About 10 years ago I started watching an ugly trend with regard to identity theft. So I started looking into firms that could defend against these attacks. I think those that steal identities and attack people’s reputations on the Web are real Internet monsters and given this is Halloween week I figured it was a good time to tell you about a real Monster defense.
One of the firms I wrote about was Cyber Investigation Services LLC (I made them a product of the week) and what attracted me to them is that they used a blend of legal, law enforcement and private investigation services to provide what I thought was one of the most comprehensive practices in the market. I also thought it important to keep in touch with them in case I ever needed this service (thankfully I haven’t), and so I’d have a firm to refer others to if they were compromised (back when I first looked into this it cost around $250,000 and nine months of your life to recover from identity theft).
Since then the threat has broadened from individuals to companies, which have their brands damaged by attacks ranging from false Yelp reviews to very damaging hoaxes with the potential for financial loss jumping well into the millions.
So a note from Chris Anderson, Ph.D., my contact at Cyber Investigation, referencing a new free resource for best practices, white papers and contacts to help individuals and companies suffering from one of these attacks caught my interest. The primary resource center can be found here and the credentials of the folks backing up this effort can be found here. This is a free resource and a great place to start if you or your firm, or brand, has been damaged by any one of a variety of online attacks.
Let’s talk about why aggressively protecting how people view you, your firm, or your firm’s offerings is imperative.
Perception is 100 percent of reality
There are two phrases that I’m nearly constantly repeating, one has to do with why I don’t do naming (“the only thing everyone will agree on when it comes to a new product or company name is the person who came up with it is an idiot”), and the other is that perception is 100 percent of reality. It doesn’t matter if you are a good person if people believe you aren’t, and it doesn’t matter if you have a quality product if folks think it is crap.
The best example of the latter was back when I was doing vendor studies and I did a study comparing Sony and Dell in the 1990s. Dell, back then, built a relatively unreliable line of PCs and Sony’s, in contrast, were the most reliable then in market. But people flocked to buy Dell PCs and tended to avoid Sony PCs like the plague. This made no sense until we looked underneath the numbers and discovered that Dell’s service was the best in the business while Sony’s sucked, no that is too kind, it was so bad that folks that used it tended to avoid all Sony products after the experience.
The end result was that every Dell failure resulted in a positive experience and folks loved Dell, every Sony failure, even though they were far less frequent, resulted in creating people who ran around and bad-mouthed Sony and the end result was that Dell, decades later, is still a major PC power and Sony had to sell off its PC business.
This taught me that perception is stronger than reality. Tesla is currently having a somewhat similar issue with Consumer Reports, but it is their near rabid identification of problems that seems to be causing them grief. Likely the most aggressive company in the market with regard to protecting their own reputation is Apple, which speaks, partially, to why it is also the most highly valued.
In today’s world people make up stuff to damage reputations for both individuals and companies, either because they are paid to or just because they are bad people. Sometimes it is tied to a legitimate effort to get a problem fixed, or because they had an unusually bad experience, but regardless it can do an amazing amount of damage in this age of social media.
You could literally wake up one morning and wonder where all your customers went. So protecting your reputation should have a higher priority than it currently does.
Make note of the resources that will matter if your reputation takes a hit
Keep those links at the start of this column handy. They take you to a resource that helps you deal with reputation and brand protection, defamation attacks, online product diversion (gray market), anonymous attacks, bad/fake online reviews, out of control complaint websites, traffic diversion (brand theft), online harassment and stalking, website attacks (defacement, malware injection), online copyright infringement and false/misleading advertising by a competitor.
You, your firm, or someone you know and care about will eventually have the need for one of these services and this reference could be a godsend when you are freaking out and don’t know what to do. Here is hoping you never need this resource, but I’m pointing you to it just in case you may someday need the help.