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Four Personal Reputation Management Tips For Entrepreneurs For entrepreneurs, the stakes of "losing their face" online can lead to disastrous consequences.

By Dorothy Mitchell

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Reputation matters. Let's be honest. When customers go online looking for products and services they seek two things. First, they want to know who offers what they need. Then, there's the matter of reputation.

According to the Edelman Trust Barometer report, published in 2017, 64% of users trust what they find in search engine results when researching businesses online. What's more curious though is that 59% of users tend to believe search engines more than human editors. The wrinkle is that nearly half of all adults have found negative information about themselves online.

For entrepreneurs, the stakes of "losing their face" online can lead to disastrous consequences. CEOs and other executives have lost positions or had to do significant damage control due to poor behavior, misunderstandings, and a lack of appropriate PR strategy during a crisis. One such example is the former CEO of Uber, Travis Kalanick. He had to step down from his position under intense pressure from shareholders due to allegations of sexual harassment, controversial dealings with law enforcement, and Kalanick's reputation for combative and aggressive behavior.

As a new entrepreneur, it's important to realize that it doesn't take gross misconduct to damage your personal and your brand's reputation. A misunderstanding, honest mistake, or simply a snappy reply to an angry customer or competitor can do significant harm.

Here are some tips to help you build and manage your personal reputation effectively, and avoid hitting the news headlines for all of the wrong reasons.

1. Be active on social media, but know the boundaries It is imperative that you maintain full control over your social media presence. Even if you don't plan on being active on all social media channels, you should take steps to create accounts to that you are the owner of all accounts associated with your name and your business name.

If you don't do this, anyone can create a social media account pretending to represent you or your company. While there are ways to get these accounts closed down, it takes time. You may also find some squatters taking control of those and demanding a hefty payment to sell you those. Damage to your reputation can be significant in the meantime.

If you do have somewhat a presence though, do not follow Deceim's CEO lead and turn the company's social media accounts' into your personal space for airing the dirty laundry. Earlier this year, Brandon Truaxe fired his social media team and went rogue, putting out a series of strange posts on the Deciem Instagram account himself. These included five consecutive photos of trash (literally, garbage), a photo of a dead animal, and a slew of posts and videos awkwardly over-explaining business decisions, feuds, and company philosophies.

He later explained his behavior with the following statement: "It's my house. If someone doesn't like how I decorate my house it doesn't matter if they're my mother or a guest, they have to leave the house." Clearly, a lot of the brand's fans were lost forever after that.

Related: Three Signs You Need A Personal Twitter Account

2. Set up Google Alerts for your name and your business name You may already be using Google Alerts to track industry news, follow competitors, and stay on top of trending topics. It's also a good practice to use Google Alerts to learn about stories mentioning you and your company. This way, if something concerning breaks news, you will know about it sooner than later.

"When it comes to reputation management, timing is key", says Martin Mikeln, CEO of Eventum. "The more reactionary your response appears, the more damaging it is to your reputation. By getting ahead of these things, you can control how they unfold and avoid the dominance of conjectures in the media, instead of cold facts."

3. Be transparent and own your mistakes Part of reputation management is learning how to handle things when you or your company really has done something wrong. Once it is clear that you have made a mistake or behaved in a way that you regret, the best step forward is to take ownership and offer true transparency.

One great example comes from Lufthansa CEO, Carsten Spohr. After a Lufthansa pilot intentionally crashed a plane, killing 150 passengers, Spohr made an important first appearance. During this he displayed empathy, appropriate emotion, and offered a sincere apology even though he was not directly responsible for this terrible act.

Chipotle came under fire after multiple incidents of food poisoning. They cooperated with health agencies and investigators, closed down multiple restaurants, and made clear statements to the public about the steps they were taking to fix existing problems, and ensure safe food service in the future.

Related: Seven Ways To Own Your Online Reputation

4. Take a deep breath before communicating It happens to every business owner. You go online to find a review that isn't just negative, but dishonest and vulgar. You open your email to find a communication from a customer that is full of personal insults.

You're insulted and angry. You want to fire back. That's understandable. It's also the worst thing you can do. Communicating professionally is very critical in business and this is one of the best lessons I learnt while taking my business management masters degree. It's a piece of advice that's saved my business from crashing at least twice. Always remember the adage from Michelle Obama: "When they go low, we go high." Respond politely, matter of factly, and with facts, and do so publicly.

Managing your online reputation must be a proactive undertaking. By paying attention to news about your company and yourself, responding appropriately to problems, and exercising full control over your online presence reputation management will never become a major issue.

Related: How To Develop A Digital Presence For Professional Success

Dorothy Mitchell

Freelance Business Writer and Social Media Marketing Consultant

Dorothy Mitchell is a freelance business writer and social media marketing consultant. She has worked as a writer, researcher, social media manager and business consultant with several companies, including Fortune 500 companies like LinkedIn, Microsoft, Cisco and PepsiCo, and startups that’ll soon become big players. She has also ghost written pieces that got published in Forbes, The Economist, Entrepreneur, Inc., Content Marketing Institute, and dozens more reputable publications. Connect with her on her website, or on Twitter, @DorothyExpert.

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