Accidents happen when you work on managing your reputation online. If you've done something that you now know was a mistake, it's probably not the end of the world—options still exist for online reputation repair. In this guide, we'll take a look at seven different lessons for websites trying to do damage control. Whether your website has been taken over by hackers, you've had a serious compromise of information security, or you just goofed up and said something that angered people online, this guide can help you understand what your next steps should be and how to mitigate the damage you've already done.
Lesson One: Be Professional, Be Courteous
Lawyers are actually in a worse position than some other professions when it comes to managing their reputation online. Why? Because people tend to already have a somewhat negative preconceived view of attorneys, and because any attempt at online reputation repair needs to be done with an understanding of that view.
Don't try to weasel out of mistakes in a way that will make people scoff and make lawyer jokes. Those aren't the stereotypes you want to live up to when managing your reputation online. Online reputation repair for law firms involves keeping all of your actions completely above-board and transparent. If people think you're lying or stretching the truth, you won't succeed in managing your reputation online. You need to be very courteous, even to your most harsh critics, in order to prevent your problems from multiplying.
Lesson Two: Takedown Notices
Don't be afraid to send a takedown notice to content that you believe is libelous. Managing your reputation online means knowing what other people are saying about you, and you may find that your competition isn't being ethical when it talks about you. Do you see reviews that you know are obviously fake when you're managing your reputation online? Part of online reputation repair for you probably involves sending takedown notices making it clear that these defamatory statements will not be tolerated.
If your takedown notices don't work and webmasters continue to display the defamatory content, you can talk to the service provider that is currently hosting their website. Generally, these hosting companies are more than happy to remove offending content in order to avoid getting sued. As a lawyer, you'll have an advantage in this part of online reputation repair: unlike most businesses, it isn't difficult for yours to send cease and desist letters.
Lesson Three: Social Media Updates
One of the best ways to fight a campaign of negativity is to start sending out positive messaging. Managing your reputation online will be substantially easier if you already have accounts on major social network websites. You can monitor your website reputation by seeing what people are saying about you on these websites, and then you can do online reputation repair by contacting dissatisfied people and responding with empathy and concern to their complaints.
Lesson Four: Action and Distraction
Any time that you need online reputation repair, you can try managing your reputation online through strategically designed distractions. For instance, let's say that you have been hacked recently and your clients' information including addresses and some brief information on their legal problems (sent through your contact form) was compromised.
If this is the case, your first strategy for online reputation repair should be to immediately be honest about the damage and report it as quickly as possible. This show of good faith on your part goes a long way to managing your reputation online. Then, you should try to create some positive buzz for your company by releasing press releases and creating inbound links that illustrate your prowess with the law. Distractions should never be your only method of dealing with managing your reputation online, but can be a great online reputation repair tool when you're out of ideas for directly addressing the problem.
Lesson Five: Showing Your Best Side
Don't try to do online reputation repair that directly contradicts your brand image. While this may seem like a relatively obvious lesson, it's clear that many people who work on managing their reputation online haven't taken it to heart. Many firms go into a shut down, bunker mentality when online reputation repair kicks in. They start talking in vague generalities and using boilerplate language, when that's actually the worst way to go about managing your reputation online.
Instead, you need to make sure that your brand image still shows through so that your online reputation repair actually enhances your reputation overall. Be yourself, and don't let consultants tell you that the best methods for managing your reputation online involve defensiveness or trite language.
Lesson Six: Enlisting Your Past Clients
Your past clients can be some of your biggest allies in online reputation repair. If you're having problems with a disgruntled client causing trouble and giving you many negative reviews, consider talking to happy clients and asking them if they would be able to post a positive review for you.
By drowning out the negative results, your clients can make your online reputation repair job much easier. Most people won't pay much attention to a single negative review if there are dozens of positive reviews on the same site—people are smart enough to know that this is more often a reflection of the complainer than the person being complained about.
Lesson Seven: Tell the Truth
No matter what, you should always tell the truth about what happened when you're managing your reputation online. It's easier than ever for clever internet denizens to identify any misinformation and distribute it widely. You'll have a much harder time managing your reputation online if you become known for lying about what happened on your website and why it happened.
Even when the truth is hard—perhaps especially when it's hard—you need to say it. People don't always expect integrity from attorneys, and they respect heartfelt apologies and immediate owning up to the problems your website has caused.