Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Watch Out 

This story shows what can happen to your reputation on the Web. Maybe these landlords deserved the bashing they got from anonymous critics. Maybe they didn't. Who is going to know as long as the critics hide from sight?

The fact is that this stealth approach is reputation theft, pure and simple. If someone has a legitimate gripe, the person should be honest enough to identify himself. But, people aren't honest.

We worked recently with a similar situation having to do with an author. Another author was aggrieved that our author had written about the same topic as the other scribbler. Our author had not read the other fellow's book, however, so there was no chance for plagiarism. There were some similarities in concepts but not in language. No one, least of all the lawyers who compared the two books, could find any semblance of copying from one to the other. The aggrieved author, however, was having none of that. He put up one of his friends to write a bad review on our author's book on Amazon.com. There is no way to get rid of that review. It's there like a sore thumb, and I'm sure it has cost some sales.

On the other hand, I am also aware of authors who write anonymous reviews of their own books on Amazon.com -- a similarly suspect activity.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I asked a friend of mine to review my last book on Amazon.com, but I charged him to write an honest review. If he didn't like the book, he was to say so. He slapped me about some things before giving me a passing grade. (I deserved the slap.) Still, it would be better overall if no one was allowed to be an anonymous critic of any kind. It encourages dishonesty, and people need no encouragement.

As a PR practitioner, you may have already encountered these practices. There is little you can do about them, but they can damage your reputation. Watch out.


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