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Online Reputation Managers

The Job

Embarrassing photos from spring break. A host of negative reviews about a bakery that just opened. A youthful mug shot. A critical blog. A message board filled with lies about a Fortune 1000 company that ranks higher than the actual company’s Web site on search engine results. These are the types of issues that hiring managers, college admissions officers, and potential and current customers sometimes encounter when they search on a person’s or a company’s name on the Internet. Faced with negative information on social media, many people and businesses try to scrub these potentially harmful posts from the Web, but they soon find it’s very hard to wipe one’s online slate clean. Or, as the New York Times, puts it, “the incriminating data has embedded itself into the nether reaches of cyberspace, etched into archives, algorithms, and a web of hyperlinks.”

Enter online reputation managers (ORMs), who identify negative information on social media, attempt to bury it (or move it down in search engine results) by replacing it with positive or neutral content, and continue to monitor their client’s social media presence to ensure that no negative material appears or reappears.

Although duties vary by the type and size of the firm, typical responsibilities for ORMs include:

  • performing an audit of the online profiles of new customers to determine what issues (e.g., negative customer reviews, offensive posts, incriminating photos, old court records, etc.) need to be addressed
  • when inaccurate information is presented about their client, contacting Web sites to request that the information be removed
  • using search engine optimization techniques to help positive stories about their client and other content rank higher in popular search engines such as Google, and, conversely, moving down negative mentions
  • creating high-quality content (text, videos, photographs, podcasts, etc.) and updating existing content about their client that will rank high in search engine results
  • creating blogs and other social media sites that provide positive coverage of their client
  • working with clients to connect to customers who have posted a negative review for the client’s products or services that was warranted; the ORM might suggest that the client first apologize for the issue, then offer a refund, a discount on future purchases, or other incentives to keep his or her business
  • sharing positive reviews and comments about their client with a larger audience via Twitter, Facebook, or their client’s Web site
  • developing and maintaining online press kits and press rooms
  • contacting bloggers to educate them about their client’s products or services or good works and requesting coverage
  • helping manage reputation crises that are being discussed online (e.g., an auto manufacturer with a massive product recall, a Fortune 500 CEO who has received a DUI, a Senate candidate who has been accused of adultery, etc.)