SOBCon08 Notes Anita Bruzzese: Managing Your Online Reputation


About the SOBCon08 notes series . . .

On May 2-4, Liz Strauss hosted SOBCon08: Biz School for Bloggers in Chicago. During the sessions, I typed notes to share with you. To presenters and attendees: please feel free to clarify and comment. Starting today, I will share notes from each session along with how I’m using the knowledge to improve my reader/customer experience.

Presenter: Anita Bruzzese,, opened the program with a presentation on “Managing Your Online Reputation.”

Anita Bruzzese’s “On the Job” column is featured in dozens of newspapers and Web sites every week, with a readership of more than eight million. [I had lunch with Anita. Had I known she had this many readers, I don’t think I would’ve been so relaxed! She’s a wonderful person, a passionate presenter and a fantastic writer!]

Anita met Liz Strauss last year. Liz was one of the first people to pop up on Anita’s radar screen because 1. Liz didn’t want to kill journalists and 2. she was nice. Liz seemed surprisingly normal.

Anita says reporters are confounded by bloggers and wonder: Who are these people? What are some of these people thinking that they’re writing about? Is the world just one big bathroom stall?

In looking at blogs, Anita came across a lot of dirt. When you go to j-school, your professors tell you about the responsibility you have for writing. Ethics is an ongoing discussion. USA Today had a desk called “the bone” because of its shape. When you wrote a story, you walked the bone with the editors. Often exasperating, but the best way to write.

What sources do you use for your information? Can you guarantee that it’s correct?

Anita says, “No matter what I write, I have to make sure it’s right – length doesn’t matter.” She quoted The Pew Center’s stats.

Who is the source of your information and why are they sharing it?

Your work has your name on it. Is the information credible? How do you know?

It must be fair. It’s not acceptable or ethical just to write something to sell a product. Ask: did you tell the other side of the story? The power of the written word has exploded in ways we haven’t managed: firings, politics, world issues, raised funds, given a voice to people ignored by mainstream media for too long.

Take a step back and look at what we’re writing online.

Ideas for managing your reputation online:

1. What is the source of your information? If you write about something, you’re saying “trust me I know it to be true.” Verify all sources – and not just Wikipedia. Wikipedia is a probable – 98% true most of the time, 2% of the time it’s not and you get into trouble- quote from a journalism conference.

2. Who is the source of your information?

Didn’t your mother every tell you that you are known by the company you keep? Question information, don’t forget that you can never be lazy when it comes to disseminating information.

Anita doesn’t have a blogroll because she would be endorsing other people’s work. She will put them on her resource list, though. Other people blogrolls’ mean something else. Ask: what is the agenda – might they lead me astray?

3. Is the information credible?

Example: charitable group posted positive comments about themselves on other blogs, got into trouble

What readers really want to know: do you have an agenda that you’re not being up front about? When you dodge, evade, conceal – they will find out about it. The Internet makes it so easy to expose lies and charlatans. Peggy Noonan talked about Hillary Clinton’s story about dodging bullets. It’s very easy for people to categorize you and once they get a wrong idea, it’s hard to get them back.

4. Are you being fair? A blog represents you and your opinions. You want readers to respond: I hear what you have to say it’s of value to me and to others. Take the time to listen. Anita’s dismayed by cliques among bloggers who only link and talk to each other. When you tell only one side of the story and don’t stretch, then you come off as not being fair. People got into blogging because they felt excluded and they want to be included.

Anita adds in a “nugget” paragraph for the beginners; if you want to be inclusive, give them some background so they feel like they’re part of your group.

5. What to do if you make a mistake: set up something so you can respond immediately.

61% of bloggers hardly ever or never corrected a mistake – Pew Center. Don’t repeat the mistake. Mary Jones is from Dallas NOT Mary Jones is not from Houston, she’s from Dallas. Remember: always post the correction with the original story. Should you write another post so that the RSS picks it up? Yes.

Post a correction on your blog and notify other people where it might be.

6. What do you do when somebody attacks you?

Respond with the truth and with facts – example: plants. Anita wanted to buy plants from an online nursery, but found mostly negative comments online. The nursery let their reputation be trashed over and over because they didn’t post facts about a freeze that caused a shortage of plants.

Liz: first find a way to say thank you, don’t get sucked into a negative comment attack

7. How do you encourage worthwhile comments?

Post letters from readers. Reward really good comments. Don’t allow negative comments and that you won’t be held liable.

8. How will you have an ongoing evaluation of your reputation?

Editors look for the “Hey, Martha” type of comments – does it have all the good rules in place? Even a virtual roundtable is a good idea, it helps you develop a strong voice and a strong message. Am I demonstrating good ethics? Have I written anything that I regret? This all applies to commenting, too. What you do in those few minutes could have a permanent and long-lasting effect on your reputation.

9. What is your line in the sand?

Write down your personal mission statement: 12 words or less.

10. Will you stand the test of time?

Most people don’t begin to understand the power of words – you are given a really wonderful chance to echo and build on who you are.

“It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.” Warren Buffett



The biggest standout for me here is: the “nugget” paragraph.

Anita adds in a “nugget” paragraph for the beginners; if you want to be inclusive, give them some background so they feel like they’re part of your group.


Welcome all first time readers with a guide to what’s going on here.


Borrow from our CoryWest Media, LLC site and engage readers with a reception page – not just a “here’s where I left off” most recent post. Let them know that the blog is part of a system of information delivery that includes speaking, consulting and information products.


About 90 minutes – started with a selecting an image and transferring over most of the CWM site, but then decided that was too heavy. All I really need was a wave and a welcome from me to me and my blog, not a weighty introduction that would take more than a minute to read.


Here, I chose the number of new RSS subscribers. Right now, I’m offering three options, but only two measure subscribers. Maybe I should only offer two?

View wiredPRwork’s reception room


Think of the nugget as a guiding light thread for all posts.

Your Turn . . .

SOBCon08 attendees: what was your biggest takeaway from this presentation? what did I miss?

Readers: what do you think of the new page?

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