So this "story" arrives in my inbox the other day about a successful marketing executive who was suddenly persona non grata among recruiters and hiring managers because of so-called "digital dirt" that showed up whenever someone Googled her name. And it goes on to list some of the things she did to clear her good name online. Neither seem accurate to me, so I thought I would share and see what you think.

Once upon a time there was a Chief Marketing Officer, with a "great pedigree" we are told, who lands her dream job with a well-known consumer brand.

While she did manage to transform some of the company's product offerings during her tenure, it seems there was some resistance to change, both from consumers, and from her colleagues internally.

As a result, so the story goes, her employment contract gets bought out before the end date.

This CMO then becomes virtually unemployable almost overnight. Every time a recruiter searches her name, they find numerous blogs and message boards spinning tales of her "failed" leadership and management style.

The rumors, speculation and lies proliferated uncontrollably across the Internet and she quickly realized she had to launch a campaign to clear her name of "digital dirt" — negative online information that can damage a reputation.

The rumors, speculation and lies proliferated uncontrollably across the Internet and she quickly realized she had to launch a campaign to clear her name of "digital dirt" — negative online information that can damage a reputation.

Being skilled in strategy, as well as tactical marketing tools, the CMO decides she needs to increase her online visibility and create a more positive digital reputation.

So she engages in activities to show she is in the right places, with the right people, demonstrating her expertise for when her name is searched for by recruiters.

Okay, let's stop the story there for a moment.  If this woman has a great pedigree as we are told at the outset, and a big career it sounds like, as a recruiter or hiring manager how much stock are you going to put in the things you read on message boards?

If you know a person has had some challenges in their last role, that there wasn't universal buy-in, and in fact they may have ruffled a few proverbial feathers, what additional due diligence would you do?

If you know a person has had some challenges in their last role, that there wasn't universal buy-in, and in fact they may have ruffled a few proverbial feathers, what additional due diligence would you do?

Also, we tell people ad infinitum to be careful about what goes online because it's so hard to get rid of things once it's out there, what with links and cached pages and the like.

So it's not really as if by being proactive and putting some good stuff out there, you can make the bad stuff go away, although I guess you could conceivably knock it down in the search results.

A friend of mine is considering taking a PR job working for a small airline, a regional carrier, that has experienced financial problems. He asked me if I knew anything about the company and I confessed I didn't.

I did do a little research on his behalf though. I found quite a few very complimentary things posted about the company by employees - five years ago. However, the things posted the last few months about the current management were absolutely horrible.

With a couple of quick clicks I found 60 months' worth of employee evaluations. Yes, there were some good things in there. But the compliments didn't keep out the criticisms.

Now back to our CMO story.

Here is a sampling supposedly of what she did to suppress negative information and help ensure positive search results showed up first when recruiters and prospective employers Googled her name, and what you can do to begin building your online reputation.

Online Activities of Successfully Visible Executives

  1. Commenting on online business discussions and blogs
  2. Starting discussions in online business networking groups
  3. Sharing content in which my name appears with other social networks
  4. Contributing articles for blogs
  5. Writing articles for online industry publications

I'm not sure where this story took place, but it does have a Hollywood ending. Eventually, we are told, she did regain control of her good name, built up an online reputation that was representative of her executive brand, gained visibility and now has a powerful social network of influencers. She is also by the way currently a global CMO for another brand and a respected thought leader.

So take that message boards and disgruntled former co-workers. I guess she told both who's boss.

The story closes with the results of a survey saying the majority of executives recently surveyed believe being visible online can contribute to career success. That I do agree with. Everything else? It seems kind of dubious. What do you think of the story?


Tags: Online Recruiting, Online reputation, Online reputation management, Industry, Digital dirt, Message boards, Trends in Recruiting