AIG Division To Begin Offering Negative Publicity Insurance

October 22, 2011

AIG offers ‘Reputation’ Insurance. The policy would also cover costs associated with minimizing the potential impact of negative  publicity, the company said.

They say image is everything, and now companies can insure theirs.

After taking heaps of blame for the financial crisis and accepting a $130 billion government bailout to survive, American  International Group Inc. knows a thing or two about bad publicity. Now it wants to help others weather such storms—for a price.

Crisis veteran AIG is offering crisis-management insurance. Chartis, the property-casualty subsidiary of the New York insurer, is offering a new type of coverage to help companies offset  the cost of bringing in outside experts when a public-relations crisis hits.

Dubbed ReputationGuard, the insurance policy is  aimed at small-to mid-size companies, which may not have their own internal crisis communications teams.

Companies often turn to such crisis-communications firms when they need help shaping responses to events that could cause lasting  damage to their brands or their businesses, such as food contaminations, environmental disasters, executive scandals—or government  bailouts. Chartis’s new product comes with some precedent.

Some types of product-recall and data-breach insurance, for example, provide  coverage for consulting with public-relations companies. Broker Willis Group Holdings PLC offers it as part of a  bedbug-infestation product it launched earlier this year. Chubb Corp. even provides money for public-relations expenses for  wealthy homeowners if they are sued by their household help in a high-profile case.

The Chartis policy, however, doesn’t specify a particular event that would trigger the coverage. Instead, it is designed to cover  a broad range of potential , said Rob Yellen, chief underwriting officer of Chartis’s executive-liability  practice — “the sorts of things that a stakeholder would look at as a breach of trust.”

The coverage was devised after discussions with insurance clients and brokers indicated a potential market for the product, Mr.  Yellen said. Chartis, in fact, wasn’t called Chartis until it rebranded itself in 2009 to distance itself from its parent company. The name was  changed from AIU Holdings as part of the company’s crisis-management strategy. Chartis isn’t the unit that prompted AIG to seek the government’s help, and much of the bailout has since been repaid.

The U.S.  Treasury still owns the majority of AIG’s common stock, which remains down more than 95% from its precrisis peak. As for the ReputationGuard product, the cost will vary widely based in part on the size of the company seeking the coverage, the  soundness of its crisis-response plan and its potential need for the crisis-management services, said Tracie Grella, president of  Chartis’s Professional Liability unit.

Small companies with a crisis-communication-preparedness plan could see premiums of about  $10,000 annually. Christopher Lang, a managing director at insurance broker Marsh Inc., said the coverage would likely be most attractive to small  and midsize firms, in part because they may not have sufficient crisis-communications expertise in-house. Larger firms may also be  more able to absorb the cost of consulting with such outside experts without tapping the insurance markets.

“There certainly is broad-based concern about having a crisis-management strategy,” he said. “There should be a marketplace for  the new product, though it won’t have universal appeal”, he said. AIG can’t buy insurance from itself, of course. But when asked if the product would have appealed to company ahead of its P.R.  troubles in 2008, an AIG representative declined to comment.

Preemptive Reputation Management – The Best Defense is a Good Offense

November 7, 2009

reputation_handshake2When you search your name or your company name on Google, what do you see? Do you know how these results are affecting your reputation or the reputation of your company?

The key to effective online reputation management is to be pro-active and monitor situations before they become a problem. Online attacks against individuals, organizations and brands can contribute to damages surpassing billions of dollars each year. The most cost- effective solution is to prevent these problems before they develop.

•   Search engine users rarely go beyond the first 3 pages of search results.

•   The first 3 pages of a search engine receive 90% of all search traffic.

•   The top 10 results receive nearly 80% more traffic than those in positions 11-30 achieve.

In today’s society, bad word of mouth can spread exponentially online. With so much advertising and media endorsements, people are looking online for reviews and recommendations from their peers to help with purchasing decisions in almost every industry.

Potential customers, future employers, and members of the media are now turning to Google, Yahoo, and Bing for information about you or your business, causing these search engines to become “reputation engines”. Angry customers, ex-employees, consumer activists and competitors are all capable of spreading negative information online. The effect of this negative information can lead to problems with sales, investors, image, and overall reputation. In fact, in a survey from, it was found that 83% of recruiters used search engines to find information about candidates and 43% of those recruiters eliminated a candidate based on negative results in search engines. In other words, these results can cause severe damage to you or your brand. In these situations threatening lawsuits simply do not work. In fact, they can make matters worse, especially if perceived to be vengeful or brought with “intent to harm” the poster. Even when you are right!

