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Can LinkedIn Help Boost Your Reputation?

Most people think of LinkedIn as a job-hunting tool. But it can do so much more. In fact, LinkedIn could be a key part of your social media reputation management toolkit. Here's why.

LinkedIn gives you all sorts of spots for keywords. You can put them in your biography, in your job descriptions and in your volunteering notes. If you're trying to attach something like "professional" to your name, you could add that word all over your LinkedIn profile. And you could get results you just couldn't get in any other way.

Also, LinkedIn provides you with another opportunity to grab a high-value search engine result. If people search for your name and your location, a link from LinkedIn might be the first thing they see. And since your profile is full of good stuff, like proof of employment and votes of confidence from peers, it could be a link you'll love for people to click on.

So clearly, LinkedIn is a great resource for reputation management. But it only works if it's set up properly. Stuff your profile with lies, or pack your entries with curses or misspellings, and you could do your reputation much more harm than good. 

Reviewed by author: Ashley Adams

5 Reasons Why You Shouldn't Screen Employees on Social Media

If you're planning to add employees to your company this year, you're probably planning to brush up on your social media skills. After all, in a CareerBuilder survey, 43 percent of employers admitted that they used sites like Facebook and Twitter to check out candidates before they threw out a job offer. It just seems smart to weed out the dangerous types before any money is on the table.

And it might seem strange, since I am in the reputation management business, to hear me say that I think you shouldn't use social sites for screening. In fact, I think it's one of the worst things you can do to protect your business.

And here's why, in five sweet statements.

1. What you think of as a gaffe may not be your employee's fault.

When you see something risqué on a site like Facebook, you probably assume that the person who put the thing there just doesn't care about his/her reputation at all. You probably think of that little bit of nastiness as something that the person is proud of. And that might keep you from offering that person a job.

But in reality, social sites can change super frequently. And that means the things your potential employees post might seem private, or be intended for private consumption, but the site's shifting privacy settings might expose what's meant to be hidden.

Don't believe me? Check out this study. While researchers found that Facebook users were trying hard to lock down their data and keep hidden things hidden, the site was consistently exposing data and sharing more. People wanted less. More came out.

So perhaps the stuff you're seeing isn't due to negligence at all. Perhaps it's due to the site and its shifting rules. Is it fair to penalize a person for something like that?

2. Some posts just aren't that bad, once you know the context.

Let me give you a scenario. Suppose you know that I am an ardent supporter of dog rescue. You know that I love my dog more than my life. And let's say that you see a photo on my Twitter feed of me seeming to throttle my dog with the caption, "He's being bad!" You'd know that I was kidding. The context would be there.

Now, let's assume that you know zip about me and you see that same photo. What would you assume? You'd probably assume that I am a dog-hating killer. And that might keep you from giving me a job.

Context really is king, when it comes to social posts, and a lot of that is stripped away when you're looking at information from a person you've never met. If you do social background checks, you're depriving yourself of context.

3. In some states, social sniffing isn't quite legal.
Anyone can hop online and check out a person's social sites. As long as the data is out there, it's fine for you to look at it. But, checking out a candidate on a social site could expose your company to discrimination lawsuits.

An article by the Society for Human Resource Management outlines this issue quite well. Here, the writers point out that an employer could spot all sorts of things on a social search that might never come up in an interview, including a same-sex marriage or an impending baby adoption. If that employer doesn’t offer the person a job, that person could claim that the information caused the job loss. And that's a hard claim to defend against, since the employer did know about the issue via a social post.

No one likes to get sued. Even if you win, you might still get stuck with fees and fines. And you might miss out on work because you'll be required to attend to the legal issue day in and day out. If you really want to stay out of the courtroom, staying off of social just seems wise.

4. Digital doppelgängers are common.

If you're searching for a job applicant on social, chances are that you're running a search with a name and a location. And it's pretty likely you're going to get people who have the same name.

The very addictive site suggests that there are all sorts of people who have the same name. There are 106 people named Harry Potter, for example, and 451 people named George Bush. There just aren't that many name combinations to go around in the world. And not everyone uses a social signal you can identify, like a photo. That could mean you're investigating the wrong person, and the data you're pulling could be totally worthless.

5. You could be eliminating your best employees.

Clearly, social data isn't the best kind of data to use when you're trying to make a crucial decision, like who to hire to help your company grow. And if that's the key metric you're using in order to boost your company's success, you could be doing a lot more harm than good. It's best to stick to the tried and true. Your company will benefit. 

