Managing Your Online Reputation

Concern about reputation is a barrier for many organizations and individuals preventing them from fully harnessing the power of Web 2.0 technologies.  Consider the Oscar Wilde quote that says:

“One can survive everything nowadays, except death, and live down anything, except a good reputation.”

So clearly having your personal reputation or your organization’s reputation blemished is a serious matter to be reckoned with.  Many organizations are struggling with how to develop policy around rules of conduct for when disgruntled employees inflict damage on their reputation.  Because of this, there’s a cottage industry of businesses that have popped up to repair what turned out to be damaged company reputations.  Here, I will speak to what you can do an individual to take responsibility to manage your own online reputation.

Perhaps you think this isn’t important to you.  Perhaps you are even unaware that this is a problem to be reckoned with.  Any Ostrich with his head in the sandexecutive or leader reading this should get their head out of the sand and wake up to the urgency that demands that we become proactive about our reputation. Furthermore, the carefree youth today may want to take an opportunity to NOT learn the hard way, by losing professional opportunities due to the apathy experienced in early life.

In an August 2009 article, New York Times reported that employers are starting to use Social Networking to check out job applicants.   The article reports the results of a June 2009 survey that Harris Interactive did on behalf of

§  Forty-five percent of employers use social networking sites to research job candidates

§  Eleven percent plan to use these techniques for screening

§  Industries that specialize in technology and sensitive information are most likely to screen job candidates via social networking sites or online search engines


The survey results also reported that when employers did NOT chose a candidate for a job, the reasons were most likely as follows when the potential employee:

·         Posted inappropriate photographs or information – 53%

·         Posted content about them drinking or using drugs – 44%

·         Bad-mouthed previous employer, co-workers or clients – 35%

·         Showed poor communication skills – 29%

·         Made discriminatory comments – 26%

·         Lied about qualifications – 24%

·         Shared confidential info from previous employer – 20%


You still don’t think this blog is about you? Do you? Let me bust some myths.


Myth (1): I don’t even use this social networking junk, that’s for kids.  So, I don’t have a problem.


I did a search on the name of one of my 10 favorite NASA CIOs “Chris Kemp” … the first hit? Mug shots! How does one cope with this? Well, there’s a comedy bit out there where a spouse gets caught in a compromising situation face-to-face with their spouse.  They simply insist “Baby, that wasn’t me!” Well, you can try that because it may work.  Or you can do what Chris does and use his middle initial.  There’s lots of good content about “Chris C. Kemp.”


Myth (2): Look, I am a seasoned user of this technology; I have enough sense to know what to say and what not to say?


I have a wonderful tech-savvy geezer colleague who truly understands these things.  He hooked up with the wrong “intelligent” application on a popular social networking site.  So, I sent him a message that went something like this:


Diva: “Dude? XXX movies??”

Geezer: “Huh?”


Diva:”Can you just take that stuff down?”

Geezer:”Ok I took it down, but that wasn’t me!!”


Myth (3): See, that’s why I have personal and private accounts … I keep it separate!


NY Times reported a case of a police officer who had a little fun talking trash on MySpace.  Well, that locker room banter crept into his professional life and affected the outcome of the cases he worked on.  The fact that it was a separate private account, didn’t affect his outcome professionally.


So, what’s person to do?  Here are three tips:


(1)   Defend against any possibility of bad content by overwhelming it with good content.


Use the superpowers of Web 2.0 for good.  Even though what’s out there is more or less permanent, overwhelm the bad content with intentional good content.  Use professional sites to do networking in your field.  If you wondered about the advantages of doing a professional blog, here’s one for sure.  You can also comment on other people’s blog.  Another possibility is to use micro blogging sites like Twitter to establish a professional reputation.  Be careful not to overdo it.  Too much content casts doubt about what your professional priorities are.


(2)   Actively monitor content about yourself.


You can set options in various search engines to alert you when there is new content posted with your name.  Ignorance can be bliss, but in this environment, it’s not. You need to at a minimum be aware of what is out there.


(3)   Private is private, but there is no personal.  Everything is public on the information super highway!


Many social networking sites are increasing their functionality to provide more privacy.  Leverage these capabilities.  It won’t hurt to initially be an observer on the side line before you jump in.  You can learn from others. 


Now just in case you think this blog isn’t about you, here are some final results of the Harris Interactive survey.  Eighteen percent of employers reported they have found content on social networking sites that caused them to hire the candidate:


·         Candidate’s profile provided a good feel for the candidate’s personality and fit – 50%

·         Candidate’s profile supported their professional qualifications – 39%

·         Candidate was creative – 38%

·         Candidate showed solid communication skills – 35%

·         Candidate was well-rounded – 33%

·         Candidate had a good reputation as indicated by other people who posted good references – 1%

·         Candidate received awards and accolades – 15%


Final words


·         Be professional at all times and be careful with sarcasm.  Think before you publish. 

·         Contribute and interact on a professional basis.

·         Maintain content about yourself and ensure that it is kept up-to-date.