Negative information can be posted about you or your business in many places on the internet including blogs, forums, customer review websites, and through images, video and audio content. The most damaging aspect is all websites that host this content are indexable by search engines and the pages can easily appear in the results when someone searches keywords related to you or your business.

As a business owner, C-suite executive, celebrity, or public figure, maintaining your reputation is vital. If you come across negative publicity, it is important not to overreact or make rash decisions as these can backfire if they are not thought out or planned thoroughly.

So How Do You Preemptively Manage Your Reputation Online?

Although most “repair” solutions will require a customized campaign, when being preemptive, ReputationDR normally takes a two step approach to online reputation management. The first step is to monitor online conversation and determine the sources of negative or unwanted information. Step two involves promoting positive or neutral information while decreasing the visibility of negative information. Each client is unique and due to the sensitivity of many of the situations our clients come to us with, we have to handle each project differently…and confidentially.

Step One: Monitor Online Conversation

Monitoring an online reputation is an ongoing and rigorous process. There are millions of sources which can contribute to building a reputation online. Text content is typically the most common way in which information is shared online. However, in recent years there has been increased popularity in sharing images, videos, and audio files as well. These are all mediums which should be monitored in relation to a company’s brand.

Top 10 Items Companies Should Monitor

1.  Company Name & Variations – The obvious: your company name is an important item to monitor. Be sure to track variations in spelling or use of the company name. Also include abbreviations.

2.  Company Website URLs – It is also important to track your company URL and monitor which websites are linking to it or where they are mentioned online. Track the homepage and other key pages such as About Us or Corporate Profiles.

3.  Product Names & Variations – Monitor information about any of your company’s product or service names. At times consumers may refer to a specific product instead of the company name. Be sure to also track variations and abbreviations of product names.

4.  Product URLs – Track product URLs or pages on your website which describe services. Determine which websites are linking to these pages and where or how they are being mentioned online.

5.  Names of Key Players and Employees – Track the names of any key employees, associates, vendors, etc., in your company such as a CEO, CFO, or Board Directors. What is said about these people can also reflect on the company. Tracking these names can lead to the discovery of additional sources of negative information related to the company.

6.  Online Activities of Key Players and Employees – Online activities of people related to a company can affect a company’s brand, positively or negatively. Employees or other key players should be told to refrain from discussing company issues online unless they are appointed to do so. In some situations it will be important to monitor the online activity of employees or key players. For example, it may be feasible to monitor professional or personal blogs if posts are company related. However, it is important to let employees know that these things are monitored.

7.  Online Conversations – It is not only important to track blog posts, forums, and articles but also any comments associated with them. Comments also offer opportunities to participate in conversations about your company but they should be used wisely.

8.  Industry Community Websites– This includes popular blogs, forums, news websites, and anything else that is related to the industry. Many times the feedback and conversations found on these websites can help improve a product or service. It is also an easy way to interact with other people about the company.

9.  Images, Audio, and Video – Text content is not the only medium in which information is shared online. Popular websites like YouTube, Flicker, and PodZinger host a wealth of information in video, audio, and image formats. This type of content should also be monitored.

10. Competitors – There are two types of competitors which should be tracked: brick and mortar competitors and online competitors. Online competition can differ drastically from traditional competition. Be sure to monitor everything that is being tracked for your own company including company name, products, key employees, etc.

Step Two: Defending Against Attacks

Potential customers, future employees, and even family or friends have the ability to come across negative information in search engine results. Pages from message boards, blogs and other websites can appear in search engine results. The pages influence the public perception of a person or a company’s brand. The best method to prevent against attacks is to take a preventative approach to reputation management. The following tips will help to get you started.

A Guide to Reputation Management Techniques

1.  Monitor Online Conversation – Tracking all mentions of yourself, your brand, your products and your company ensures you will to be alerted when situations arise. By doing this you are able to provide timely responses and extinguish small flames before they lead to forest fires. Tips of what to track are provided in Step One.