Reviewed by author: Ashley Adams

Is an Apology Really Best for Bill O'Reilly's Reputation?

Another month, another news reporter scandal. This time, Bill O'Reilly of Fox News is in the crossfire due to allegations of truth stretching and unusual reporting. Now, people are wondering what he should do to answer questions, overcome challenges and keep his reputation intact.

When this happened to Brian Williams, I wrote up a little column containing tidbits of advice I thought he might follow to get back on track (you can read that piece right here). In that column, I suggested that an accurate apology full of sincerity should be Job 1 for Williams.

A recent Media Matters survey suggests that some 31 percent of people think O'Reilly should do the same, if he is (indeed) guilty of stretching the truth about his past.

But is that the right approach for this news anchor? I'm not so sure.

Why Not Apologize?

I think of an apology as a long-game strategy. A person who apologizes for a major gaffe is setting the scene for a recovery that might be months or even years away. The apology doesn't really repair the damage as much as signal to the world that the person who has made the gaffe is really sorry and will work harder in the future. Then, that person heads off into the sunset to do the hard work of regaining trust.

This is the William's model. While his apology fell flat at the time (partly because it didn't contain enough of a real sense of regret), he followed up that statement by taking a leave of absence (and a suspension), and he really hasn't been seen since. He could be planning to come back when that suspension is over with a whole new work ethos. His apology sets the stage for that comeback.

But O'Reilly might not need to go away and then come back. Researchers suggest that his ratings are higher now than they have ever been, particularly among people in his network's key demographic. That seems to suggest that people are already inclined to forgive him, whether he makes any kind of statement about the issue or not. They're not abandoning him in a real sense, so he may not need to pacify them with an apology.

Also, it's important to remember that O'Reilly's core fans like him to be a little bit feisty. They're accustomed to watching him speak off the cuff about current events, and they're used to watching him mix the personal and the professional. They might feel like they know him on a personal level, and they might root for his success because he seems like a friend.

To loyal viewers like this, an attack in Mother Jones isn't a threat to O'Reilly's credibility. It's an example of the sorts of issues O'Reilly has been hinting at for years. If he apologizes, that could anger some viewers who don't want liberal reports to gain traction. An apology would be a betrayal.

What to Do Instead?

When it comes to reputation management, knowing your audience is absolutely vital. And O'Reilly seems to know his audience quite well. However, he still has a reputation problem to get over. There's damage done, and work to do. Here are three things I think he could do right now to make his situation better.

1. Don't threaten people.

In the immediate aftermath of the Mother Jones report, O'Reilly made some rash statements about the reporter, and in one notorious instance, he made what sounded a little like a threat. That's never a smart idea.

When it comes to reputation problems, it's ideal to make the issue die down as fast as possible. A threat is news, and it keeps the story alive. O'Reilly should look for ways to keep his temper under control, speaking only about his feelings and his work, without stooping to threaten others.

2. Find a way to discuss the issue.

If no apology is needed, O'Reilly could simply discuss how the issue came about. He might sit down for an informal Q&A with his co-hosts and outline what he was thinking about when he discussed or wrote about foreign conflicts. He might outline his credentials and service to his country, and discuss how his need to be heard might have made him exaggerate a few things. He might just work to explain and minimize, rather than apologize, and that could put the issue to rest.

3. Give back to wounded parties.

Like Williams, O'Reilly's statements seem most offensive to people who have served in the military or who have seen action in an overseas conflict. By claiming he did things he did not, he seems to disrespect the contributions of people who did make huge sacrifices for home and country.

O'Reilly should find a way to give back to these communities directly, either by volunteering time or money. There's no need to do a big PR campaign that shouts his contributions from the mountaintops, but his presence or his money could spark an underground PR campaign that could really help. People who benefit might speak up about it, and organizations might do the same.

This kind of work could help to imply that O'Reilly really cares about the people he's harmed, and that could remove the taint of anger people have about this issue.

When to Start

The sooner that O'Reilly starts on this reputation campaign, the better. Even now, reporters are looking for more examples of things he said that aren't quite true, and the more he responds to those accusations with threats, the worse it might get. By putting this plan in place now, he could get the recovery that, up to now, he's only dreamed of.

Did I miss any steps? Please share them in the comments section. 

Reviewed by author: Ashley Adams


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