“Reputation, Reputation, Reputation!

O, I have lost my reputation! I have lost the immortal part of myself, and what remains is bestial.” So says Cassio in Shakespeare’s Othello. We all care about our reputations, and feel slandered when our reputations come under attack. Yet, when asked to define reputation, we are left nonplussed. We have a vague idea of reputation – for Cassio, it is “the immortal part” of himself. That ethereal description is of little use when we’re trying to pin down just what we mean when we say “my reputation.”

Recently, the popular online reputation management company ReputationDefender re-branded as simply Reputation.com, Inc. They own that url as well, in case you were wondering. Now, I’m not going to come down on Reputation.com for taking the obvious next step in their brand evolution, but I do believe it is a sign of the times when “online reputation” is seen as more or less interchangeable with plain old “reputation” – at least for the thousands who are using sites such as Reputation.com.

What exactly is the relationship between our real or perceived reputations and our online reputations? Does it matter what your Google search ranking is? Can you be assured that the libelous remarks made about you on Ripoffreport.com will be ignored by future employers or employees? Will having a Facebook account open to both friends and coworkers be risky? Is it more important to manage your LinkedIn profile than to write a traditional CV?

The answer to all these questions (except for the first one) is: maybe. It depends. It depends on your age, it depends on your job, it depends on who your friends are and it depends on what you’ve done, both online and offline. One size does not fit all.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/sooperkuh

Our President and CEO Peter Morrissey discussed the inability to “scrub your online reputation clean” on his blog, Reputation Excellence. There is no $20 a month reset button. However, rest assured, there are many things you can do to make sure you keep your online properties relatively unoffensive.

But regardless, it is unhealthy for us to regard our “online reputations” as the same thing as the real deal, the Real McCoy, our actual worldly Reps. You are what you do, and you are what you say, and part of that is how you behave online, but it isn’t the whole story. We don’t judge the President by his Twitter account, after all. We judge him by his actions and his words.

So don’t get all in a fret when you see something untrue show up on some blog or message board or (God forbid) the Twittersphere. At the end of the day, the internet is a big place, and we represent just small bunches of data. If the online world is giving you a headache, spend some more time doing good in the offline world and you might just find it rewarding.

Reputation, reputation, reputation. There’s more to it than Googling your name. So step outside, breathe some fresh air, and start clean.

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