2.  Dominate Search Engine Results – Dominating search engine results is an effective way to reduce the visibility of negative information. Of course, this is not deleting listings from major search engines or covering up bad things you may have done. Instead it is a form of marketing which should be used to portray yourself or company in the best possible way. The first step to dominating the search engine results is to create information which can appear in the listings.

3.  Create & Promote Positive Information – Creating and promoting information online can help to provide more visibility to positive information and less visibility to negative information. The positive information that is created will have a chance to compete for search engine rankings and can influence the impression of you or your company. Some types of content which can be created (and ranked in search engines) are social networking profiles like Linkedin, Twitter, or Facebook, pictures from, a company website, press releases, and more.

4.  Consistently Build Relationships – Building positive relationships is like building a small army to defend a company’s brand. The more people who have had a positive experience with the company the more positive information will appear online (and without much effort).

5.  Interact Online – There are several ways to interact with others online. For example, participating in online communities and forums or building and regularly updating a blog can be successful ways to get to build a positive reputation. The most important part of contributing online is doing it for the benefit of others. Whether it is sharing a news story or helping to solve a problem posted in an industry forum, helping others can be a sure route to building a positive reputation.

6.  Apologize Sincerely – Mistakes are inevitable. However, when something negative does happen, in most cases the nature and timeliness of the company’s reaction are more important then the event itself. Sincerely apologizing for and correcting mistakes quickly and efficiently is the best route to recovering from mishaps. Planning the appropriate course of action before a situation occurs will ensure accurate execution of the required steps.

7.  State the Facts – When a mistake happens, some negative information can stem from confusion. It is important to state the facts in a clear, truthful and concise way. Posting information on a personal and/or company website is the most effective way to communicate the correct information when a situation occurs.

8.  Listen & Act on Feedback – Feedback is the best way to determine how to improve or correct issues that may challenge a reputation. Attentively listen to customers and the online community. Regularly doing this will also make you more familiar with the best method of response if a negative situation should arrive for you or your company.


A preventative reputation management plan is the best approach. This allows you to be prepared and recover much more quickly when unwanted situations occur.

There is a definite need for professional help in online reputation management. There are many reasons a person or company may chose to enlist the help of a professional online reputation management company. Some of the techniques used to combat negative information require technical or strategic expertise while other situations may be sensitive and should be handled with extreme care and experienced foresight. In addition, monitoring and defending an online reputation is a time consuming activity.

We specialize in online and search engine reputation management, offering a wide variety of custom solutions to repair, defend, and monitor corporate and personal reputations. Our team combines cross-technology knowledge of search engine optimization, marketing, public relations, and traditional branding to deliver effective results for clients in need of professional grade online reputation management.

“It takes 20 years to build a good reputation and 5 minutes to ruin it.” – Warren Buffet


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UGC Creates Opportunity For Disgruntled Malcontents

July 20, 2009

seo_circleWhen talking about online reputation management in the organic SERPs, you’re talking on-demand SEO. The best defense is a robust offense, so make sure the strength of your site’s optimization makes it harder for anyone to even get on the SERPs for direct brand search. However, don’t make things worse by biting off more than you can chew. Sometimes it is always best to engage an expert instead.

For example, the “please can you help us” cold calls we receive from distraught business are increasing in frequency and sound frightfully similar. The frustrated caller explains that some former employee, customer or other provocateur has published damaging editorial content which indexes prominently in Google for direct brand and other important keyword searches. Or negative pages more than five years old, or longer, still display prominantly in the major search engine results, often resulting in lost business that has been measurable.

For a large company, the results can often be disastrous, ranging from bruised feelings to tens (or hundreds) of millions in lost sales. Whilst creating an intentional reputation monitoring/management plan ahead of time is certainly optimal, usually by the time we get the call the business is already bleeding profusely.

Depending on the SEO skill level of the villain, the one who has targeted you, their determination and the authority of the site on which the damaging diatribe is published, the offending results can cause nastiness for businesses and/or individuals needing to now cleanse themselves of the humiliation.

Enter the SEO sharpshooter specialist, focused on attaining organic prominence as quickly as possible under pressure. The objective is to push this nasty content as far down the SERPs as possible and, if necessary, debunk the credibility of the damning editorial(s).  Ironically the tactics we reach for in crises are similar to many other SEO campaigns: Competitive intelligence, content publishing, link building, taking inventory of digital assets for universal search and leveraged power of social channels are among classic tools of the trade.

