Defending online reputation requires foresight, action

February 1, 2011

Defending one's online honor begins long before someone posts a cyber-slam, according to several experts who spoke at Cosmetic Surgery Forum 2010 in Las Vegas in December.

Key Points

Las Vegas - Defending one's online honor begins long before someone posts a cyber-slam, according to several experts who spoke at Cosmetic Surgery Forum 2010 in Las Vegas in December.

"Many people don't think about their online reputation until something happens that tarnishes it," says Arthur C. Huntley, M.D., clinical professor of dermatology, University of California, Davis.

Whether it's smartphone-enabled price comparisons one can perform at a local store or doctor-shopping via one's laptop, he says, "The Internet is changing things very quickly, especially the way we buy things."

Moreover, the Internet itself has changed, Dr. Niamtu says. The Internet of the 1990s was essentially "a jumble of one-way communication, but today's Internet is user-friendly and interactive. Inexperienced users can go to numerous sites and, in minutes, post their content for the world to see," he says.

However, he says, "One of the most confounding problems with rating sites is that they allow anonymous rating. This opens the door for bad reviews from disgruntled patients who may overdramatize a problem," or from competitors or anyone else carrying a grudge - justified or not.

Proactive means prepared

"Rather than waiting for something to happen, get out ahead of that process and establish your presence on some of these new media sites, such as Facebook and Twitter. Start driving the conversation yourself," says Marcus Schmidt, vice-president of product innovations for Infogroup, a marketing consultancy based in Omaha, Neb.

Mr. Schmidt also suggests starting a blog to showcase one's work and patient successes. Other strategies include implementing a custom YouTube channel featuring interviews with your patients. With such information in place, if a negative comment pops up, "You've already established a baseline of positive content," he says.

Dr. Huntley suggests that physicians "gather information that will make for a positive content display, starting with something as simple as your curriculum vitae." Other tidbits include a description of your practice environment and any news releases or unique educational material you've generated, plus positive reviews from patients and colleagues.

According to Mr. Schmidt, sympathetic third parties can help a great deal. Along with customers, he says, other physicians, practitioners and business partners can tell your story on your behalf by posting comments about their experiences with your practice on your Facebook page or their own blogs. "Recruit these people early on. It's harder to recruit them on demand, when suddenly you find you need them," Mr. Schmidt says.

And once you've gathered appropriate content, Dr. Huntley says, "Consult the professionals - those are the people who can make that material work."

Hire a pro

One vendor of online reputation management ( http://stellarreputations.com/) offers "negative reputation repair" for as little as $100 monthly. For this amount, the company pledges to remove negative press from the first page of search engine results, a process that can take six months.

Mr. Schmidt says companies such as Reputation Defender charge annual fees that can reach $10,000, depending on a business's needs, to monitor the Internet for clients. While this may sound pricey, he notes, "One negative review can take your whole practice down if it's not monitored appropriately."

For practices that choose not to purchase these services, he recommends setting up free tools, such as Google Alerts, to become notified about your industry, business and locality.