- 1 -
How to Save Your Online Reputation
By Jon Bernstein
published on BNET.com 10/06/2009
David Brown, a former security services executive working in education, had no idea how many
enemies he had until a magazine Web site published a review of his book in 2006. Seeing the
review, a former employee whom Brown had fired seized the opportunity to start a bitter smear
campaign. Vitriolic comments began to appear after Brown's book review, calling him a liar, a cheat,
questioning his work ethic, and accusing the married father of three of an affair.
Men and women claiming to know Brown (not his real name), either from previous work or
personally, started to weigh in with nasty comments. Some said he had ruined their life; others
accused him of lack of integrity. All anonymously, of course. "It then became open season for anyone
with the tiniest grudge," says Brown.
Even when the magazine publisher erased the forum from its site, anyone who Googled Brown's
name or his book would be presented with an ever-expanding list of comments that damaged his
professional and personal reputation, as well as sales of his book. Ultimately, Brown had to approach
Google HQ directly to erase the offending section from its server.
Brown's story is far from isolated. Author Alain de Botton's personal attack on The New York Times
reviewer Caleb Crain is a reminder of how easily the personal and professional can collide online.
Jimmy Wales, a co-founder of online encyclopedia Wikipedia, used an entry on his site to effectively
break up with his girlfriend. She retaliated by (literally) selling his dirty laundry on eBay. Their spat
became a spectator sport throughout the blogosphere.
Like it or not, social networking sites and blogs are making the private all the more public. You
may have a smaller digital footprint than Jimmy Wales, but negative comments can spread quickly
beyond your personal network to damage your life and your career. It's your reputation. Better to be
Things you will need:
Money: $500 - $1,200+ a day i