·         Respect copyright laws, financial disclosure laws, and any policy that your employer may have.


Warren Buffet is quoted as saying that, “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.” Start now, and build YOUR online reputation.


Linda Cureton, CIO, NASA

30 thoughts on “Managing Your Online Reputation”

  1. You Nailed it. Like the striking of a hammer on the head of a Nail. There’s a ring to it, a sound that reverberates with resonances. When you hit it right, it rings like a bell. When you miss the strike, it will actually sound flat, and even could cause the nail to bend. Truth has a way of always striking the nail in the perfect line, creating the pleasant sound of a ringing bell. If people that read this blog, stop, and think about how Truthful you have been with, not just this post, but the posts that you have written before, take a moment to digest what you have presented, as a ( Map ) or ( plan ), to make sure that (they, themselves) might use it as a guideline to social networking, then maybe they wouldn’t have to search so hard, to find the answers they seek, to fullfill their voidless lives.

  2. Great advice! I really thought I had considered most of the issues related to online reputation, but you have a lot of ideas here that I never considered. I will definitely be sending this blog to friends.

  3. Rolling Thundar:

    Thanks for the comment.

    Funny how sometimes some of us strive so hard to seek answers we already have. Not unlike Dorothy, Lion, Scarecrow, and Tin Man who each sought things they already had.

    Pay no attention to the CIO behind the curtain, the Truth comes in the soul of those who seek the answers. The True Wizard Leader helps those see the truth within themselves.


  4. Jim Wiedman:

    Thanks for the comment. I am looking forward to reading your blog.


  5. Linda
    I fully agree and, genrally speaking,I don’t see a big difference in having a correct approach in a bar, with friends, in the workplace or in a social network. Web2.0 is “just” more powerful because can reach many more people ande, even worst, last ‘forever’

  6. Excellent advice articulated perfectly, as always! The thought “manage your online reputation / presence or it will manage you” comes to mind – individually and corporately.

    Looking forward to your next post,

  7. This is all sage advice. I started teaching three years ago after leaving government. Have I noticed changes in students’ facebook pages and social media personas – you bet. That said, I think organizations are still struggling on how to use social media. After all, I found this post because a friend read it and reposted via facebook.

  8. Linda Cureton.

    Great advice. Actually it is very important to be aligned for a new century where our being available to all people. This is community participation. Web resources should be widely used, especially by those who wish to interfere in the destiny of our humanity. I will keep a profile on the Internet and to communicate with constant messages about my thoughts, always in a professional and austere, after all, really reputation is not earned easily.

    I ask as a fan of its capabilities that is on my friends list next to my profile as soon as I have a profile. I will make a sincere Herculean effort to get the warmth of friendship of many within NASA. When this happens I will have a perfect profile, along with my tribe. People ask who I am, or special qualifications I have, what are my gifts, achievements, qualifications … I will say I’m a friend of Linda! It is enough or want more? Need I say more?

  9. Mrs. Linda Cureton.

    If I promise, if I swear … if I sign a contract when I make me cease to be informal, insecure and relaxed, addresses? If I promise that I encouraged my brilliance, my ability, my framework, the people at NASA believe me?

    Looks like I’m in a film of Jim Carey, I feel himself Jim Carey. Seems a plague voddo! I was not so … I’m really disappointed those who had good expectation about me, why worry so much. My remedy is to recognize the few virtues that I have. This is going to “straighten”.

    Forgive me tell you these things, and others. I know you’re not a psychologist, but who is one of the people who can give me the medicine.

    I am embarrassed for failing to carry me as a balanced person. I will make an effort not comment appropriately and relevantly.

    Thank you for your attention.


  10. Jennifer:

    Re: On Mar 07, 2010 05:43:16 AM Jennifer

    I too believe that there is corporate relevance. Thanks for the comment.


  11. PierG:

    Re: On Mar 07, 2010 12:48:05 AM PierG

    A whisper in a bar or in the workplace is like YELLING in the Web 2.0 world. Oh, and that world is truly global. You are absolutely right.


  12. PierG:

    Re: On Mar 07, 2010 12:48:05 AM PierG

    A whisper in a bar or in the workplace is like YELLING in the Web 2.0 world. Oh, and that world is truly global. You are absolutely right.


  13. PierG:

    Re: On Mar 07, 2010 12:48:05 AM PierG

    A whisper in a bar or in the workplace is like YELLING in the Web 2.0 world. Oh, and that world is truly global. You are absolutely right.


  14. Chris:

    Re: On Mar 07, 2010 10:54:02 AM Chris Bronk

    I was recently talking to some colleagues at the Department of Energy and we were discussing how to sensitize youth of how permanent their social media indescretions can be and the lasting impact to their reputation. It was a fascinating discussion.


  15. Victor:

    Re: On Mar 07, 2010 11:35:36 AM Victor Moraes

    I thought is was interesting that you referenced both “gifts” and “reputation” together. I suppose that they both could be a curse or a blessing; deserved or undeserved; but both, I think need to be managed and used for good.

