GCAi weighs in on a NPR report on the ORM industry.
It happens a lot. Someone else sucks up your search results. Google “John Garvey” and you are more likely to find results on John H. Garvey, the President of Catholic University, than you will the founder of our agency. Search for Mary Fallon, and the picture of the Governor of Oklahoma (Mary Fallin) will appear. But, that’s not what keeps people up at night. So what does have some of us tossing and turning during the wee hours? Negative results. They generally fall into three categories: 1) you did something wrong and it was posted, 2) a hater posted something about you, 3) similar to both examples above, someone else, with a name similar to yours, did something wrong and those results are searching quite nicely, thank you very much.
As the NPR report below points out, there is a whole cleanup industry emerging and the businesses occupying that space are claiming that cleanup is only a few key strokes away. Is it really that simple? Well, in the case of the first example, you might as well try it because you are screwed. If you did something wrong and you have not quickly apologized (a critical factor of managing online reputational crises), you can expect some long tail (lasts for a while) critical searchable results that will be hard to make disappear. One company that came to us for help in such a case was having problems on Facebook. They had failed a customer (badly) which resulted in a number of negative posts. Their response? Delete them. The disgruntled customer’s response? Repost them – but each time she became more and more critical. Our recommendation? If you or your company did something wrong, call the customer and immediately apologize. Make the customer completely whole if possible by reimbursing them. In the case above, we also recommended that the client donate to the customer’s favorite charity. There was no app for that.
In the case of a hater posting about you, there are also some cleanup steps you can take. Generally, the hater has to post to a forum. Those forums have rules. If you feel that the hater is breaking the rules, notify the forum (be it Facebook, Yelp, etc.). Again, we have seen this problem before and it is quite common. If the hater is off base and truly posting unfair comments, you have a good shot at getting them removed. There is no app for this approach either.
Now, onto the last case: someone who has a name similar to yours and has done evil to some extent. Again, we have seen it, although it is not an everyday situation at all, and have helped individual clients deal with it. Generally speaking, those clients who are having this problem have not done enough, if anything, to brand themselves online. If personal branding is a new concept to you, buy the book “The Startup of You” immediately. Our secret sauce is professional optimization. We push some SEO PR including creating a keyword phrase for the personal brand that is more unique (i.e. “John J. Garvey” rather than simply “John Garvey”), whip the LinkedIn profile into shape, and sprinkle in a number of tagged professional photographs. There’s more to it of course, but those three tactics should make our approach understandable and it does the trick without fail. There is no app for that either.
We also have a variety of “listening tools” (known in our industry as monitoring and measurement platforms) to help us evaluate our efforts and identify problems. Google Alerts is a great way to start monitoring your own personal brand. There is an old saying in PR that suggests “there is no such thing as bad publicity.” That was probably suggested well before the advent of Social Media and its empowerment of consumers. Yet, if you monitor your brand online and you are not hearing anything – either good or bad, that might not be the best thing either.
Let us know what you think of the NPR report and if you have ever encountered reputational problems online.