Opinions, they say, are like assholes. Everybody has one.
Doesn’t make them right. But people are seldom eager to back down. Sometimes it’s pride (no one wants to admit they’re wrong). Other times, it’s deeply-held beliefs (no one will ever yield on those).
There’s nothing new about having opinions, although the ability to express them was limited. Historically, publishers and wealthy patrons decided who had something worth saying and provided a podium to reach a broad audience, usually through printed words.
Technology changed all that. Today, anybody with a few bucks can create a blog to speak their mind. Chat rooms abound. Some websites and even online versions of mainstream media encourage comments from anyone who wishes.
Is this adding to our wisdom? Or simply providing an opportunity to vent?
Consider Wikipedia, the “free encyclopedia that anyone can edit.” There’s an underlying — and questionable — assumption that many small bits of knowledge and opinion somehow translate into a profound increase in wisdom.
Wikipedia is at its worst in a controversy. Those most likely to make revisions have vested interests — either to tout themselves or disparage opponents. Neither provides clarity or gets us closer to the truth.
In frequent back-and-forth revisions, Wikipedia’s solution is to freeze the page. No one can make further edits. The latest revisions are enshrined. Doesn’t matter whether they’re true, or not.
Online reputation damage is frequent.
“Look at the terrible things they said about me on Yelp!”
“They hijacked my Wikipedia page. How do I fix it?”
You have limited weapons.
- Legal action in egregious cases, but you run up against free speech and fair comment rules.
- Reverse SEO. Flood the internet with positive or neutral pages, and push the negative to the second page of Google. But it’s not a onetime fix. You must keep it up, and that costs.
- Taking the fight to a different venue, such as supportive websites or mainstream media. But this feeds your enemy’s ego and makes him redouble his efforts. It can come back to bite you.
- Letting it run its course. The most painful option. But even your most persistent nemesis will weary, especially if you don’t give him the satisfaction of knowing he’s under your skin.
So pick your fights carefully. Preferably ones you can win.
“Because Reputation Is Your Most Valuable Asset”
Gillott Communications is a Strategic PR firm. We’re Fixers. Crisis & Reputation Management. Litigation. Media Relations. Crisis Preparation & Training. You can reach Roger Gillott directly at 310-826-8696.
If you don’t already subscribe, please sign up for our blog, Insights on High-Stakes PR.
For a deeper glimpse into our world, see our book on Amazon, “A Lawyer’s Guide to Crisis PR: Protecting Your Clients In & From the Media.”
Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net