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Unvarnished is really Unharnessed

Photo courtesy of tina-m via Flickr

Unvarnished is defined by Webster’s as “not adorned or glossed: plain, straightforward.” A new site of the same name is a place where working Joes can let out gripes or sing the praises of coworkers without ever having to reveal their identity.

The idea is simple: users can access the site via Facebook and either create a new page or comment on an existing one. Comments and ratings can be either positive or negative but all can be done anonymously. Unfortunately there’s no vetting process for these ratings and comments, so once a bad rating appears on a page, it’s there forever.

The creators of Unvarnished contend that because users must access the site through Facebook, their profile information is available in case of an emergency – an “emergency” meaning a defamatory post. However, it’s unclear who decides if a post qualifies as defamatory or just the un-vetted rants of a disgruntled ex-coworker. Policing a site like this seems almost impossible.

In environment so uncontrolled, public relations professionals are faced with an especially troublesome dilemma — How do you maintain your reputation and control your profile on a site like Unvarnished? If someone gives a bad review, it’s possible to provide your side of the story but then again, how do you argue with an anonymous accuser?

On the other hand, the site is an opportunity for people to provide positive feedback about coworkers and rate them highly. A good review could be read by anyone – including future employers or current employers looking for feedback.

The obvious antidote to poor reviews on Unvarnished is to do your job well and maintain a good relationship with coworkers. However a slumping economy and increasing workloads can account for some less-than-perfect working conditions and the need to vent.

PRWeek recently weighed in with its recent article likening the site to a “more interactive-styled LinkedIn.”  Yes, the site may be more interactive but its credibility might also be tarnished since users are allowed to remain anonymous.

A site like LinkedIn implies connectivity whereas Unvarnished implies coarseness and more often than not, negativity. As a public relations professional, it’s hard to control reputation when a site like Unvarnished provides a resource for people who have an axe to grind.

What do you think about a site like Unvarnished? How do you control your brand and name when on such a site?

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