The term “online reputation management” came up a number of years ago and it immediately got my attention. This term relates to both organizations and individuals. As information continues to move online, its importance is ever growing. The basic premise is that organizations and individuals may be faced with a situation where negative information exists online about them, their products or their services. At first glance, one might think that it’s fair and appropriate for such information to exist so that informed judgment calls can be made. I have to admit that this was my initial reaction as well…at least until a client of mine was faced with negative online publicity.

The problem occurs, when both sides of the story aren’t presented. How does one respond to such claims in a public forum like the internet? One can’t make an article go away or leave the search engines, and it remains there for everyone to see whenever a search is made. Even the U.S. court system is such that everyone is allowed an attorney and a fair trial, right? But, this kind of negative information doesn’t happen In a court where both sides present their case fairly. They happen in a public forum.

This exact situation happened to  one of my clients. Someone had written a slanderous review, and did so in a very public way; on a website that claimed to be working for public benefit and full disclosure. In reality, the client claims that this company, when approached to remove it, was offered a solution that would cost in the neighborhood of $10,000! This seemed more like blackmail to me.

Upon research, I came to the conclusion that the solution was to fight fire with fire. The publicity spread throughout the internet so easily because the websites carrying the information were well optimized for the search engines that crawled them.

Outside of possible legal actions, the solution for such a situation is to enact a comprehensive search engine optimization, web marketing and PR campaign.

Basically, companies, and individuals at times, will find that if they don’t proactively publicize the good things they do and their business successes, they may find themselves looking at search engine results that have negative publicity. Let’s face it; we’re all human and things are going to go awry. People aren’t always going to be satisfied with the actions of individuals, companies, products and services.

Not long after this client’s incident, another client approached me with a request to help them enact a plan to be proactive about negative press. Today, I still think very highly of this organization for having the foresight to seek council and prepare for such unknowns.

My third encounter with the phrase “online reputation management” came just recently and was related to an individual this time. The increasing frequency of such inquires encouraged me to write this piece and recommend to my readers that they consider this factor as an additional benefit to the many they receive through search engine optimization and web marketing. Be proactive about your company in both Marketing and PR. Participate in blogs and forums that relate to you, your business and its products or services. If you don’t have the time or desire to do so, hire a professional webmarketing and PR company to do it for you. It takes time to establish your credibility in these public forums. If you don’t speak up, someone else just might and the damage will be done. Just consider that a reactive response is never as good as a proactive one.