What differentiates crises management is the sense of urgency, pressure to perform, legal options and the obvious downside to failure.

Here are some time tested tips for SEO / ORM triage sharpshooters:

1. Evaluate the authority of the page on which the negative content is published. As with any ORM assignment, start by taking a look at PageRank and inbound links profile using Yahoo Site Explorer and other tools. If the offending result is not on a site’s homepage, then take a careful look at older and similar interior pages along with their archives.

Google’s algorithmic regard for any page tends to accumulate over time as a result of numerous factors, known and “black box.” Therefore, it’s a good idea to keep in mind that any page’s clout might increase over time. Be advised and plan accordingly.

Reciprocally, if the problem content is currently indexing on a blog’s homepage, the difficulty may be mitigated when the post cycles off the homepage into archives. While the post is on the homepage, its content has the full “weight” of the homepage’s authority.

This won’t be the case in archive unless the post generates great links. That said many blogs’ category pages, author and date archives accumulate PageRank and you might have to wait a while for the post to cycle even deeper into to site over time. (Note: PageRank isn’t everything but it’s better to have it than not.)

2. Determine the likelihood that the substance of proposed defensive content will further provoke and backfire virally. We find it’s best if newly created content and subsequent promotional activity do not appear to be directly related to the problem we’re competing with.

There’s an old saying that advises never to “get into a pissing contest with a skunk. Even if you win…you stink.” Instead, create defensive content that builds on your or your businesses  strengths to contradict the negatives raised by a bad editorial. Then build your content to outrank the complainants.

Though we never take directly refuting offensive results off the table fully, one needs to be extremely careful. We don’t want 5 other bloggers to rally behind their jerky friend and take up a damaging cause they hadn’t even noticed before.

3. Since some offending results violate copyright or trademark laws, a strong understanding of and willingness to utilize legal channels can be important arrows in the ORM sharpshooter’s quiver. Sometimes the first salvo we fire is from our client’s law firm in the form of a cease and desist letter, if for no other reason than to go “on record”.

Be aware of laws as pertain to protected marks and intellectual property. Certainly taking the legal route can yield results and sometimes the expense makes sense.

On the other hand be a realist. Some insolent jerk halfway around the world won’t give a rat’s ass about your attorney’s saber rattling. Sometimes firing legal missles can even result in your opponent digging in their heels with an intransigent disregard for reality. Now you have a worsening problem.

When nasty search engine results stem from social media channels, it can be impossible to locate the villain let alone engage them legally. Social site moderators often couldn’t care less because they thrive on the passionate engagement which surrounds controversy. StumbleUpon (eBay) is the worst as they are nearly completely unwilling to enforce Terms of Services as pertain to abusive “troll” users.

4. If direct engagement in social channels makes sense, attempt to earn the provocateurs respect by your response. Every disaster is an opportunity in the making and vice versa. While measured righteous indignation can be a powerful tool, start with classic high road messages of respect and understanding: “I understand your position,” “respect your right to express your feelings in public,” “am grateful for the opportunity to engage in a dialog” and “what can we do to make things right?”

5. Consider paid search as a stopgap and/or ongoing strategy. When weighing the cost of PPC to circumvent damaging organic results, paid search is often an attractive “lesser of all evils’ option, especially in the short term while waiting for other solutions to come online. Google’s content network, in the hands of a site-targeting expert, can be a highly effective channel — especially when clarifying or refuting mainstream damage in news, niche’ and social channels.

6. Unless you’re an expert, talk to a professional before engaging directly in social channels surrounding the problem results. I can’t tell you how many times we’ve seen a business person, who has no experience in social media, climb into a comments thread and make things SO much worse. There are very few instances when taking a step back and counting to 10 will negatively impact the end result of defensive activities.

If you’re not a regular contributor in a specific social media channel, learning the vernacular while under duress is not the best choice. Also, we’ve seen clients make legal mistakes publicly which made a difficult problem much worse. Call on an ORM/social media expert such as Call your lawyer. Have a glass of wine and some sushi. Chill.

7. Get back to SEO basics. The best defense is a good offense. In reality it should be difficult for idiots to crack into direct brand search results if your website is optimized properly.

