You’ve probably already read the first six tips for personal reputation management. If not, stop here and go back. Feel free to join us when you’re caught up. I wrote that post in 2007, before anyone but a handful of professionals were using the term “online reputation management.” In 2011, there’s a whole new slew of opportunities to win or screw up.
1. Recommend Quality People on LinkedIn
Regardless of your religious affiliations, karma truly works online. Pay it forward. Do unto others. Pick your cliche. Whatever. It WORKS. Try going about this in two steps. First, run through your list of LinkedIn connections. For anyone you’ve worked with, for, or near who excels at what they do, write an unsolicited recommendation. Be specific. Point out something about them that sets them apart. Second, ask yourself who you know that does quality work but isn’t yet connected to you on LinkedIn. Make a list, connect with them, and then surprise them with a glowing recommendation.
What are the benefits?
First, you’ll bless a bunch of people who didn’t know how much you appreciate and respect them. That alone is reason enough. On top of giving to others, you will undoubtedly stir a few people to reciprocate and write recommendations for you. You will also build reputation equity with them.
2. Respond to criticisms and assaults with uber kindness and professionalism
Keep in mind that there are probably endless ways to improve your online reputation. Not all reputation problems are search engine based. Maybe someone’s bad talking you in a forum or social network that isn’t visible on Google, but still affects the opinions of industry associates or peers who visit.
In the heat of the moment, we often tend to type before we think. An unfair accusation should be met with swift justice, and a little attitude… I mean, why not? Here’s why not. The people who read the conversation string in the future aren’t idiots. We can all tell when someone is being a jerk. We can also tell when someone is blowing smoke up our skirts. Correct false accusations or details with specificity and kindness. And then leave it there.
Don’t return fire. Regardless of whether you feel vindicated, you will set an impression for all future readers to see how professional you are. How you chose to be kind in the face of hurtful attitudes. This is serious reputation karma. Do it right, and you’ll build a fanbase you don’t even know exists. PLUS, someone else could come along later, see how unfairly you’re being treated, and do your dirty work for you. By taking the high road, your hands are clean and your reputation above reproach.
3. Promote other people and businesses who are unique and outstanding.
Do this on a regular basis (Facebook, Twitter, your blog, LinkedIn, wherever) and you’ll quickly become a source of fresh and positive information people actually care about. The subjects of your compliments will often retweet, share, or link to your comments. This fortunate side effect draws additional attention to your personal brand / reputation.
4. Be quick to admit fault and apologize
If there is ONE thing we can learn from Major League Baseball and sports in general, it’s that whoever confesses fault and apologizes before they’re caught is forgiven and accepted back into the fold. We all make mistakes, and we want to believe that we’re forgiving people. There are enough “villains” out there hiding from the truth that we can villify. We don’t want to make everyone out to be a criminal. So we naturally give people a pass when they out themselves and do whatever they can to correct their mistakes. Whether you were hotheaded in a moment of spontaneous anger or you shared information unsuitable for public consumption, be quick to respond.
This holds true for negative statements as well. A quick response when you are at fault will disarm 80% of your enemy’s anger. Self-righteous judgment and outrage are fueled by the need to “bring truth” to a situation. Admit the truth and take ownership and you’ll have disarmed your foe. Just be sure you follow up with what you say you will do. Otherwise, you’ve only exacerbated your reputation crisis.
5. Write a handful of well-placed guest posts
Every guest post you write can have a byline at the end, that talks about you and your expertise or business. Include an optimized text link within your byline that links to a profile or site that needs some help rising in organic search visibility. Each link will help your personal branded sites and profiles compete for rankings.
As I mentioned before, there are literally dozens and dozens of approaches to improving your personal reputation online. If you have a specific scenario, drop me a comment and maybe I’ll feature an answer to your situation in a future post.