    I am happy and honored to be able to use my abilities in science and mathematics to help NASA’s space program advance humankind. The true gift is the opportunity to help.


  16. Victor:

    Re: On Mar 07, 2010 01:49:27 PM Victor Moraes

    No Victor, I’m not a psychologist and this isn’t a Jim Carrey movie. While I did struggle a bit to understand the post, I wanted you to know that I read your comment. I think I should publish the comment because it may be of value to others who feel as you do. Hope that was ok.


  17. Linda, what relief! great that you have disregarded my sham and has given me a calm response. I need this: calmness, peaceful people. It turns out that some months I decided to take my passion for NASA, and since then I have acted as a lover: unbalanced, reckless, anxious, mad to be able to achieve the goal, with the delivery of his being unmasked, with the whole being. It is a dangerous strategy to relate to NASA, but I had no other alternatives. I feel difficulties, but I know what I need to correct. I will always strive to be the most suitable for space exploration, and that includes passing the passion for love, the feeling for the reason. Moving from art to technique.

    Thank you for your kindness to me. Sincere thanks.


  18. Linda.

    I fell in love with NASA. And I just fall in love with something that happens all wrong. I speak louder, I suspect that my teeth are well brushed, I bumped into something and a valuable vase that smashes on the floor, I stumble, slip, forget it, I digress, I get crazy, I dream. Take my feet off the ground and flight. If I do not take care of me crashed to the ground. Is this normal?

    I’ll find a good place to post a profile and create an online reputation (reputation rather than current). But I do not fall for anything or …


  19. The same way we secure the value of our tangible assets within hardware and software, the same holds true in considering competitive intangible assets such as online reputation. Your article is very timely. Thanks for sharing.

  20. Victor:

    Re: On Mar 07, 2010 11:59:28 PM Victor Moraes
    On Mar 08, 2010 01:27:02 AM Victor Moraes

    Best wishes.


  21. Michael:

    Re: On Mar 08, 2010 07:54:48 PM Michael Henri’ Thompson

    Yes, absolutely. Perhaps hardware and software can be more easily repaired or replace. And then, of course, there’s my favorite — FINR — Fixed in Next Release — to bad we can’t do that with our reputations!


  22. Linda, what a great piece! Your advice is practical, well articulated and right on. I especially love your focus on not only how to avoid the bad but how to overwhelm the bad with the good. Now if only I could get my 18-year-old to think about these things….
    Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts.
    p.s. I’m going to recommend this to my former colleagues at CIO mag – you deserve a broader audience!

  23. Great advice and commentary here. It is refreshing to see someone at NASA taking this realm of conversation seriously.

    I am in the reputation side of things, often writing about this topic and the evolution of how reputation interacts in the digital space with larger entities. You can visit my blog at that has some links to reputation resources my company provides in the sidebar.

    When you look at larger organizations online, the executive team and employee base has a substantial impact on how the entire structure is presented.

    Most organizations are severely failing to understand how this affects recruiting, talent retention, investment, marketing and community support.

    Thank you for sharing the thought leadership with your readers (you have a new return visitor!)

    ~Barry Hurd

  24. Barry:

    Re: On Mar 09, 2010 12:53:32 AM Barry Hurd

    Browsed your blog today. As I get older, I believe less and less that things exist called coincidences. I did an executive thing today, I made a hard decision … and it was good. I did it last night actually. Your writing warmed my soul.

    Another interesting thing you noted made me thing about a joke where someone said what they think about ignorance and apathy … I don’t know and I don’t care.


  25. Abbie:

    Re: On Mar 09, 2010 12:07:19 AM Abbie Lundberg

    Thanks. I’ve got a lot of comments about teens and young adults. The universal question continues to be asked.


  26. Linda,

    I was working as a contractor at a site near Columbus, Ohio 18 years ago. The customer’s Internet guide simply stated to not put anything on there that you wouldn’t want your family to read.

    I have a surname that is unique enough that not only do I not require a middle name but when you Google it, everything comes back to me.
    What Hitler didn’t kill Stalin did, and those who escaped would not fill a city bus!

    I do not Twitter, I do not “facebook” or any other “social sites” (to me, it’s just noise!). I ceased using my surname because of its uniqueness years ago, but before then, I used the paradigm mentioned above.

    I do not use my employer’s computers for anything but printing out my pay stub every other Thursday. I do not even check their e-mail system, and I’ve never given that address out. My boss receives copies of anything pertaining to training, and he’ll let me know what I need to know.

    The Internet is a wonderful tool…think of the Enterprise’s library computer in “Star Trek”.

    But before you hang your laundry out for all the world to see, ask yourself this simple question:


  27. Dave H:

    Thanks for your perspective. Good question that we should ask ourselves — Why?


  28. The U.S. Department of Energy led this year’s Carbonaceous Aerosol and Radiation Effects Study (CARES) month-long campaign. Researchers took simultaneous measurements from a Gulfstream G-1 aircraft operated by the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, NASA’s King Air B-200, and ground-based stations. The campaign was coordinated by Rahul Zaveri of the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.

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