8. Finally, take the high road over and over. Then take the high road again. If that doesn’t work…you can always nuke ’em’. There are white hat methods and other, ummmm, not-so-white hat methods available to “eliminate” the problem. Given recent furor over public discussion of bad-ass SEO tactics, you’ll have to contact us directly to discuss other options available to you.

Forewarned is Forearmed

There is every kind of crackpot on the Internet, real loonies. Also bad things can happen to good people and great companies. It’s best to have your defense in place before the crises hits, a social media security system if you will.

When push comes to shove and you’re exposed, take these 8 steps as a starting place to empower your search and online reputation defense. The 9th crucial priority is “response and management”, an entirely different animal than SEO or alerts, as previously discussed in this Blog. The way a each individual or company responds to PR danger is highly personal to the entity at risk.

Sued for a tweet: How not to deal with complaints on Twitter

Take a deep breath, don’t panic, contact us for best brand defense information and FREE consultation.

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Tips From Three C-Suite Executives Regarding Reputation Management

May 13, 2009

search-engine-reputationHow Do You Keep Your Company’s Reputation Intact When Your Industry Has Been Tainted By Bad News?

1. How Should We React?

*(a) Don’t waste time. “When we got word of the peanut butter situation, we asked all our vendors with peanut-relayed products where their ingredients came from. When they told us Peanut Corporation Of America, we pulled it off the floor and started calling shoppers immediately.”

**(b) “You need to speak out publicly and take a position. You have to engage lawmakers, public officials, and the media. Last year Siemens paid big fines for bribes. Its competitors should have come out and stated their own anti-corruption principles.”

***(c) “The first thing a CEO needs to understand is whether there’s actual culpability or if they are a victim. The company is always presumed to be guilty, Which I fully reject. If you are innocent, go on the offense and don’t apologize if you didn’t do anything wrong.”

2.  Should I Delegate Responsibilities Or Take Charge?

*(a) “It needs to be top-driven, but there are clear procedures in place that enable our staff to make a decision. We let our chief executive know, but we don’t wait to move forward — he wouldn’t want us to hesitate if someone’s life was at risk.”

**(b) “If your your company deserves some of the blame, your CEO needs to face reality. CEO’s often go into denial, and that’s the worst thing they can do. It’s a huge mistake to hire a PR firm and ask it to restore your image. The CEO’s job is to take the lead in restoring it.”

 [Our comment: One tactic in restoring one’s image online is to use the internet, social media and blogosphere to position their response. The CEO takes the lead, but will not have trained staff who understand and specialize in online reputation management. Hence, this is usually outsourced to companies such as ours.]

***(c) “CEO’s must become chief crisis officers. Given the choice between a good leader and a good plan, you want the leader. Jeff Immelt has been candid about GE Capital. Rather than offering stilted PR-speak, he’scalling it like it is.”

3.  What Works And What Doesn’t?

*(a) “After an E.coli scare ten years ago, we cewated a system that lets us use membership data to find who purchased a product at a particular time. When we learned of the peanut butter, we called 1.8 million folks.”

**(b) “BP had a tragedy in 2005 when 15 people were killed in an explosion at its oil refinery in Texas. After that, Exxon, where I serve as a board member, set out to reinforce its own safety procedures by reaching out to employees and managers at each of its facilities.”

***(c) “Don’t overrespond. Tyco did a great job when they were embroiled in the Dennis Kozlowski scandal. They realized their customers weren’t the public, so they strategically focused their crisis-management plan on specific groups, like government-procurement officials.”

*(a) Craig Wilson, AVP, Food Safety, Costco Wholesale
**(b) Bill George, Former CEO of Medtronic; Professor, Harvard Business School
***(c) Eric Dezenhall, CEO, Dezenhall Resources

To revitalize their corporate reputations, senior U.S.executives will have to rethink their priorities and heed the messages of consumers the world over. They will need to listen closely to the concerns of their stakeholders, demonstrate authentic care for their communities, commit to a shared set of values with their employees — and stand behind these beliefs even at a cost to short-term performance. That’s the only way they can develop enduring, sustainable, value-creating results and restore their corporate reputations.

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Tweet ReputationDR

Tips For Online Reputation Repair

March 17, 2009

headinhandOnline reputations are becoming increasingly important and difficult to manage. As a result companies that were doing traditional branding are now compelled to change their approach and embrace new online tactics.

