Reputation Management: Start Now and Hire Wisely

This article originally ran in the October 2017 issue of AVN magazine. Click here for a link to the digital edition.

You were 19 when you started. Nobody mentioned that once you work in adult it ends up on your “permanent record” thanks to social media, IMDB, journalists and the amazing reach of adult entertainment to every corner of the world map. Now you are retired from adult or have moved on to start a career in something else entirely and you are wondering what can be done to clean up the public perception of your past. That’s what reputation management services are all about! Here are some helpful tips that can save you a lot of money and make your reputation campaign far more effective:

1. Be Proactive By Starting Early

The first thing to consider is the fact that starting earlier makes all of this far easier. Things as simple as choosing a stage name that is somewhat generic, and buying the .com and .org versions of that name are helpful. So is owning the social media accounts under that same name. Usually talent who work in front of the camera are smart enough to obtain their brand-name digital properties, but for people behind the cameras or in the offices of porn companies it is equally important to gain control over your name as best you can, and as early as you can. If you fail to own your name, there is a good chance someone else eventually will, and that person may have far more mean-spirited intentions for that domain or Facebook account than you would have had.

2. Understand What Can and Can’t Be Done Legally

When clients contact me to discuss their reputation issues, one of the first things they typically tell me is “I want to sue the fuck out of these people” and I have to calmly explain to them that in most cases there is no legal cause of action. There is nothing illegal about saying you used to be a porn star, if in fact you used to be a porn star. There is nothing illegal about listing all the films you produced with your name on IMDB. As long as the statements made are either true or a matter of opinion, it becomes nearly impossible to win any sort of defamation case against any publisher. By all means, speak to your attorney if you like, but understand at best it will be a very expensive proposition and at worst it can backfire completely to try and use traditional legal remedies.

For example, people who run “hate blogs” tend to become more combative, not less combative, when they are served with legal documents that they often perceive as threats. Even more problematic is the fact that content online quickly becomes available in many iterations across dozens, hundreds or thousands of other websites. This means that even if the person you sue does agree to take down the content in question, it likely still exists, or will exist again in the future on some other website that they have zero control over.

3. You Can’t Delete But You Can Dilute

Given the fact that you can’t ever really delete anything off the internet, and assuming you have acquired some relevant domains with corresponding social media accounts to improve your reputation, what exactly can be done to fix the problem?

Simply put, you can dilute the negative content by overwhelming it with positive content that is more interesting, newer, more frequently updated and better produced.

The old way of thinking was that you could keep your private matters confidential by choosing not to be out in public online. That paradigm has now changed completely. Because everything is easily searchable, your best chance of keeping something a secret is to have your name so heavily populated with content online that it becomes harder and harder to find the negative needle in the massive haystack of articles, tweets, and blog posts about you.

4. It’s a Marathon, Not a Sprint

Reputation management is like other forms of search engine optimization work. It requires persistent effort over a sustained period of time. Google and other platforms value newer content more than older content; they look for sites that update often and weigh the quality of the content being produced—and in the end, we are trying to push the negative content down to page eight, where nobody bothers to look (which means we need seven-plus pages of quality content to rank ahead of it).

Reputation work is not the sort of thing anyone can do over three or four days and then tell you it’s all done. Make sure you are engaged in the process and know how to update your own sites with fresh content. Best case, you or a professional will build out a large portfolio of properties that can be part of a link-building campaign which results in new items outranking negative content. Then you will be able to take over the campaign completely by posting new content from time to time to keep the sites fresh and maintain their ranks.

5. Be Honest With Yourself and With Others

If you worked in the back office of a DVD studio a decade ago as a summer job, it may be far easier and far cheaper to just own up to it and admit it than would be to try and bury a story in The New York Times that happens to mention your name and associates it with the company. If you are about to get engaged and you used to be male talent in hardcore gay porn videos, tell your fiancé the truth. Reputation management isn’t a method for changing who you are, or a time machine for going back to make different life choices. It is a way to prevent the public from getting the wrong idea about you based on moralistic stigma and political correctness gone out of control.

There is nothing wrong with consenting adults legally working in the adult industry, and you should be proud of your past—it is what makes you who you are today. That being said, there is also an obvious reason why you don’t want a prospective employer in a new career to Google your name and find you in one video after another from five or six years ago.

6. Professionals Can Do More

There are many more advanced techniques that can also be put to use, depending on the particular specifics of your individual case. Everything from hiring a model to be part of a reputation swap, to SEO techniques aimed at devaluing the negative content, ways to discredit sources, access to networks of positive relevant links that will help prop up your new content, and more.

7. Hire Carefully—It Matters Quite a Bit

Be smart about whom you hire, what they promise and what it will cost you. There are companies that essentially extort their clients by being the source of the negative content—such as police blotter sites and that type of nonsense—and then turning around and asking for payment to fix those manufactured issues with another unrelated brand that handles reputation services. There are fly-by-night asshats who promise completely unrealistic results in just a week or two if you send them a boatload of Bitcoin up front, and then they quietly disappear with your money.

If you are someone who has worked in the adult industry, you already know people who understand the way the internet works. You may even have been a webmaster yourself at some point. Don’t forget that reputation work is just like other forms of SEO and many of the same rules apply. Ask around, get a real sense of what work will be done, and make sure there are clear milestones set before you agree to pay any amount of money.

Even the best reputation professional cannot promise you a specific rank by a specific date in time. However, they can definitely tell you how many sites will be built, how many articles published, how many blogs posted, and where the backlinks will come from. And they should be able to provide solid references for their past work. As long as you aren’t trying to desperately buy a handful of magic beans, you should be able to find a quality professional capable of guiding you through a process that yields worthwhile results.

In summary, your reputation takes years to build and can take years to rebuild. There is a lot that can be done, and there are useful ways to accelerate the process if you find the right professional team to work with. Think ahead, be persistent and make sure you understand each step along the way. Also, try to maintain your sense of humor; it’s especially valuable during trying times. If all else fails … you can always change your name to Derek Jeter, because once you do that, no matter how hard they Google that name, they will never manage to find a single item about you anywhere online.