NPR addresses ORM

As online reputation management matures as a field, both public expectations and industry-imposed standards are coalescing around an important, yet not quite defined, point: when is a potential client too toxic to take on?

The topic surfaced on NPR this week - on 'All Things Considered' and in an article at NPR.org - as part of a larger discussion about the search optimization industry. After establishing the importance and influence of SEO across virtually every industry, the article delves into an exploration of the practice's ethics:
 

Search optimization companies are often approached by fraudulent businesses ? and it's the search companies themselves that have the power to decide what should be hidden, and what should be upfront and public.

"I'm not going to suppress Bernie Madoff's information ? certainly not," Kaufman says. "Is a piece of information about candidate Ben Quayle writing for a magazine something that should really play a part in voters' minds? Who am I to say, but I don't feel it crosses that line."

 


There are clearly ethical questions in play for SEO firms. Some companies take all comers; some companies utilize all methods. There is, inevitably, a gray area. In the above excerpt, one SEO expresses his reluctance to act on behalf of a criminal like Bernie Madoff, but sounds willing to jump into a Congressional campaign to try and limit the effect of a politically-driven scandal. The "line" he describes is, indeed, difficult to pin down.

At RepEquity, we've faced a handful of these kinds of decisions. Certainly, we're not interested in suppressing news of criminal behavior... nor would we employ black hat tactics. In the end, our own reputation is at stake, as well as that of our clients. In this nascent time for our industry, we find it best to paraphrase Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart: when is a client unsavory? We know it when we see it.