Online Reputation Management Blog

Making Sense of the Petraeus Sex Scandal

America loves a good sex scandal.  It’s almost our national pastime, although I’m still a little more partial to baseball.  This Fall we had a little of both.  Though it’s hard to imagine anything overshadowing the 2012 Presidential election, one day after President Barack Obama scored a second term, the face on the cover of newspapers and magazines across the country was… General David Petraeus?  Let’s run through a quick catch up on this made for TV soap opera that has tarnished the reputation of the individuals involved as well as the U.S. Army, CIA and FBI. 

November 7 – No Time for President Obama to Celebrate –CIA Chief David Petraeus Resigns

On November 7, 2012 the Petraeus scandal broke, although it appears the investigation into General Petraeus began long before November 2012 and FBI director, Robert Mueller decided to hold the news of the scandal until after the Presidential election. The news, as expected, riveted the nation and glued people to their laptops, tablets and television screens to watch our most decorated soldier, spymaster and potential future Presidential candidate’s fall from grace. [Read more…]

Online Reputation Management for Psychologists

Psychologists, psychiatrists, therapists and other mental health professionals may be used to helping others, but when it comes to online reputation management, they often need a little help, too.  If you work with patients who show signs of manipulation, anger, or issues controlling their emotions, you need to worry about the patient (or former patient) spreading negative or untrue things about you online. You also need to be especially protective over your online personal privacy to ensure your patients don’t find out your home address or details about your family life.

Protecting yourself and your practice is a priority for every psychologist and mental health professional. So take a seat on my couch, take a deep cleansing breath and get ready for some tips on reputation management and privacy.

1.       Ensure your online personal life is locked up:  Some psychologists shy away from using social media, like Facebook and Twitter, for fear that their patients will access their personal data. But don’t let that fear keep you from connecting with family and friends. See my recent post on how to how to change your Facebook privacy settings.  Implement a policy on “friending” patients, so that in the event that a patient asks you why you’re declining their friend request, you have a ready-made answer that will not breach that “third wall” critical to the doctor-patient relationship.

2.       Monitor your name online:  Just as your patients take time to meet with you each week, block off some time in your calendar to Google yourself. This way you’ll find out which of your patients is using sites like or, which allow patients to write a review of your services.

3.       Buy your own domain name and blog: Capture your domain before someone else does. There are a number of free downloads such as WordPress or Blogger that you can use to help you build your own website, without having any serious computer knowledge. Create your website to showcase your practice areas and education. It’s another way to gain new patients and referrals. Also, consider starting a blog on your website. You can choose to write about your practice area, new research (by yourself or colleagues), and new therapy techniques. If you’re ever stuck for content, you can write a series of “quick tips” for patients regarding stress reduction, what to do when dealing with a crisis, or how to deal with a break-up. These topics will help generate traffic to your site, and ultimately may lead to new patients boost your online reputation.

4.       Hire the best online reputation management firm:  An online reputation management company will elevate positive content and minimize the impact of any negative reviews, blogs or news articles. Select a U.S.-based online reputation management firm and make sure your services agreement includes strict confidentiality provisions. Since ethics surrounding psychologist marketing and advertising vary from state to state, you will want to make sure any web postings include any required disclosures.

Is Employer Access to Facebook and Twitter an Invasion of Privacy?

It’s common knowledge that colleges, employers and potential dates are checking you out on Facebook and Twitter.  In response, you’ve probably taken every opportunity to batten down the hatches from unwanted social media snooping by parents, coworkers, employers and your ex, painstakingly reading the fine print each time Facebook makes a privacy update.  Last week, MSNBC reported that some colleges and employers, frustrated that they can no longer use public profiles on these sites to “stalk” their applicants, are actually requesting full access — even private pages — on social media sites so they can monitor every status update, tweet and embarrassing picture you post.

One employer, Maryland state’s Department of Corrections, doesn’t request the passwords anymore (the ACLU put a stop to that), but asks that the applicant log in to Facebook during the interview and click through the site while the interviewer watches.  This is voluntary, but applicants are submitting to it for fear that not doing so would cost them the job.