Companies that are serious about the perception of their brand should be prepared to include a reputation management campaign in their marketing plan.

Individuals who are concerned with their online reputation should be more conscious of what type of information they post online. On a small scale individuals can be proactive in promoting their own positive content.

For both companies and individuals, a professional reputation management company should be used to take control if the situation gets out of hand. Skilled reputation management companies are experienced in quick reputation repair which will limit the amount and extent of negative information exposure.

We specialize in online and search engine reputation management, offering a wide variety of custom solutions to repair, defend, and monitor corporate and personal reputations. With combined knowledge in search engine optimization, HTML, public relations, PPC, adwords, social media, copywriting, and software tools, our approach to branding delivers successful results for clients who are in need of best-in-class online reputation management.

Our main main goal is to drive negative results out of the search engines. The visibility of the negative information is then drastically decreased. We take a multi-step approach to online reputation management. For example, one step is to monitor online conversation and determine the sources of negative or unwanted information. The next step would involve promoting positive or neutral information while decreasing the visibility of negative information. Each client is unique and due the sensitivity of many of the situations our clients come to us with, we typically handle each project differently by deploying a customized solution.

Dealing with and repairing a bad online reputation isn’t easy. However, starting with some of the suggestions below, you can get a jump start on repairing your reputation. These suggestions are geared toward replacing negative information with positive information on search engine results.

Some Tips for Reputation Repair

Create Social Networking Profiles – Social networks like Naymz, Linkedin, Facebook, Twitter, Squidoo, and Digg are a great place to start. Typically these work best for less common names. If your name is common, like “John Smith”, you will need to get more creative in how these profiles are used.

Write and Syndicate Articles – Most sites would love to have quality unique content available to them. Solicit the websites of a topic you are knowledgeable in and offer them unique and relevant articles in exchange for a bio on their website, to appear with the article. You can also ask them to link the article to a personal or corporate website.

Own Your .com, .net, and .org Domain Name – Buy any variation of domain names with your name in them. For example,,, etc. Write a few pages about yourself for the website and soon this site could appear for searches related to your name. For companies, be sure to own all website variations for your company name and product names. You do not need to post pages on each domain name, but owning them ensures that no one else can purchase them with the purpose of slandering you or your company. By the way, this would include

Contribute to Consumer Generated Websites – Contribute to forums, consumer review websites, and other places on which you have the opportunity to post content and create occurrences of your name online. Be sure to use your real name when registering and contributing to these websites. Blog comments on Blog websites are another avenue for your name to appear online.

Press Releases – Press releases are an easy way to publish a page of content about yourself or your company online. There are press release syndication websites that allow you to publish your press release at no cost. Try to make press releases interesting and useful for the best results.

Public Speaking – Speaking at industry events or local events can give you the positive reputation boost that you are looking for. You will most likely be featured on the event website, and you can also post the event on your own website and Blog or publish a press release to announce the event. These presentations should be recorded, digitized, and then be available for podcast distribution as well.

When negative information appears online it affects the way you or your company are perceived in the public eye. In fact, in a recent study (Creative Group), it was found that 7 out of 10 searchers do not make a purchase if the search they perform contains negative listings. This shows how much of an effect negative search engine listings can have on a person or company. Your reputation is a key factor in personal and business relationships. Both companies and individuals should be aware of the type of results that are appearing in search engines and how it is affecting their business or personal life.

An important point to note is that not all negative information is limited to standard search engines. Blog search engines, video sites like YouTube, social news such as Digg can be affected as well.

As you can see just from reading these simple techniques — there are many more — there is a definite need for professional, experienced help in online reputation management. There are many reasons a person or company should chose to enlist the help of a skilled online reputation management company. Some of the techniques used to combat negative information require technical or strategic expertise while other situations may be sensitive and should be handled with extreme care and knowledge to insure a long-term solution acceptable to the search engines. No “black-hat”, no footprints.

In addition, monitoring and defending an online reputation is time consuming. For an individual or a small company it can be a part time job while, for a large company, it can be a full time job that may require a dedicated team.

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PR Tactics That Affect Online Reputation Management

February 14, 2009

reputationmanagementtracksIt seems almost every day the public, therefore the media, is obsessed with new revelations of celebrities, sports figures, investment bankers, politicians, or companies (“brands”) seemingly self-destructing before our eyes.

