You've probably heard or seen lots of advertisements recently for "reputation management" companies who claim to monitor your online reputation and take care of unwanted or negative content about you on the internet. But you may want to think twice about using one of these companies. Or, at the very least, don't stick your head in the sand - make sure you know what *specifically* they will be doing to 'monitor' and 'control' your online reputation. (A bit more on that in a moment)
I got a spam blog post comment this week (and one last week from the same person) that appears to have been generated by one of these "reputation management" companies with a url back to the attorney whose online reputation they are trying to 'manage.'
I can't help but wonder whether their tactics are backfiring somewhat because the spam comment led me to start looking into this attorney. This might seem like a good thing - after all, the point of leaving the comment with the attorney's url was to generate positive traffic for the attorney, right? Well, perhaps not.
Google is absolutely FILLED with entries "by" and "about" this lawyer, but there's not much of value there. It has all been created in the past several months, and all it did was lead me to be curious about what it was that they were trying to drown out - especially once I realized that it was a 'reputation management' company that was doing it (which I found out by looking at who created the sites and who she was linked to in different social sites, among other things).
So while there are plenty of entries about this attorney on Google, none of them contain any real positive commentary or genuine information, and all of the links lead to what I consider to be hollow content.
Not only that, but I wasn't the only one who started digging deeper on this attorney as a result of these tactics. A "comment" (really just a promotional blurb about how great she is) that was placed on another law-related forum caused another forum member to do the same thing I did - check her out on Google, observe the spammy behavior and delve deeper to find out what she was trying to hide.
Here's why this lawyer needed "reputation management": She was apparently arrested at the end of last year for leaving her two young kids home alone while she was intoxicated at a bar. The kicker? She's a former prosecutor who is now practicing -- wait for it -- criminal law and family law!
Is this how you really want their reputations 'managed'? Wouldn't it be better to create high quality positive content or ask actual satisfied clients and colleagues to vouch for you, rather than littering the internet with 'spammy,' hollow content that creates a question in others' minds about you? Isn't that really the opposite of what this company is supposed to be accomplishing for this lawyer?
These tactics are similar to the "black hat" SEO (search engine optimization) tactics used by some SEO companies on behalf of law firms to help improve their website traffic. As I've written before, these kinds of tactics often backfire (as I think they have in this case).
Recently I did a post about lawyers marketing on the internet and some of their fears, including a fear of losing control of their online reputation by joining social media and the online internet marketing outfits, as well as addressing questions about how to deal with negative comments or content about you or your firm on the internet.
You can also read more about the ethics of lawyers using social media for marketing and how lawyers can ensure that they are not invisible online.
You might also want to read Debra Bruce's excellent post on the topic. As Debra says,
If you don’t play, you won’t know what they say. It’s a good idea to check for your name and rating from time to time on various sites such as www.AVVO.com, www.LawyerRatingz.com ,www.mojopages.com, and www.yelp.com.
It's also generally a good ideal to simply type your name and your firm's name into various search engines such as Google, Bing and Yahoo to see what comes up.
Generally, "drowning out" negative content with positive content is a good strategy - as long as the positive content is genuine and valuable.