You can spend a lifetime building up the value of your name and have it all taken away in a short time. Name value is one of those things that is often hard to define yet difficult to miss when it goes away. With this said, whether it is openly stated or whispered in a quiet back room, in business we are all judged at least partially based on our reputations. But with the ability for nearly anyone to ruin our reputations online with a few keystrokes, we all need to have the number for a top reputation management company on speed dial.

Everyone with a job or seeking one to some degree would be harmed by negative stories spread online about them. The only difference is the degree to which one would be harmed.

In the film industry as an example your name is your money. Every working film actor, director, and producer has a number that is used to value that person in the international film marketplace. When movies are put together, their budget is often determined by the value of the talent in the film. A big actor like Johnny Depp would have a high number for a certain type of film and if he is paired with a popular actress, say Jennifer Lawrence, and a successful producer of that type of film, and then a hot director signs on to the project, their combined ratings mean that the budget of the film will be a really high number. If one of these talents drops off the project he or she would be replaced with a talent of the same number or the budget of the film would be lessened. If Johnny Depp is embroiled in a controversy that gets spread around the Internet and includes innuendo and salacious “facts” and accusations, it would damage his brand and lower his rating which may get him taken off the film. I use this situation because it actually happened recently to Johnny Depp as he was going through a bitter divorce with his then wife. The so called details of their break-up and divorce included stories about him supposedly hitting her and verbally abusing her. The result was that Hollywood would not make a film with him. Once the divorce was settled and most of the “facts” were proven to only be an attorney’s strategy to get the largest settlement for the wife, Johnny Depp has now signed on to do several films. The damage to his reputation however is ongoing and his fees for these films is less. If you Google Johnny Depp divorce you will see dozens of pages claiming he is a monster. The outcome of this online smear campaign surely has hurt his reputation and his wallet and will in the future.

This type of thing happens because the Internet allows for the posting of information about any of us, by anonymous persons. This information is disseminated on outlets only interested in attracting attention, rather than sharing truth. If the information goes viral, we can find it has been viewed by millions in a short period of time, considered fact and repeated around lunch counters and water coolers everywhere. The result in addition to a few minutes of entertainment for those consuming the information can be a catastrophic situation for the person discussed or viewed. And the perpetrators are rarely brought to task for his actions.

So what can one do to combat this from happening?

First do a Google search of your name and see if any negative information comes up in the first five pages. Anything after that will not typically be viewed by most people. If there is negative information about you within the first five pages, you need to call an online reputation management company and discuss what options they can offer you to rid yourself of this negative content. They can also put safeguards in place so that any negative information about you in the future will have a much less chance to get noticed and spread. Do not assume that it will all go away over time or no one will find it. This has caused many lost reputations and the accompanying loss of income. Act immediately and decisively.