With the growing popularity of blogs, online reputation management has become a huge concern to companies and their PR agencies. While they can easily cover their tracks on traditional media, the internet is a whole new creature to deal with. Before, they only have to take good care of a few dozen press people and make sure all their products and services get good exposure. They can even seal an advertising deal with the publisher or the network and be confident that that bargaining chip (advertising cash) could help manage their reputation.
With blogs and social networking websites, they’re up against thousands or hundreds of thousands of individuals screaming foul. Couple that with organic search and you have yourself a huge internet PR disaster.
You can hire some cleaners to do the tidying after a really rowdy party but can you also hire someone or a company to do the clean-up of your online reputation? Apparently, that sounds like a nice business model.
Michael Fertik, a 28-year-old Harvard Law graduate, founded ReputationDefender Inc. last year to do just that — manage your online reputation.
ReputationDefender begins by sending emails on behalf of its clients to Web-site owners. The letters typically introduce the company, identify the client and the offending content, and ask the recipient to remove it. The letters don’t make threats — Mr. Fertik, despite his training, and others at ReputationDefender aren’t lawyers — but instead try to appeal to recipients’ sense of fairness: “Like our clients, and perhaps like you, we think the Internet is sometimes unnecessarily hurtful to the privacy and reputations of everyday people,” one such letter reads.
There’s also another company called DefendMyName which markets itself as a way to remove negative mentions from search-engine results. What it actually does is attempt to bury them below promotional sites, blogs and forum postings it creates for clients. The company’s rates start at $1,000 a month.
Of course, there’s some trick involve in it. Just ask Marc how many clients he helped managed their online reputation.