PUBLISHED: Mar 28, 2019

How to Fight Negative Image or Bad Online Reputation

Pratik Dholakiya
How to Fight Negative Image or Bad Online Reputation
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Branding is important for both, brands and individuals; and thanks to the Internet, it has become easier than ever to get your brand name out. However, it has also become a lot tougher to manage personal branding. If your personal branding activities do not involve well-conceived strategies, it may lead to a huge personal branding disaster.

Let’s take the example of young Disney star, Miley Cyrus. Not so long ago, a video featuring the star smoking salvia was released. This came as a big shock to her fans as she previously had a scrupulously clean image, much like her Disney character, Hannah Montana.

Miley Cyrus

She was a huge role model for young American girls, which is why the video enraged parents across the U.S. The Disney star soon apologized for her choices and saved her personal brand to some extent.

The smallest mistake can take a toll on your personal brand. This is true not just of celebrities, but entrepreneurs as well. The way you portray yourself has a profound impact on your career and the brand you represent.

Personal branding is about defining yourself as a leader and telling people how you will influence the lives of those who you serve. Personal branding is critical as 83 percent people trust recommendations made by individuals over brands.

Why Personal Branding is Important

There has been a noticeable shift in the way people judge businesses. It is not just the quality of products or services that matters to customers; the public perception of the entrepreneur is also taken into consideration. Even though the Internet has changed the way people engage with brands, the importance of personal connections has not faded. People still want to engage with other people who make them feel valued.

Bernard Kelvin Clive

Tracking people on a personal level has become easier with the evolution of the Internet, especially on social media. Social platforms allow people to see what an institution or entrepreneur actually is. The times when only big businesses blindly led the way are long gone. In modern times, people believe human beings more than brands. Personal branding is a lot more than just self-promotion. It is about building trust and long-term relationships with the people who matter.

You already know how personal branding can be helpful, and if done the wrong way, it can harm your reputation. For instance, you need to make the right first impression as it stays with your audience for a long time. You cannot afford to go wrong here. Overdoing things or hiding behind curtains can be harmful. Another mistake individuals make when branding themselves is put themselves in someone else’s shoes. This should be avoided so you can be true to yourself, and your audience and you will go a long way. Be careful and guard against making mistakes that can harm your personal brand. However, if you have already made this mistake, here is how you can overcome it.

Handling Personal Branding Disasters

Picture this: you made some unwise choices and things have gone badly against you! Or maybe someone intentionally made up lies to mar your image!

Regardless of the scenario, a bad image can affect your and your brand’s reputation adversely.

Here’s how you can rebuild bad reputation and bring it back on track:

1. Apologize If It Was Your Mistake

People make mistakes, which can create a lot of trouble. But, the best way to make up for them is by apologizing. Take the example of David Tovar, who was chosen by Walmart as VP of Communications.

Resume Tovar

During a routine background check, however, Walmart executives caught him lying about his educational qualification. His resume mentioned a bachelor’s degree from University of Delaware in 1996, but he had not even completed his undergraduate degree in arts.

But Tovar knew what he needed to do – he immediately decided to be transparent and tell people he made a mistake. He apologized and resigned from his position. Tovar then earned the degree and shared his experience by posting a picture of the degree on his personal blog and Twitter account. He then proceeded to prove himself to his employers and his efforts were rewarded. He was recruited as VP of Corporate Communications by Sprint.

Lessons from Tovar’s case include:

  • Apologize for your mistakes
  • Penalize yourself before someone else does
  • Tell people what you are doing or planning to do to remedy the situation
  • Tell people about your experiences so that they don’t make the same mistakes

2. Respond Quickly

The sooner you react to negative comments, the better it will be for your personal brand. If you give your audience the time to react before you do, be prepared to face a lot of trouble.

Take the example of Ivanka Trump, who used her father’s presidential win for her company’s financial gain. Ivanka mixed her personal and professional social media accounts, which attracted a lot of criticism. The disapproval heightened when she promoted a $10,000 bracelet that she wore on her family’s post-election 60-minute interview. However, she understood her mistakes and remedied them instantly.

