It’s remarkably easy to hire a work-from-home writer like me. In about 10 minutes, a small business owner could slap up a want ad on a site like Craigslist.com, describing the services required, and that little note would get picked up by at least two of the five job boards for freelance writers that I follow on a daily basis. I’d respond with a pitch and a description of the fees I’d like to earn, and we’d be in business.
If your company had been facing some sort of reputation problem, including a negative blog post entry or a nasty product review or a spate of poor publicity, it might be tempting to hire someone like me to help. You could reach out to a professional on a DIY or short-term basis, solving the problem without retaining the services of a larger corporation. It sounds great, but is that really the best idea? I’m not so sure.
What a Writer Can Do
Freelance writers can pump out an astonishing amount of content in a very small period of time. Give us a little bit of information, including your name, your home town, your career and the awards you’ve won, and we can shoot back:
• Blog entries
• Press releases
• Facebook updates
For a few extra bucks, we can even post those items for you, making sure that you get the maximum amount of coverage for your reputation problem.
This little tsunami of content can be reassuring, as it might help to drown out any negative information that might exist on the interwebs. If these little bits of stories have the proper keywords, they could float to the top of search results on Google, ensuring that the good things about you are the first things a searcher might see. But there are some hidden dangers involved in hiring a writer.
Working with words can be intoxicating, and most writers are eager to flex their typing keys and create any kind of document a user might want. But this flexibility can be a little dangerous. For example, some freelance writers in New York have been enticed to write fake product reviews on sites like Yelp and Google Local. These writers were solicited by companies posting on Craigslist and oDesk, and they got paid a few dollars for their time.
Obviously, these writers were violating the terms of the sites by claiming an experience that wasn’t quite honest. That’s enough to get most reviews deleted. But additionally, these writers were breaking local laws by posting these bogus reviews. Now, the companies that hired these writers have been sued for the practice, and they’re facing even greater reputation damage.
And all of this risk may not have translated into measurable benefits. After all, while writers can craft articles that tend to drown out negative content, those needles of damage still exist, and they still tend to rankle. Determined searchers might find them without much effort, and if the issue is pronounced, those damaging articles might still top search results. As long as the information is still available somewhere, it could still be damaging.
In general, it’s best to hire a reputation management company when dealing with a serious problem like this. Organizations that handle these issues on a daily basis have more tools at their disposal when compared to a standard writer, and they might be able to provide a more comprehensive solution as a result.
For example, blog entries that contain false information about you or your company could get hundreds of thousands of hits in a single day. They can also be a target for a lawsuit, or the threat of a lawsuit, if the information is libelous. Reputation management companies often have a team of legal experts on hand who can evaluate these sites, and move forward with an appropriate response as needed.
Similarly, some reputation problems come in the form of news reports, mug shots, legal documents and other private data made public. Often, the sites that host these documents will remove them, if they’re approached by a reputable company that’s armed with a legal team and a well-crafted cease-and-desist letter. This isn’t the sort of thing a writer could do, but a reputation management company might easily handle this task.
In some cases, writers can be excellent help, and I would never suggest that writers don’t have a role to play in fixing a reputation problem. Often, the work we do plays a huge role in correcting old wounds and restoring what’s been lost when an attack is in full swing. However, I do think our work is a little more valuable when we’re guided by a reputation management company, and when the experts there are working to remove the original source of the problem. That’s when comprehensive reputation repair really takes hold.