I think everyone these days could use a PR firm. Unlike any other time before the Internet, we have the power to say whatever is on our mind in an instant. No longer a problem for the famous, now anyone can say something that could at best make them look bad or at worst destroy their life. I love YouTube for mostly makeup tutorials and cooking shows. Lately my YouTube feed has been drowning in people with drama. The drama is entertaining, but what I want to point out is how a person can really ruin their reputation using social media. This is not a post on how to use social media. There are already too many of those articles out there. What I want to talk about is reputation management for the average person.
Yes, YOU could use a PR firm. However, as with most people you cannot afford their services. There is a way you can do your own reputation management. In this article I’ll list some tips that you can use to protect your reputation online and what to do if you make a mistake.
How does someone protect their reputation preemptively? It goes back to something my dad told me a long time ago before the Internet. He said, “Don’t leave anything you don’t want someone to know in writing.” The cliché, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” applies here too. Many times people post stuff they regret when they’re angry. Putting anything on the Internet leaves a trail behind. So how do you stop yourself from putting something in anger on the Internet? The way I do it is to apply the same strategy I do with arguing with someone. That is stepping away before you say something hurtful. If the only thing I can say is something nasty, I wait until I think more clearly about things before I talk to the person. If you don’t, even if you work things out, the only thing the other person remembers are the hurtful things you said. If you’re ready to spout something off in the heat of the moment on social media, step away from the keyboard.
What if you already said something you wish you could take back? The first thing you might think of doing is to delete the post. I don’t recommend this because it makes you look worse. Even if you did manage to delete the post, many people have already made a screen shot and will bring it back to haunt you. When you delete a post it shows you are trying to hide something. Own that you said something you wish you could take back. Then apologize. I’m not talking once. Dr. Peter Sandman suggests if you did something wrong, you apologize over and over again until the audience is satisfied. His article titled, “Saying you’re sorry” goes through the five steps. Even though the article is written for a company, I believe the same steps apply to anyone. It may not seem fair, but when you pay your penance until the audience is satisfied, you may get out of the situation ahead.
One thing I won’t suggest here is to stop using social media. It’s a great way to get ideas out there. When posting articles I make sure I am fully comfortable with what I’m posting. There are lines I won’t cross. When in doubt, don’t post. If you think a pseudonym protects you, they don’t. They just slow down the process of figuring out your identity. Also, I only mentioned text or video commentary in this article. Pictures are even more devastating when you post something inappropriate. With pictures, if you don’t want your coworkers (or grandparents) to see it, leave it off the Internet.
Showing restraint with stuff you post on the Internet is the best way to protect your reputation. If you do that, then the PR firm won’t be necessary.