Monday, August 16, 2010

Reputation Management is Crisis PR

What is online reputation management? It is what marketers and public relations pros used to call crisis management. Frequently being called "online reputation management" today, MarCom started seeing this challenge back around 2005. It was when many chief executive officers started seeing negative listings, comments or articles about them and/or their company’s products and services on the Internet.

Back then, about ten years ago, marketers spent their time training executives in major corporations on how to handle a crisis, but when the worldwide Web was born,things changed. And today, social media channels like Twitter or Facebook, a crisis can travel at the speed of light, and potentially put a company out of business overnight.

In those days CEOs and many company officers unwittingly responded to people in blogs or news forums and to journalists online – and often times their comments were perceived in a negative way. If anyone anywhere online would say bad things about a CEO or their company and products online, it showed up on page one of the search engines when the CEO's name and his company was searched for online. These kinds of complaints or bad reviews that were showing up in a search meant a loss of revenues, and in some cases, lost businesses period.

These days, most CEOs know better than to say bad things online. The problem being that anything you write on the worldwide Web remains on the worldwide Web. Reputation management services promise to highlight positive pages and bury offending sites deep in search results. Most reputation services work by tracking what's written about a client on the Web, then doing search engine optimization (SEO) and promoting the positive pages, thereby pushing damaging references off the first pages of search results.

Even worse, if you EVER had a bad rap sheet from a prior crime or offence that shows up on the Internet. In one case, a book was written about a group of men that were sent to jail for a crime. That book was reviewed in a national business magazine, and to this day it remains engrained on page one of Google and the Internet, mug shots and all. The bigger the website with a negative listing, the harder it is and longer it takes to remove it.

Today this is known as "reputation management" -- a job that typically falls upon marketing and PR people to make what these CEOs said vanish. Five years ago it only took a couple of months to “bury” negative comments online because Google was less sophisticated and there was less content out there. But then it all depends on the business category. Some categories have more content posted on the Web than others. As just one example, optimizing for "purple hearts" is going to be easier than "wireless technology" becaus therer is less out there about purple hearts.

Therefore, online reputation management was born to deal with a businessman, celebrity, or a politician's negative listings. In addition to using basic public relations strategies, SEO and link building became the way to solve these challenges.

The marketing and SEO firm must determine the new key messages for use online. Then they will use these optimum key words in all written content online and offline. That includes website copy, press materials, and optimized press releases that are posted on electronic wire services; syndicated articles for the Web; blogs and newsletters. And nowadays, we also use Facebook, Twitter and bookmark sites like DIGG, and Stumble Upon, to create links back to the client’s website pages with relevant content.

Within weeks negative listings will start to be pushed back off of Google’s first page, and by three to six months a company’s ranking by the search engines should be showing a significant increase in organic listings based on the key words used, and the negative listings will be pushed down on the pages of the se4arch engines, although they may never be completely gone.

Reputation management services have become mainstream because of the growth online. What took a couple of months to "fix" an issue in years past now takes more time, and a bigger team. We have trained and put people in place globally to assist in this effort. And since we have managed online reputation strategies for other clients too.

Today we use bigger teams to create more links faster, along with newer more sophisticated (and time consuming) tactics like short optimized video postings on YouTube, the syndication of many optimized content articles, and an array of interlinked websites and social media marketing platforms to create RSS mashups, hubspots, and a synergistic approach for moving negative listings back to the back pages on the Web.