything; about your hard drive crashing.

Life is a lot like this nightmare. You work hard to build integrity, character and position. You know these are important for your persona, for who people know you to be, for your reputation. Public service, civic organizations, your education and vocation all represent the sum total of days, week and years of investment. And you’ve got it all backed up to. Credit, social network, peers and friends have been assembled over a lifetime and present a very positive picture of who you are known to be.

But then there is an unhappy customer, a disgruntled employee, a jaded relationship and a puff of smoke appears. That funny little sound is coming from customers, friends, or family. You can’t identify it but you know it’s there. Then, a dark screen–lost business, difficulty being hired and a hit to your income. You hit the power button, check your credit score, ask around but you can’t figure it out. You hadn’t thought much about failure at the foundation of your reputation; an online attack.

Your online reputation may well be the most vulnerable place in your life. Because anyone is free to post an opinion on the Internet, it can hurt. While you may cry foul and protest the accuracy of the information, it will be hard to recall. The worst part is that you cannot easily assess the damage. Because when people read something negative, they don’t pick up the phone to confirm the accuracy of what has been posted, they just go elsewhere.

So take a just a moment and do a search on yourself, your company and those close to you. Be aware of what is out there. Then, either clean it up or live with it.

–Steven Wyer, Reputation Advocate

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