Reputation Repair: How to Salvage a Tarnished Personal Brand

Word travels fast these days, and long before you walk into a room, your reputation often precedes you! It’s a truth as old as the theater itself, something even William Shakespeare, the master storyteller, recognized. Remember his words from Othello, “Good name in man and woman… is the immediate jewel of their souls. Who steals my purse steals trash… But he that filches from me my good name robs me of that which not enriches him and makes me poor indeed.” Your brand is indeed your shining armor and when tarnished, reputation repair is your only recourse.

A tarnished reputation should not mean career death. By its very nature, something tarnished can be cleaned. So many high-level leaders have had to repair their reputation, or at least reinvent their personal brand at some point in their career.

Now before we dive into strategies for your reputation repair, you need to note that any sudden change in your brand would appear to your audience as disingenuous or contrived. Therefore your journey to repair your reputation must be approached through a series of small subtle steps that people will pick up on only subliminally. While there is no quick fix to repairing your personal reputation, a well-executed strategy can elevate your reputation like a phoenix rising from the ashes.

What’s the impact of a tarnished reputation?

For a C-suite executive whose reputation is often intertwined with your company’s public image, managing and repairing your personal brand reputation should be a top priority.

In the competitive corporate world, ‘your reputation is your currency’ is not just cliche

The way you are perceived directly affects your professional opportunities and can be the deciding factor in your career advancement. Today, much of professional and personal success depends on persuading others to recognize your value. You have to do this when you apply for jobs, ask for promotions, vie for leadership positions, or write your dating profile. Today, everyone is a brand, and if yours is compromised, it is imperative to take action and repair it.

A tarnished personal brand can affect not just your career but also the organization you lead.

Practical Steps on How To Repair Your Reputation


Conduct a personal audit: Assess the damage

What do they really say about you behind closed doors? How severe is the damage to your brand? Who are the affected parties? What are the potential consequences?

The first step in repairing your personal brand is to have a clear understanding of the nature and extent of the damage. You need to be honest, objective, and realistic about the situation. Don t ignore, deny, or minimize the problem, but also don t exaggerate, dramatize, or panic. Try to get a clear picture of the facts and the perceptions of your audience.

How can you go about this?

  • Googling Yourself: Search your name online to see what comes up. Look at images, news, and social media mentions.
  • Review Social Media Profiles: Check all your social media profiles and assess the content. Look for posts, comments, or photos that could be perceived negatively.
  • Solicit Feedback: Ask trusted friends, colleagues, or mentors to review your online presence and provide honest feedback.


Address the issue: clean up your online presence

Once you have a clear understanding of the issues, it’s time to roll up your sleeves and improve your online presence. Start by demonstrating your competence, professionalism, and expertise through tangible actions. Share your progress and achievements consistently to build trust and credibility. Actively seek feedback and guidance from your mentors, peers, and audiences to refine your approach. Be proactive, responsive, and solution-oriented in addressing any concerns so your audience can always look to your brand as the go-to platform for authentic thought leadership.

Use the following steps to clean up your online presence

  • Delete negative content: Remove any posts, comments, or photos that could harm your reputation. This includes anything that could be unprofessional, offensive, or controversial.
  • Untag yourself: Untag yourself from any photos or posts that you did not create but which could reflect poorly on you.
  • Review your online connections: On social media, every page and person you follow should reflect positively on your person.
  • Adjust privacy settings: Make your social media accounts private or adjust privacy settings to control who can see your content and engage with you. This will discourage unsolicited tags and ensure only your select audience follows and engages with you.


Rebuild your brand: forge trust and relationships

Now that you’ve cleaned up your online presence, it’s time to show your audience that you can still be as trustworthy and reliable if you’re going to rebuild trust and relationships with them.

Start by following these steps

  • Create positive content regularly: Start posting content that reflects your professional values and expertise regularly.
  • Engage with your professional network: Connect with professionals in your industry and engage with their content. You can also consider attending company events, partnerships, and collaborations.
  • Showcase your skills: Use platforms like LinkedIn to highlight your skills and experiences. Write articles, participate in discussions, and share insightful and thoughtful updates related to your field. These are necessary for showcasing your thought leadership which will in turn boost the audience’s trust in your brand.


Leverage media and PR

Engage with media strategically to rebuild and repair your reputation:

  • Media Interviews: Conduct interviews with reputable media outlets to discuss your professional journey, lessons learned, and future goals. Ensure your narrative is clear, honest, and forward-looking.
  • Positive Press Releases: Issue press releases about new initiatives, partnerships, or successes to generate positive media coverage.


Consistent monitoring and management

Reputation repair and management is a never-ending process. Consistently monitor your online presence and make adjustments as needed:

  • Conduct regular audits: Conduct regular audits of your social media accounts and online mentions to ensure your personal brand remains aligned with your values and your audience’s needs. Continuously monitor your online presence and media mentions to stay ahead of potential issues.
  • Respond to feedback: Address any negative feedback or comments professionally and constructively. Show that you care about the impact of your actions and that you respect your audience.
  • Stay Updated: Keep up with trends in personal branding and social media to ensure you’re using the best strategies to maintain a positive image.
  • Solicit Feedback: Ask trusted friends, colleagues, or mentors to review your online presence and provide honest feedback.
Case examples of executives who have successfully repaired their personal brands

Martha Stewart


Martha Stewart, a businesswoman and media personality, in 2004 was convicted of felony charges related to the ImClone stock trading case; she served five months in federal prison for fraud and was released in March 2005.

Stewart publicly apologized, served her sentence, and made a strong comeback by focusing on her strengths in media and business. She has since successfully rebuilt her brand and continued to be a prominent figure in the lifestyle and home décor industry.

Tiger Woods


Tiger Woods is presently widely regarded as one of the greatest golfers of all time and one of the most famous athletes in modern history. In 2009, he faced a major scandal that severely damaged his personal and professional reputation.

Woods issued public apologies, took a break from professional golf, and focused on personal rehabilitation and a professional comeback. He would gradually regain his reputation, winning the 2019 Masters Tournament and restoring his status as one of golf’s greatest players.

In conclusion, your personal brand is your best asset in scaling the corporate ladder. For C- suite executives, the process of repairing your reputation is multifaceted and demands a strategic, sustained effort. The impact of a damaged reputation extends beyond personal consequences, influencing company performance, investor trust, and talent acquisition. As studies show, a significant portion of a company’s value and reputation is tied to its leadership image.

But you don’t have to go through all this alone. Our team of seasoned experts is ready to help guide your personal brand strategy, with the aim of not only repairing your online reputation but also maintaining a consistently positive image through a clear-cut content strategy. Let’s have a conversation and chart the future of your marketing and branding journey.

Tonny Ogwa is a storyteller. He tells stories about people and brands. His work has been published in both regional and international literary journals, newspapers, and other publications. When he is not writing, he's reading a good book or watching a terrific film.

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