"A man's reputation is not in his own keeping, but lies at the mercy of the profligacy of others." - William Hazlitt, from his essay, "Characteristics" published in 1823.
What the noted essayist and social commentator wrote 190 years ago holds true today, not just for people, but for businesses, organizations and institutions at all levels as well. What we have control over is what we do and how well we do it. What we have no control over is what people say about us.
News Travels Fast, Bad News Travels Faster
In Hazlitt's day, news and word-of-mouth traveled much slower than today. If someone started a rumor about someone, alluding to some impropriety or aberrant behavior, they could easily become the "talk of the town." They would have had more of a fighting chance back then to address the rumor before thousands or millions of people heard about it. Not so today with Youtube, Twitter, and dozens of social network sites.
What is said about us, our products, our services, our employees, or even our place of business could have devestating effects on the bottom line. And it doesn't even have to be something based in fact to get airplay. So, it makes a great deal of sense to become aware of the chatter before it becomes a buzz. A good place to start is to know what people, companies and others know or can find out about us today.
1. What do people and firms know about us?
There are several ways to find out what the world knows about us, ranging from conducting Internet searches and research ourselves, to hiring experts who will do it for us.
I like the idea of bringing in the experts, as long as the benefits outweigh the cost. While the real cost of a bad reputation can be quite high, spending money when everything seems OK is hard to do.
2. Where do we find experts?
The good news is there are many. For this article, we decided to try one that offers a free basic service for individuals that is focused on information privacy. The more information we provide to this service, the more helpful the system is in giving us a picture of where our information is being maintained.
We were amazed to discover an unknown email address attributed to us, tied to a personal phone number and outdated street address. For a small annual fee, we can have this incorrect information deleted, and that's exactly what we did. It also gives us the ability to hide personal data, something many professionals in the medical and legal professions find absolutely imperative, not to mention law enforcement.
3. What else can we do to protect our information?
The service we used provides the ability to update several marketers and other sources of addresses, phone numbers and other personal data, and it monitors that information to make sure what is deleted stays deleted.
We also updated the National Do Not Call Registry, which is a listing of phone numbers that telemarketers are blocked from calling, and something called the OptOutPreScreen.com, which is a centralized service to process requests to "Opt-In" or “Opt-Out” of offers of credit or insurance. Both of these are sites you can visit without paying for a service.
Another thing that we did is set up Google alerts, which are periodic emails sent to us to let us know when Google finds new webpages, articles or blogs containing certain key words we identify as important to us. We set up several and receive daily emails highlighting any occurances. The key words can be anything, including the names of people and businesses.
4. How do these services help me avoid negative content about me or my business?
The truth is they really don't. What they do is generate positive content to help offset the negative, and hopefully reduce the prpobability that the negative content will be the first thing people find when they search for information about you. That content is created in a variety of ways, and we will get into that in a future post. In other words, generating positive feedback and comments are a good way to help you keep your good name in the spotlight.
5. So, what should I be doing to keep the information about me positive?
At Rollins, we believe there is no substitute for excellent service. Keeping your clients informed of any changes that could affect them, providing them with services and products that help them to be successful, and exceeding expectations at every opportunity are positive steps you can take right now. And it doesn't hurt to ask for feedback. We do.
6. Where can I find more information on Reputation Risk?
You can always talk to us, but you can also visit our resource page, Risky Business, where we have compiled valuable information on a variety of business and personal risks. At Rollins, everything we do is focused on helping our clients protect themselves and their loved ones.
It is very important to read your policies! Most policy holders really do not do that. Insurance policies are filled with terminology that gives coverage and areas where they take it away. This can be done with the use of exclusions. One of those exclusions is attached below. It limits your general liability coverage to just your designated premises (insurance jargon for the location listed on your policy). Most, if not all, not for profits have multiple outside operations and/or events. You want to make sure your coverage extends to cover those exposures. So check your policy to see if this endorsement or one similar is on your policy. If so, you need to call your broker, agent or insurance company and have it removed. Typically there should not be a change to do this. In the event you have multiple special events you may want to look into additional protection such as event cancellation coverage.
Limitation of Coverage to Designated Premises or Project