Some, as in the case of Bernard Madoff, are well deserved. Others, be they Alex Rodriguez or Michael Phelps, leave open many channels for posturing, spin, and personal opinion. And, of course, these last couple of weeks, the political landscape is covered with fallen bodies, mixed messages, and “mistakes”.

How many times have we actually heard the word “mistake” uttered on air or in the media in the last thirty days? Countless! We see and learn what we already know. That no one is perfect or infallible, we can and will make mistakes, and depending on the circumstances and personalities, or victimization, if any, we can survive and continue to prosper even in the face of “mistakes” that, at first, seem insurmountable in the maintenance of our reputations, both online and offline.

In the world of online reputation management, if you have been targeted, rightly or wrongly, there are some very real PR tactics you should deploy to enter the conversation to insure your online reputation is not only protected, but to convey the message(s) you want heard that will rise above the “noise” and chatter that may be designed to put you in a negative light. There always seems to be a purposeful agenda, here are some steps you can take to tell your story the way you want it publicly consumed.

Firstly, understand that your approach to online reputation management in a digital world must be “holistic“. It’s about optimizing the sum of all the parts. Some of the parts, you ask? Sure…how about:

  • Press releases
  • Letters to the editor(s)
  • Online newsrooms
  • Blogs
  • Media kits
  • Webinars
  • Newsletters
  • Real world interviews
  • Podcasts / Internet radio

Make it easy for consumers and journalists alike to find your message on the channels and in the format they prefer. Strategically speaking, we rely today on search and social media. It starts online as the Internet is no longer just an add-on for issues affecting reputation or your product. Globally, more than 1 Billion people are online, with over 185 Million here in the U.S. Americans now view the Internet as their most important and trusted source for news and information, consuming more online content than radio, print, and television combined. Opinion leaders are influenced by the Internet more than any other medium.

So, what matters when people search? For improving positive visibility, use query-specific landing pages that are properly coded with meta data and content for the search engines that are targeted to specific keywords inputted by the searchers. The content needs to be opportunistically “linked” to your web wire press releases. It’s not uncommon for us to create new domain names, use both copywriting and web skills to upload new content to these domains, and create a web of links positioning these pages in the top results of Google and other search engines, and, where necessary, pushing down any negative pages from appearing in the top position SERPs. Depending on factors such as page rank and site authority, will have a determination on the time involved for the search engines to display the positive results, and visibility, in, let’s say, the first 10 to 20 positions.

What else matters online? 75% are accessing multi-media, primarily video, online. Web 2.0 sites, social networks, and certain blogs will influence key opinion leaders and the public. It’s not that bloggers have power, generally they do not, they have influence. And here again, as it relates to Web 2.0, one has to tread carefully.

Facebook, for example, is a wonderful property, but it can also be a minefield booby-trapped by enemies seeking to further implode your reputation or, worse yet, steal identities in an effort to perpetrate scams to steal identities or victimize families and friends. In some cases, customer service for certain Web 2.0 sites is non-existent. For this reason, and others, if you are in need of online reputation management, it is always best to engage professionals to help navigate this landscape.

Your own press releases and blogs can also become “influencers” because those pages will “feed” mainstream media sites and other bloggers as a result of crosslinking and embedded keyword hyperlinking tactics. Technorati, Digg, Stumbleupon, etc., will re-aggregate your content for even more web visibility. These tactics work very well in getting your story out there or reframing one that is in need of positive spin. Throw in some video — there are over 2.5 billion video searches monthly, with YouTube clearly dominating this space — and you have the ability to now reach 75% of online users.

From here, maintaining your online reputation becomes a question of continued relevant and visible content creation and reputation monitoring. We will cover monitoring in another entry in the future. In the meantime, contact us with any questions, or post your comments below.


A Rabbi’s Open Letter to Bernie Madoff (Not A Joke)

January 12, 2009
Bernie Madoff Leaving Courthouse

Bernie Madoff Leaving Courthouse

Dear Bernie Madoff:

I don’t think you know what you have done.

Life inevitably inflicts upon us different kinds of wounds. Very few people can live connected lives and not occasionally fail those who depend upon them and trust them.  However, these are failures not betrayals.  They come from trying to do the right thing and not being able to do it.

