When you put yourself or your company out in the public eye, it is inevitable that you will receive criticism from at least one person. And people can just be down right cruel! However, putting yourself out there is a part of business, and you just have to learn to properly manage, monitor, and protect your reputation.
Constantly monitor your company, content, brand, product, and employees because if there happens to be a problem, you can address it immediately. When a negative comment or search result (or whatever your case may be) occurs, your first priority should be to determine whether it is legitimate or not.
In other words, if you or your business is at fault in any way, admit it. It will do no good to defend your wrong since the truth always comes out. Unfortunately, there are cases when someone is blatantly trying to attack you.
In cases like this, you need to prove the negativity wrong. Make sure the positive outshines the negative. Build your community and get involved in it to ensure that you always have positive feedback coming in.
If the negativity persists, go directly to it. In the above WPN video from PubCon 2008, Lee Odden of TopRank Online Marketing Blog says you should try to turn your haters into “evangelists.” You want to consult with them in a reasonable and respectable manner, so they will do the same with you.
There are many tools available to assist you as you track and monitor your reputation. Google Alerts and Yahoo! Alerts are a good place to start. For social media tracking, check out this list of 26 free tools from Andy Beal of Marketing Pilgrim.
If you would like more information on online reputation monitoring and management, you can visit Social Media Smarts to learn about a 2 day workshop on social media being offered by the Direct Marketing Association in partnership with TopRank Online Marketing.