Reputation Management – When Your Name is Dangerous

Reputation management extends beyond simple reviews of personal names and corporate brands. Reputation management is not limited to simple search engine optimization or negative press online. The basic act of ‘finding things’ through search engines and social conversation  on services like Twitter and Facebook creates a huge opportunity for malicious individuals to make a lot of money.

Online security firm Mcafee highlighted a core problem with the annual “The Most Dangerous People on the Internet” report.

The basic idea  is that you don’t know what you are clicking on.

When you are looking for information about your favorite celebrity or the hot topic of the day,
be forewarned about what lurks in the dark corners of the web.

  • Millions of virus enabled web sites using
    very sophisticated strategies to steal things of value.
  • Really smart, well educated and highly motivated
    people who want to take advantage of you.

These malicious sites use every tool and trick available: malware downloads, creating trojan viruses, and infecting machines with spyware.

They also use social engineering to lure users into giving away valuable personal information. This can take the form of phising or fraudulent login requests.

The end result includes

  • personal information stolen
  • bank accounts hacked
  • data files corrupted
  • countless hours lost

Looking at some examples

For the past three years, Mcafee’s ‘Most Dangerous Online” report has a long list of celebrity names that were targeted as delivery mechanisms for these criminal activities.  A quick review of the last three annual leaders of the ‘most dangerous people on the internet’ include Brad Pitt, Jessica Biel, and Cameron Diaz. All three celebrities suffer different reputation management problems.

2010 – Cameron Diaz: “Fans searching for “Cameron Diaz” or “Cameron Diaz and downloads,” “Cameron Diaz and screensavers,” “Cameron Diaz and wallpaper,” “Cameron Diaz and photos” and “Cameron Diaz and videos” are at risk of running into online threats designed to steal personal information. Clicking on these risky sites and downloading files like photos, videos or screensavers exposes surfers or consumers to the risk of downloading the viruses and malware.”~ McAfee press release.

2009 – Jessica Biel: “Fans searching for ‘Jessica Biel’ or ‘Jessica Biel downloads,’ ‘Jessica Biel wallpaper,’ ‘Jessica Biel screensavers,’ ‘Jessica Biel photos’ and ‘Jessica Biel videos’ have a one in five chance of landing at a Web site that’s tested positive for online threats such as spyware, adware, spam, phishing, viruses and other malware,” ~ McAfee press release.

2008- Brad Pitt: “When “Brad Pitt screensavers” was searched, more than half of the resulting Web sites were identified as containing malicious downloads with spyware, adware and potential viruses.” ~ McAfee press release.

Reputation Management
Understanding volume and trends

Celebrity names are just like popular products
(some argue that a celebrity is a product)

When a movie studio announces a new movie, they attach the name and personal brand of a celebrity to it.

These celebrity names carry audience recognition, market support, and brand awareness that drives three critical business factors:

  1. online traffic
  2. news coverage
  3. ticket sales

By looking at how product names function online (chart below – click on image below for full-size chart) we can see trends that encourage malicious acts of thievery and brand attack.

We can see how celebrity exposure spikes around movie releases and additional press coverage.
These peaks and trends are what attracts criminals to create these reputation management issues.

In most cases the individuals behind these illicit activities are not targeted towards the actual celebrity. They would attack anyone (or thing) who was popular enough to drive traffic and exposure for the illicit endeavor (while unethical, the business model they have is usually professional and rarely personal.)

Reputation Management and issues related to personal keywords

Understanding the damages

As of today – these three celebrities have a significant number of people searching for them on a daily basis.
Across the top three search engines (Google / Yahoo / Bing )

  • Brad Pitt –  13,178 (estimated daily searches)
  • Jessica Biel – 38,413 (estimated daily searches)
  • Cameron Diaz – 22,446 (estimated daily searches)

If we give a 1 in 10 chance of clicking on a negative site on the first page of search results,we can see that thousands of daily users are risking various virus infections, along with chances of data loss and identify theft. This is a huge loss depending on the celebrity brand involved in the process.

A percentage of these users are faithful and motivated fans.
They want to support the celebrity.
In many cases they idolize them and faithfully follow them.

Yet with a single mouse click, a faithful fan looking for an image or downloading a screen saver becomes a victim. They can no longer support the celebrity brand or push the actor’s latest silver screen endeavor.

Unless the Virus is Social

Computer viruses are much like the common cold.
They contaminate and infect the people you know.

In the case of brand supporters… like minded people know like minded people.
The single victim becomes a carrier and can potentially infect the entire “fan base.”

One infected fan exposes hundreds of other fans through social networking, email and computer sharing.

These carriers have no idea they are passing along an infection or helping someone steal from the people they know.

Why does this matter?

If you have a valuable personal brand, it should be apparent that a lot of effort and money goes into promoting a celebrity brand. In the online space your personal brand is a core target for technically savvy and unethical business minds to do everything they can to take value from you.

Yet most of us are not in the movie industry…

That is where product and executive brands come into play.

When a new product or service is announced, the digital conversation around it becomes an enticing opportunity for unscrupulous people to take advantage of.

Knowing how a new product launch can highlight your business as a criminal target is a critical issue for all types of brands.

Being Proactive

The Good side of Reputation Management

Criminals prey on the weak and the unprepared. They look for easy targets and fast cash.

Proactive reputation management tactics work with this in mind. By understanding the basics of why certain endeavors attract criminal elements, you can eliminate a majority of the risk and make it costly for a criminal to attack your brand.

Key issues to think about for reputation management –

  1. prevent losing your fans and brand supporters
  2. prevent losing your general audience
  3. enable your fans to protect you (help them, help you, help them)
  4. educate your fans to reduce risk

Give thought to two important elements

  • The Brand/Product itself – reputation management needs to be scored and benchmarked. Type your name into the big search engines and record what you get.
  • The Consumer/Fan Audience – reputation management can be a group sport. Fans and supporters should be enabled. Providing exclusive interviews/news and some technical recommendations for things like search engine optimization can go a long way to protecting your brand.

What problems do you see in the
reputation management space?