Make a Positive Impression Online: How to Handle Content That Reflects Badly On You

Make a Positive Impression Online_ How to Handle Content That Reflects Badly On You

The digital world is a challenging place to be, make no mistake and an even tougher place to make a positive impression online.

This is even more true as a writer because we are forced to put ourselves out there, day in and day out. Sometimes, the steps we take to gain wider recognition or earn money don’t feel so great later on, when we’re not currently benefiting from that recognition or money.

For instance, maybe you wrote a piece that you no longer agree with or that has become politically incorrect, but it’s on someone else’s blog and you can’t take it down. Or perhaps you wrote for a company that you don’t like now, and again, have no control over that piece’s longevity … or the fact that they link to your blog/presence.

I’ve been there. Sometimes I’ve written for money but disliked what I produced later. It didn’t fit my brand or my message. Or it simply wasn’t on topic. Some pieces have generated a TON of interest but from the wrong sort of people. Not bad people; just folks looking to pitch stories I have no interest in writing.

No matter what, I understand that these situations can make you feel like you’re failing to make a positive impression online.

You know what, though? It’s okay. You can deal with content that you feel reflects badly on you. It’s just another hard part of being a writer, but it isn’t impossible. Here’s how to do it.

How to Deal with a Perceived Failure to Make a Positive Impression Online

  1. Ask the stakeholder to take it down: I’ve posted pieces from other writers on my blog, and I can tell you I would always be happy to take a piece down if someone asked me. If they don’t feel it helps them make a positive impression online, then I’m all for it. Not everyone – especially bigger blogs/companies – will accommodate this, but you can always ask.
  2. Remove links: At the time, you may have linked proudly to this piece, and those links can hide in lots of places. If you really think the content is problematic, go ahead and hunt those links down and remove them. I’ve never been this worried about any piece, but if you are, take the time. You’ll feel better.
  3. Acknowledge its presence: If someone asks you about That One Piece You Wish Wasn’t There, admit you wrote it (what, like you’re going to hide it?) and add, “but I don’t write for them anymore. I focus on other things now.”
  4. Redirect prospective clients or guest sites: It’s especially important to make a positive impression online when you’re hoping to land a gig. If you’re trying to impress someone with whom you want to work, or whom you want to publish your guest post, redirect the conversation. Say something like, “Yes, that was me, but right now I’m focusing on ________. You can see some articles at [link] and [link]. I think you’ll like how they align to your content.”
  5. Edit: Lots of content is within your control, such as your own blog posts or the copy on your website. Most businesses edit that to fit their current model all the time. While I understand this represents a lot of time and work, it could well be worth it. If you aren’t in charge and you don’t think the stakeholder will let you take the piece down, try this: “Hi! Just checking back in about [piece]. I actually think it’s a little out of date, but I wrote a revised version (attached) that I think your readers will really benefit from. Let me know!” This sometimes works, and is worth trying.
  6. Suck it up: At the end of the day, you have to get over it. If you have time to sit around and mope about an article or two that don’t make you look your best, you have too much time. Find something else to do with it, like writing better pieces that help you make that positive impression online. Stop whining, tell yourself we all make mistakes and get over it. No one has put a spotlight on you; you’re just not that important. So get it done and move on.

Your Feelings Matter, So Respond to Them

We writers (and other creatives) often go through life rife with insecurity and disappointment in ourselves. Sometimes, the best approach is to soothe yourself. After all, what would you tell a struggling and insecure friend? Something along the lines of: Shh shh shh you’re fiiiiiiiiine, right? And it would be true.

Remind yourself: If you wanted, you could find something about anyone that would make them look less-than-shiny, but that’s now how you want to spend your life. It’s not how anyone else wants to spend their lives either, so just stop worrying.

You’re fiiiiiiiiiine.

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