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In today’s bulletin, Charlie discusses how you could salvage your reputation after an accusation, using Online Reputation Management (ORM) companies. Following an interview with Jonny and Louis from Status Labs – an ORM company – Charlie gives us an insight into how these companies work and the benefits of the service.

 Imagine…You have been a very successful Finance Director. You have managed to climb the corporate ladder. You have a nice salary, home, family, and car. You get at least two or three offers a month from headhunters offering you a new job at a better company, with more money. Out of the blue, you are accused and charged with a crime which you know you didn’t commit. You are relaxed, as you are almost certain you will be found not guilty. At the end of a short trial, you are found not guilty, and you leave the court with your reputation intact. Your accuser was a serial liar and this is not the first person they have accused. You celebrate with family and friends. You go back to work and after a few weeks, you notice that the job offers are non-existent. You suspect it is something to do with the case, but you were found innocent. You confide in a close friend and they come straight to the point, they google your name and the first few entries against your name are coverage of the accusation. You know that forever afterwards, as soon as your name is googled, people will see the accusation. It almost doesn’t matter that you were found innocent, as this information is on the second Google page. You know that the accusation will forever put doubt in people’s minds. Any potential employer will see the accusation, and will move on to looking at the next potential employee. The paper that covered your initial arrest is not going to remove the posts, and Google is not going to remove them as this is a fact; you despair of ever finding a new job. Until, the friend who showed you your Google entry tells you about the services of Online Reputation Management (ORM) companies. Perhaps they can save you, and help you resurrect your successful career, and keep the job offers coming.

I have come across a reference to ORMs where I listened to the excellent podcast ‘So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed’ by Jon Ronson. It is still available on BBC Sounds here. One of the episodes is about Lindsey Stone, who published the following picture on Facebook, which led to global outrage and vilification. She received a huge amount of abuse and became a hate figure for the military, and the right, in America.

The original photo. Flickr/Facebook/Cayobo

The podcast goes on to talk about her difficulty finding a job as every time a recruiter or an employer googled her name, this picture came up, so she wasn’t even considered for the job. With the help of an ORM company, they were able to get this picture off the first page of Google and so she was then able to get a job.

I was recently contacted by an Online Reputation Management company, Status Labs, to see if we could work together and I had a chat with a couple of their people, Jonny and Louis, earlier this week. So, I thought I would share what I learned from them.

Their service at the most basic level is to get negative press for individuals, companies, or brands, off the front page of Google and try and get it onto Page 2 or Page 3 where people are less likely to see it. They do this by using Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) techniques. They will create positive articles which are optimised to get on the first page of Google, to put the negative articles further down. Where there are positive articles already, they will promote the article, so it goes up the search engine ranking. Status Labs, and other similar companies, will use a multitude of different skills and techniques to achieve their aim.

Clients for this service range from companies to high-net-worth individuals and from brands to celebrities, all wanting to promote a positive image, and to try and prevent a particular story, or accusation, from appearing against their name. Some individuals have used the service to prevent their children or grandchildren from finding articles they don’t want them to see, and find out about, even after their death.

One of my first questions apart from ‘How much does the service cost?’, was, what about the moral dimension to this? Would you act for someone such as Gary Glitter who has just come out of prison? All of the assignments Status Labs take on, are referred to an Ethics Committee that makes the decision on whether or not to take on the client. For the service to work, it takes a 6 to 12-month assignment and the cost of this can vary. A typical client is a high net worth individual or large corporate, so the service is not really aimed at ‘ordinary people’.

I was interested in talking to the two guys and learning more about their services, as I think as business continuity or crisis managers, we should know about the service these companies offer. You may want to use their services, like the Finance Director did in the example used in this bulletin, so that a false accusation is not seen again in your search results, or you may want to move on unfounded allegations against your products. The more we know about specialist companies providing services we might someday need, the more we improve our ability to advise the organisation we work for.

Jonny and Louis can be contacted here.

 

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