Fixing Your Tarnished Brand

With reviews, consumers can control reputations online, but a new crop of companies helps brands fight back

Illustration by Chris Gash


By any definition, Steven C. Wyer was a savvy marketer and brand creator. In the course of three decades, the Nashville entrepreneur had worked in TV production, started a nutritional-products company, and founded a direct-marketing firm. Later, he branched out into real estate, insurance, and financial services. He’d accepted business awards, won praise for creating jobs. The Nashville Chamber of Commerce inducted him into its hall of fame.

So it was strange that, sometime around 2005, Wyer’s numbers started to slip. “We were losing business,” he recalls, “but we didn’t have anything to attribute that to.” Then one day a client asked him if he’d ever Googled his own name. Wyer (somewhat shockingly) never had. So he did—and discovered in a millisecond why business was down.

Years earlier, the SEC had challenged the capital-raising methods of one of Wyer’s firms. Wyer had been exonerated and had since figured the story had gone away. It hadn’t. In fact, the old allegations were sitting right there at the top of his search results. “We’d prevailed in court,” Wyer says, still audibly frustrated, “but because government sites have high authority in search results, the information had lingered for years.”

The fact that Wyer had been found blameless didn’t appear until page four of the search results for his name. Who was going to see that? Clearly, Wyer had a problem. But he’d also stumbled upon the inspiration for what would become his next business: a foray into the new and largely unexplored realm known as online reputation management.

Today, Wyer runs a firm called Reputation Advocate—and he’s got plenty of company. There’s Reputation Armor, Reputation Friendly, and And while there’s no official tally of the number of firms like this, one reporter who recently attempted to count them all gave up at 74. Clearly, online reputation management is an idea whose time has come. “In the last two or three years, we’ve seen a proliferation of these companies,” observes Andy Beal, CEO of social media tracking company Trackur and the author of Radically Transparent: Monitoring and Managing Reputations Online.

“The more that online becomes integrated in our lives, the more important it will be to have an integrated reputation,” adds Zeus Kerravala, a senior executive handling research at the Yankee Group. “There’s a need for these services now.”

Continue to next page →