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How Too Much Publicity Ruined My Reputation

By Rick Carruth
Posted Thursday, October 28, 2004

Personal account of how too much publicity, and a little vanity, ruined my day. And how you can avoid my mistakes and those of many on the web.
As they say in Hollywood, "Any publicity is good publicity". Getting your photo on the front page of the social section, cuddling with someone else's spouse, will earn you applause from both your publicist and the studio executives.

On the internet, we have guru's and guru-wanna-be's who will also cuddle with anyone, or any product, for a little free publicity. Anything from giving bogus testimonials to the outright lending of their name and reputation to products and services that are sub-standard, at best.

Why do they do it? A little greed, a little vanity, and a little grand-standing perhaps. Again, a feeling that any publicity is better than none at all.

And it's not only the "names" that are guilty. I suspect we all have compromised our standards to a degree or another; linking to anyone and everyone that will link with us; ad-swapping with ezines that we know nothing about; or allowing pop-ups or banners on our site that advertise businesses and products we wouldn't associate with, except that we are being "paid" to show them to others.

We all want "front page exposure", and we compromise to get it. I know first-hand what "front page" can do for your reputation. And it wasn't a very pleasant experience. Funny, maybe... but not pleasant.

Let's go back a few years.(I use the word "few" loosely) I was a college student with two things on my mind.. ( no- not science and history) Women and tennis.

I lived and breathed tennis. I was on a team with two state champions and one of India's greatest players. I thrived on the competition and loved the good publicity.

Women significantly outnumbered men at my college. That fact had a profound influence on my thinking! And being surrounded by a bunch of jocks moved me to want more and more publicity. I needed to set myself apart from the herd.

Now that you know my motivations, lets talk about the facts...

It was the second day of a second semester and we had class registration all day. Actually, I was through early, and found myself sitting on a bench in the middle of campus, talking to a young lady I had shared a couple of classes with the previous semester.

I remember this short, thirty-something guy with a camera around his neck introducing himself to us, and relating about his job with the local newspaper. He wanted to take a series of photographs of a young couple to use as file photos. He explained how, if we consented, our picture would probably be used for an upcoming valentines day feature. Hey... my picture in the paper, maybe on the front page...

I didn't need to hear any more.

I can't say what the young lady's motivation was - but I wanted the publicity! I wanted the "edge". It was only the second day of school, and I'm starting to pull away from the pack.

We walked around campus, taking pictures on benches, standing in doorways, walking across the athletic field. If I could just get my picture run four or five times, think of the steady flow of publicity!

Jocks... eat your hearts out.

He didn't lie. On Valentines day, right there on the front page, our silhouette's framed by a heart with something about "love eternal". You know, that talk that women like to hear. Absolutely GREAT publicity!

There's not enough rice in China to buy that kind of publicity..

Fast forward about a month. My room mate has an early class, and he comes back to the room clutching a copy of the newspaper. " Rick, you gotta see this! You made the front page again!" Oh, he was so right...

There's the two of us, sitting on a bench, talking sweet nothings. But there's nothing about "love blooming" or "hope eternal". Not quite..

The big, bold letters proclaim " Venereal Disease Running Rampant Among Our Youth". In one fell swoop, I've gone from pretty boy... to poster boy-- for sexually transmitted diseases!

I couldn't get a date for months....

You see, not all publicity is necessarily good publicity. If you want to develop your web presence, you owe it to your yourself to take your web reputation into account. Of course, I'm juxtaposing publicity and reputation here. Publicity creates reputations, and reputations attract publicity.

Don't wait until you have earned a name for yourself before becoming concerned about how people see you, or perceive your products. You can't start developing , growing, and nurturing your image too early. But you can certainly wait too late...

I'm not on a moral soapbox here. What I am doing is this; advising you that if your reputation, and how you preserve and present it, is not part of your business plan - then you don't have much of a plan.

And I mean it...

Don't make bonehead decisions for the sake of a dollar, that will sneak back into your life at some very unmerciful moment, and bite you on the (fill in the blank). And don't think, for a minute, that when you step onto a world stage you will be able to fly under the radar of public scrutiny.

Remember, you're asking people to send you, or your "friends", their hard-earned money.So you darn well better be in a position to earn their trust. Not all marketers have short memories, and someone, I promise you, will remember you from some "ninety-five dollar piece of pure junk" you sold or pushed to them five years earlier.

They were mad then, and they're still mad. And they will go to every board and forum that time allows to dis-credit whatever you have to offer.

Don't struggle to the top, only to have the rug of opportunity pulled out from under you. It always works that way, because no one is interested in pulling the rug out from under you when you're at the bottom.

And folks, when the spotlight of opportunity finally shines upon you.... you better be prepared to dance your little hearts out... ____________________________________________

Editors footnote: Unlike Marketers, college students must have a relatively short memory, as I did get another date before semester's end. My tennis career flourished, for a little while anyway.

I had the privilege of working for Rod Laver and Roy Emerson (for you students of the game), and worked as the head pro at a popular country club.

Suddenly, one day I caught a terrible affliction called adult- itis. It forced me out of the game and into my current roll of internet guru.. with a few stops along the way.

(Hey.. a little self-promotion has never hurt anyone - has it?)

About the Author
Rick is the editor of the eBiz Beacon, a slightly quirky marketing ezine with an attitude! New subscribers are Always welcome! Visit and sign up at: ( -or- contact) Rick at:


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