There is obviously a great deal of power in being able to hide certain search results from the majority of searchers. With this power however, comes great responsibility. This responsibility becomes even more important if one considers that there are currently no guidelines to help guide us through the murky waters of morality. Reputation Management online is therefore akin to the wild wild west … the rancher with the most money calls the shots!

Since its left to our own individual tolerances and thresholds, it begs the question; at what point are you selling out the greater good for a few measley dollars? How do you decide as a business entity when these lines are crossed?

These are questions that each and every company that engages in reputation management must consider. Now we have an idea what defense attorneys have to contend with.

Baby Cigarette Soothers

This all became abundantly clear to me after a situation we faced just the other day. Let me just say this was one exceptionally deceptive firm.

Sure we could easily 'bump' the negative pieces down in the search results and make a tidy little profit as a result, but why? There wasn't just one or two such negative pieces … there were MANY! Who are we to help countless more hundreds of people get bilked out of their hard earned money? Don't we have a responsibility to do what's right?

Now, I can understand one or even two negative posts. Virtually every company is bound to get one at some point in time, for numerous reasons. Sometimes, just sometimes, clients are unreasonable. Look no further than TripAdvisor for proof … you know, the kind who say "my room was terrible. I expected Crystal champagne beside my bed every night, and paid a whole $13/night"..

In the end, we felt it best if we declined this potential client's business, and left them to deal with the consequences of their actions. I've heard it said time and time again, "those who do not learn from history, are doomed to repeat it!", so I want to help them learn.

I would hope that there are many others out there with the same intolerance of "fraudulent" behaviour! Many with the same refusal to "be bought".

That said, I'd like to introduce the concept of a Reputation Management Code of Ethics. Ultimately though, I need input from all of you.

Would you sign such a document?
Do you care?
At what point (explain), would you not accept a reputation management client?

If you do care, then this document must be created by many based on your opinions above, and not just by one person or entity.

So, please let me know your thoughts.

Francaise: Quand la Gestion de la Réputation Devient-Elle Malhonnête? Un Cas pour le Code d’Éthique

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13 Responses to “When Does Reputation Management Become Unethical? The Case for a Code of Ethics!”

  1. SEO Diva says:

    Kudos for turning the potential client down!

    It may be hard to put together a code of ethics, since the reason a business needs reputation management can depend upon a lot of different factors. I think it's an individual decision on what you're comfortable with.

    I had to do reputation management for a client of a company I used to work for, and I felt like the sleaze had rubbed off on me by the end of the campaign. No more of that!

  2. Utah SEO says:

    So where do I get one of those cigarette pacifier?

  3. Jordan, you need the pacifier with a bottle of beer attached to the other end of it. And not that watered down Utah beer. :-)

    I agree with SEO Diva in that it will always have to be a personal decision. There are always two sides to every story and i have yet to talk to a ORM prospect that was not completely innocent of course. I have turned people away because of ethics and will not hesitate to again. I think that it becomes pretty obvious when there are tons of complaints in the first few pages of Google.

  4. Online reputation management services are part of our core services and i got to admit that at times, we find ourselves dealing with clients that are really disappointing in their services and resulted in negatives results every now and then. What can we say. This is business.
    Anna Nguyen

  5. It is difficult to input moral values when running a business. Unless the nature of the client's business will bring harm to many in terms of health, money or relations, we normally do not reject our clients.
    Rif Chia

  6. Milind Mody says:

    I would think ORM is similar to Crisis management (a service many PR firms offer)?

    Do PR firms have code of ethics? I don't know. But it really depends on an individual/ company whether to take an account or not. As others here, we have also declined some projects because we were not comfortable with what we were asked to do.

    But do we really need a code of ethics? I really don't know :)

  7. [...] blog. Or you can subscribe to a combined news feed for all SMM publications. Thanks for visiting!When Does Reputation Management Become Unethical? That is an interesting question posed by Jeff Quipp of Search Engine People. There is obviously a [...]

  8. Hats off to you for for not aiding and abetting! Personal integrity has to play a role in ones business dealings, and some wrongs just can't be covered up.

  9. Jason Kuiper says:

    Code of ethics and business are like oil and water. There is soo much greed, and no one cares about the guy next to them!

  10. I known for being overly emotional. I know it is said to have no place in business. I'd like to think that social media, is considered a business platform, that allows that notion to change. Because it's one platform, where people share, communicate, and interact. It involves emotion for many of us.

    I know it was just a visual wake up call, but it's difficult to see, for example, without getting emotional.

    Thinking of all the babies who are already breathing in second hand smoke, and the companies that make them who just don't care.

    Yes, Jeff, sometimes, as hard as it may be, it would be nice to think that what's 'right' will win out. Becaue, as what's wrong keeps winning, it simply continues to flourish, grow, expand, and devour.

    Ultimately, when this happens, much good that could have come of it, is crushed. And we are left at home behind our morning coffee cups, reading the newspaper, wondering how the world became so riddled with lack of humanity.

    It is painful to watch it as it is happening, even in our personal affairs, and not be able to do a thing about it.

    Good post Jeff. Thanks.

  11. [...] Written November 20th, 2008 by Jeff Quipp, Search Engine People.  [...]

  12. [...] I agree with her thoughts in a subsequent post that she wrote that ideas like those expressed in the following post from Search Engine People need to be much more widespread: When Does Reputation Management Become Unethical? The Case for a Code of Ethics! [...]

  13. [...] Search Engine People asks "when does reputation management become unethical"? [...]