Another group facing restrictions are student-athletes.  Many colleges, like the University of North Carolina, request that a designated coach/administrator on each sports team has access to the athletes’ social networking page.

The reasoning behind these two examples is probably understandable: the employer doesn’t want to risk hiring anyone with gang affiliations, and the school wants to ensure their athletes are adhering to the student-athlete conduct code.  But where is the line drawn when it comes to requesting access to an private and personal information?  Is email access far behind?  Or, as one attorney in the MSNBC article notes, will employers ask to “bug” our homes?

According to the article, Maryland has begun proposing laws prohibiting employers from asking for passwords; Illinois is considering similar legislation.  However, the responsibility ultimately resides within each of us who use social media.  Thanks to our Constitution, we all enjoy free speech.  But we don’t need to say everything that pops into our heads or show pictures of every private moment.  Even when using the highest privacy settings available, it’s important to use social media responsibly.  Unless of course, you don’t mind your boss looking at your honeymoon pictures or girlfriend’s late night status updates…

What do you think?

Is it wrong for employers or prospective employers to request access to your personal social media pages?

Lessons from Limbaugh

An apology has a period at the end of the sentence.  Rush Limbaugh made a lot of mistakes over the past week.  His second biggest mistake was that he forgot the period.  Apologies are funny things.  If you don’t do it right, it just doesn’t count.  Ask anyone who has ever been married or in a relationship.  As a guy, I take it for granted that I’m usually wrong.  It’s just the way it is.  I have two choices.  I can either admit it now, or I’ll admit it later.  And it’s always more painful later.

When Rush Limbaugh came out last week and described Sandra Fluke as a “slut” and “prostitute” she, and the rest of America, was expecting an apology.

On Saturday March 3rd, Rush issued a written statement:

“For over 20 years, I have illustrated the absurd with absurdity, three hours a day, five days a week.  In this instance, I chose the wrong words in my analogy of the situation.  I did not mean a personal attack on Ms. Fluke.”  And later Rush concluded, “[m]y choice of words was not the best, and in the attempt to be humorous, I created a national stir.  I sincerely apologize to Ms. Fluke for the insulting word choices.”

Rush forgot the period.  He apologized for his choice of words, but kept right on talking, trying and ultimately failing to explain away his remarks.  By saying “[m]y choice of words was not the best,” Rush missed the perfect opportunity to say: “My choice of words was hurtful and wrong.  I’m sorry.”  Rush lost the chance to personally and publicly recognize the emotional impact of his powerful voice.  By concentrating on those two words, Rush also failed to take responsibility for the other insensitive comments he made regarding Sandra Fluke’s sex life.

A crucial element in any successful apology is to recognize the pain or hurt your actions cause another.  It is from this personal connection that an apology can transform words that hurt into words that heal.

Shortly after the firestorm that erupted in 2007 when shock-jock Don Imus called the Rutgers women’s basketball team “nappy-headed hos.”  Imus issued a straightforward, unequivocal apology.

“I want to take a moment to apologize for an insensitive and ill-conceived remark we made the other morning regarding the Rutgers women’s basketball team, which lost to Tennessee in the NCAA championship game on Tuesday.  It was completely inappropriate and we can understand why people were offended.  Our characterization was thoughtless and stupid, and we are sorry.”

Imus did more than just say he was sorry.  Imus expressed sincere remorse and contrition.  After he was ultimately fired and his show cancelled, Imus followed through on a prearranged meeting with the Rutgers coach and basketball team to apologize in person.  For cynics who might claim Imus was simply trying to salvage his career and reputation, it is worth noting that when he went to the New Jersey Governor’s mansion to meet the coach and her team, Imus wasn’t standing at a podium or behind a microphone.  His apology wasn’t delivered at a media conference or via press release.  It was unscripted and there were no lawyers or cameras.  It was personal and private.  And it was accepted.

Apologies are hard.  Sometimes pride gets in the way.  You often get one chance to say “I’m sorry.”  Rush got three and struck out swinging.  He kept on talking, explaining, trying to defend himself and he looked weaker each time he opened his mouth.   Rush just needed to say “I’m sorry.”  End of sentence.

When you’re making an apology, don’t forget the period.