Cassio: Reputation, reputation, reputation! O! I have lost my reputation. I have lost the immortal part of myself, and what remains is bestial. My reputation, Iago, my reputation!
Iago: As I am an honest man, I thought you had received some bodily wound; there is more offence in that than in reputation. Reputation is an idle and most false imposition; oft got without merit, and lost without deserving: you have lost no reputation at all, unless you repute yourself such a loser.
-Shakespeare, Othello, the Moor of Venice, Act II. Scene III, 242-249.
Brian Tannebaum, in his post at My Law License, “No Adrian Dayton, Gaming Google To Create A Reputation Is Not What Lawyers Should Do identifies a “disturbing trend” which will surely catch on among the reputation management crowd:
“A while back, I was trying to establish whether another lawyer was actually practicing law and using the technology they were writing about daily and encouraging other lawyers to use. Questions were raised, and internet chatter began to revolve about the person’s true background. As a result, this person wrote a self-promotional piece about who they “really are.” I found this sad, as manufacturing a reputation is weak and small. Reputations are established by what people say and think about you, not what you say and think of yourself (unless you’re a marketing hack lawyer who has created their own fake reputation to which no one but the naive can attest.)
This post I describe was the inspiration for Adrian Dayton’s latest puff piece: “Who is Adrian Dayton?”. Dayton obviously feels that his view of his background, including his “work” on the 450 million dollar merger, needs to be told, again, and would appreciate if you would write your own self-promotional piece and link to his. By linking to his, you help him with his goal, to have a better Google page. Since the only person telling the story of Adrian Dayton is me, he’s got to tell his own.
So write about yourself, tell us who you really are, and help Adrian Dayton’s Google Analytics.”
This is what we’ve come to in our profession. Those with law degrees who self-admittedly “have no business practicing law,” and are trying to earn a buck from practicing lawyers by playing the “I’m one of you” card, are out there manufacturing their reputations, and asking for your help.
Reputations are earned though.
Have you earned yours, or have you created it? [emphasis added]
Now, most readers will likely figure out that Brian Tannebaum is obliquely referring to Nicole Black, who wrote a post at her Sui Generis blog back on October 25th, 2009 entitled ” Who are you, Nicole Black (aka @nikiblack), and what do you do?.
What I can’t seem to figure out is what caused Adrian Dayton so much consternation about his online reputation that he felt
compelled inspired to dig up a post nearly 2 years old written by his cohort, Nicole Black?
Warren Buffett’s quote: “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.” now seems quaint in the age of Google, LinkedIn, Twitter, and the flavour of the week, Google+.
Reputation management consultants will tell you how important it is to monitor, protect and optimize your reputation. However, their advice is fabricated and factitious. Why? Because their focus is exclusively on what other people say about you online, not offline.
Ask yourself this question: Do I care what other people I do not even know and who I’ve never met in person think or say about me?
If the answer is yes, then you really need to re-evaluate your priorities and self-identity.
No, Adrianos Fachetti was wrong. You are not what Google says you are.
Rather than fretting over what some anonymous troll or keyboard jockey says about you, or, heaven forfend, worrying about another blawger disagreeing with you, try to gain some perspective and insight on why it matters. Fuming over negative references which you perceive as spoiling your meticulously manufactured online persona is likely to be of concern only to one person: You. But it’s not always about You. Most people don’t even know you or care if you exist. Really. It’s true. The Internet Age of Instant Celebrity is fleeting. One week someone links to your post or you’re quoted by the media, the next week you’re last week’s news.
Why not get off the grid once in a while? Call up a client just to ask how they are doing. Invite a colleague, or better yet, call up a detested opponent out for lunch to discuss politics or how poorly their favorite sports team is performing. Write a love letter to your significant other. Write a love letter to yourself, then crumple up the piece of paper and go back to what you were doing before.
If you must do something law-related, why not write a blog post about an area of law that you are vaguely interested in, but will never practice or that will never bring you a single client. You don’t have to write an informative or authoritative post for the fear of creating a lawyer-client relationship or getting sued. Just write. You do have a disclaimer on your blog, don’t you? So what if you get sued. How can you relate to your clients if you haven’t at least walked a mile in their moccasins?
Over at An Associate’s Mind, Keith Lee in his post, “Facebook You v. Real You or Why Personal Branding is Stupid” says what needs to be said:
Shut up about your “personal brand.” Your brand is only the first step; the foot in the door. That’s it. This sudden obsession with developing a personal brand is insane. No one cares about your brand. Let me say that again: No one gives a damn about your brand. Marketers and social media/branding gurus may say otherwise, but they are merely trying to justify their own existence.
You know what matters for lawyers – anyone really? Their reputation.
Your brand is what you say about yourself, but your reputation is what others say about you.
There is no way to self-create a reputation – or at least no way to buy a reputation that lasts. Reputation is developed through hard work, consistency, reliability, and integrity.
In the end, branding is for livestock, not for real lawyers.