But Online Reputation Management is not merely about removing or burying negative references. Considering the proliferation of professionals who are attempting to do just that, the time has come to provide a more inclusive picture. To start with, for individuals or businesses to lose reputation, they need to possess reputation in the first place! This is why it has become crucial for companies as well as individuals to ensure that they distinctly stand for something unique.
It's possible to be cynical about the whole personal branding industry, which took off in the wake of a seminal article by Tom Peters in Fast Company magazine in 1997, but one can be at peace if it's understood as nothing more fancy than individuals taking care to ensure that they're perceived for what they really stand for. So if you know who's the authentic you and what is it that you represent, you can pay attention to all the components _ your gait, your talk, your personal bearing _ which go into making others understand you. This requires some discipline. And in reality, it's much different than the popular impression that personal branding is all about pretending to be someone you're not.
For companies as well as brands, this is all the more important. Only if a brand is known to stand for something authentic, can it make that connection which creates loyal followers. And if a brand has that emotional connect with its loyal customers, then it becomes easier for it to draw support when it's facing a threat to its reputation. So online or offline, reputation has to exist first for it to be salvaged when faced with a threat. Therefore, to understand reputation management merely as a firefighting to be done in emergencies is totally misleading. To gain a deeper understanding of the subject, we've to do an overview of the theory of reputation as understood by economists. I hope to take up that soon. Once that's done, I will take up the mechanisms through which reputation is nurtured in the first place, and then consider the tools available for a professional to confront the assaults on reputation.