Ivanka Trump

She said her personal and professional social accounts will be separated. She also stated that her brand’s account will be created from scratch @IvankaTrumpHQ.

Ivana Trump Rweet

Making mistakes is inevitable, but make sure to act fast and remedy the situation. People are more forgiving of those who acknowledge their mistakes and resolve issues quickly. So, if you want to save your personal brand from succumbing to a negative image, act fast.

3. Take Your Fans into Confidence

Connecting with people not only gets your name out there, but may also help you connect with your audience at a deeper level. This means you should find people who can promote and defend you during a crisis. Thus, having a loyal fan base is crucial for celebrities as well as entrepreneurs.

Scott Cook

Brands and entrepreneurs should build good relationships with people who have been loyal to them. Communicating with potential customers on social media, mentioning important names on blogs, and offering special offers can help build trust. This will give you a chance to shape people’s perceptions about you and your brand. So, it is necessary to build strong relationships with the people who matter the most. Know your audience, understand your strengths and create a strong strategy that will portray you favorably. Work on ways to expand your fan base by leveraging social media and blogging.

Fans act in the same way as brand advocates do: they promote you without expecting anything in return. So, by keeping your fans happy, you can save yourself from the adverse effects of bad reputation.

4. Don’t Take Failure Too Seriously

People often succumb to pain and depression once they face failure. But failures should never be perceived as setbacks; rather, they should be viewed as opportunities to do something more fruitful.

President Jimmy Carter lost the 1980 reelection loss to Ronald Reagan, but rose to fame all over again. He did not let failure affect him too deeply. Despite the pain and humiliation post the elections, he realized his inner strengths and used his potential to make a positive impact on the human race. With help of his wife, Rosalynn, members of his administration, academic researchers, and financial backers, he built the Carter Centre. He played an important role in the international conflict mediation between Ethiopia and Eritrea, Liberia, Haiti, Bosnia, and Venezuela. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2002 for his efforts to bring peace on Earth.


Never let failures suppress your inner strengths, rather rise above your tribulations and give a new direction to your life. Take influential people into your confidence and devise ideas that can not only change your life, but also make a positive impact on mankind at large.

5. Think before You Act

Social media has emerged as an excellent branding tool for both, companies and individuals. However, if you use it without a plan, you can end up doing more harm than good. For successful personal branding, you need to think and plan well before taking action. Without a plan, you may end up confusing your audience rather than clarifying your stand.


Begin by identifying the platforms that will be most suitable for communicating with your audience. Craft your messages appropriately before posting. Remember, you can gain a lot of negative attention if the messages are not framed immaculately. Think of the remedies that can help you clear your name and communicate your messages. Make sure to live up to your audience’s expectations and keep them updated about your efforts.

Ammon Johns, Internet Marketing Consultant, Online Marketing Specialist says, “It is important to not be seen making mistakes in the first place. I, therefore, have to be extremely careful to be thorough, to very clearly state which parts of anything I share are personal opinion, or are situationally specific, and so forth.”

Brands often panic and become aggressive when a stigma gets associated with their name, but this is a big mistake, especially when communicating through social media. Being aggressive worsens bad situations, so stay calm and plan well.


Patience is everything when it comes to strong personal branding because it takes time to build a good reputation. It takes even longer if your reputation has been tainted. A strong reputation is hard to destroy and time always reveals the truth. People tend to forget things after a while and move on. However, if you feel the need to you polish your image, use the above-mentioned tactics.

Regardless of what you do to rebuild your reputation, never make promises that you cannot fulfil. Also, once you realize that you’ve made a mistake, take control of the situation rather than wait for people to react first. Remember, the longer you wait to react, the more your reputation will suffer. So, act fast and put in all efforts to manage your personal branding efforts because they will have a tremendous effect on your brand and business.

Image Sources: Muckrack, Twitter, Working Knowledge

Pratik Dholakiya

Pratik Dholakiya is the Founder of Growfusely, a SaaS content marketing agency specializing in content and data-driven SEO.

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