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Ironically, the reputation management industry has an image problem: Several companies have been shut down by prosecutors, and others apparently struggle because of complaints from past clients who claim the services provided by those agencies were a scam.

Yet (and this is not bragging) some four years and 100 mandates (commissioned work) into our online reputation management (ORM) efforts, driven almost exclusively by word-of-mouth, our team has not suffered the same fate. Why?

I have decided it's time to pull an Elon Musk and share the blueprints of our successful efforts. Although we've shared bullet points in the past on our website in an infographic, I have never publicly revealed key details—the stuff that's not on that chart, not anywhere, not even presentations at conferences.

From an agency standpoint, I view ORM in three stages: pre-mandate, process during the mandate, and reporting.

Most of takeaways for marketing professionals who don't work at ORM agencies lie with the first two stages. Here are nine such takeaways.

Takeaway 1: Your ethics matter

Most problems arise when in your capacity as a reputation manager you cross a legal or ethical line. In the pre-mandate stage, you have a fundamental choice: to accept or reject the potential client, including on the basis of ethical concerns. So, before deciding to take on a mandate, you must learn as much as you can about the clients and their motivations.

Takeaway 2: Don't let the client test legal boundaries

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image of Herman Tumurcuoglu

Herman Tumurcuoglu is a co-founder of SearchReputation.net, an online reputation management boutique agency. Credited with developing search syndication, he's been in the search industry for 20+ years, having launched Mamma.com in 1996.

LinkedIn: Herman Tumurcuoglu

Twitter: @hermant2012