Should Online Reputation Management be Active or Reactive?

Nov 7, 2013

online reputationOnline reputation management is an incredibly important task, especially for business owners, public officials, and anyone who is building a reputation for themselves anywhere – even college students and job applicants. However, there are two approaches to online reputation management – active and reactive – and some find it difficult to decide which to choose. Below is an overview of each and an overall comparison that may help others choose which approach is best.


An active approach to online reputation management indicates that you or a representative for you, such as someone at a reputation management company, proactively seeks out information available about you online, monitors what is being said, and actively seeks to suppress false and/or negative information about you. This approach is proactive and helps to prevent the appearance and spread of negative information about you, your business, your product or service, etc.


A reactive approach to online reputation management indicates that negative information is suppressed only as it arises. This is, as the name indicates, a reactive response to negative information that affects you or your business after it appears online. Essentially, this method only takes care of problems that already exist, and does nothing to prevent the problem from arising in the first place.

Pros and Cons

Each method has pros and cons, but some of the pros are not necessarily good reasons to choose one method over the other. Some of the pros of active online management include:

  • The ability to prevent negative information from being placed online
  • Strategic monitoring of locations where such information may be most likely to occur
  • Ensuring positive information and truthful information about you or your business is spread
  • Actively spreading good and suppressing negativity, etc.

The cons of active online management are not many, but mainly include two things:

  • If you are using a reputation management service, this option is usually more expensive.
  • It takes much more time to pursue this approach.

The pros of a reactive management approach, on the other hand, include any one of the following:

  • Lower cost
  • Less time involved
  • Is better than having no reputation management system in place?

The cons of a reactive management approach may include:

  • Inability to spot negative trends before they are noticeable
  • Not being able to prevent negative information from arising
  • Not having a system in place to spread good information and positive rhetoric about you, your business, etc.

The Last Word

It is easy to see that both methods have their pros and cons; however, it is most likely that an active approach to online reputation management will be most effective. To think of it another way, consider the analogy that can be made using your home. You can fire-proof your home by installing smoke alarms, making sure that flammable debris is not around the house, turning off electrical devices when they aren’t in use, not sleeping with candles burning, and so on. This is similar to an active reputation management approach – you’re preventing fires from starting. Another option is to do nothing to fire-proof your home and hope for the best. You’ll save time and money up front, but when a fire happens you have to scramble to put it out before it causes too much damage. It will, however, cause damage, and it will be much more costly and time-consuming to rush to put the fire out than it would have been to prevent it from starting.

This analogy may help you in understanding what reputation management does and why it’s important to use an active approach. Rumors, slander, false information, and negativity can spread like wildfire through the internet, and it’s much better to prevent these things from starting in the first place than it is to try and suppress them once they have started.