A betrayal is different than a failure.  A betrayal is an intentional wounding.  It is born of cruelty, not ignorance.  Most of us know of failures and betrayals.  What you have done, however, is to radically expand the scope and viciousness of betrayal.  You betrayed not just your friends, but your closest friends.  You betrayed the trust of those who entrusted you with everything they had saved.  You betrayed charities whose good works you have extinguished in an afternoon.  These betrayals are epic in their scope and dazzling in their utter lack of remorse or responsibility. 

There must be some new word invented to describe the way you have redefined betrayal.  The Bible calls such things a toevah, “an abomination”.  It means an act so alien to our values and our natures that it cannot be understood or explained.  You have committed an abomination.  This is what you have done.

Another thing you did was make life incredibly more difficult for people who sell real and honorable and legitimate money products.  Now every stock broker and money manager and hedge-fund operator and insurance rep who has already had a tough time convincing prospective clients that what they are selling is good and honest must now also convince them that they are not like you.  An entire world economy we now know is based to an immense degree on simple trust, and you have done more than any single person to destroy that trust.

You are a financial terrorist. Your attack has toppled the foundations of trust in our financial markets.  Although you are not by any means the only financial terrorist, you are its most reviled attacker.  What have brought us down are not worthless financial instruments, but worthless people.  Many business people have always known and have never forgotten t hat trust is all the collateral they have ever placed against a loan.  Your name is on people’s lips now, but the ones out there selling honest products at a fair price ought to push your name into the gutter where it belongs. This is what you have done.

One of the very worst things you did has to do with the Jews. You are responsible for reviving the “Jew game.”  I heard of the Jew game from a boy who became a man last Saturday.  I asked him once if he had ever experienced anti-Semitism in school.  That is when he looked at the floor and told me about the Jew game.  The game, played by anti-Semitic kids in school, was one in which they would hide around a corner, throw a quarter down the hall, and then when somebody picked up the quarter, they’d run at the person, shouting, “You’re the Jew!”

You did not cause the anti-Semitic insults about Jews and money, but you caused them to be revived.  Not since Julius Rosenberg spied for the Soviet Union has one person so damaged the image and the self-respect of American Jews.  I am not comfortable with the fact that so many of the articles about you specifically identify your prominent place in the Jewish community.  Ken Lay of Enron shame was never identified as a “prominent Protestant energy broker.”  The most aggressive accusers of the governor of Illinois seldom describe him as “the prominent Serbian-American governor of Illinois .”  Yes, it is unfair that your Jewishness has become part of the storyline.  But you just reminded the bigots who grew up playing The Jew Game that it still strikes a familiar chord.

You wiped out Joe Lieberman’s accomplishments. You revived ancient bigotry against our people. You gave credence to the horrid accusations about Jews being untrustworthy and greedy.  One offensive paper has a column called “Jews in the News,” which focuses on some Jewish criminal or other to remind their sickening readers of the legitimacy of anti-Semitism.  You are not just one of the “Jews in the news” they seek.  You are the apotheosis of their hate-filled world.  You have given the Jew-haters material for a decade of hate gardening.  You single-handedly revived the Jew game.  This is what you have done.

Most of those you’ve deceived will learn to live and give in new and perhaps more modest ways.  Unlike your evil, which has been stopped, nothing will stop their courage and compassion.  Some of your victims will no doubt be more severely wounded in circumstance and in spirit, but none of them, I pray, will surrender to your assault.  Their friends will not leave them.  Their children and grandchildren will not refuse to hug them and kiss them.  After their initial trauma subsides, they will, I believe, move on to cling to the blessings that cannot ever be stolen.

You, on the other hand, will lose everything — everything!  From this day to the end of your life, there will be none who will trust you.  To be mistrusted by everyone is an enormous curse and you have brought this all upon yourself, and for what purpose?  You were supposed to be the master of risk and reward and you risked everything from everyone for what reward?  You have not just made a bad calculation about how money works, you have made a bad calculation about how life works.  You gave no value to what matters and all value to what does not matter at all.  This is what you have done.

Shame on you Bernie Madoff.  Shame on you.

By Rabbi Marc Gellman

WELL SAID, GOOD FOR YOU RABBI! The indefensible cannot be defended.