24 posts categorized "Crisis Management"

May 06, 2010

BP recently suffered an enormous public relations disaster, when a drilling rig explosion caused around a million gallons of oil to spill into the surrounding ocean. The spill is forecast to devastate the local environment, negatively impact the Gulf Coast fishing industry, and has led to renewed debate about the safety of offshore drilling. Through it all BP has been relentlessly managing their image online, trying to combat the negative PR as best they can.

A situation like this is ultimately not about avoiding negative PR – it’s about minimizing the damage as much as possible. To that end the focus has to be less on trying to hide or mask the story – which is virtually impossible on a story this size – and more about trying to manage it as best as possible.

The main vector for doing this is through managing negative search results. The number one search on the incident is, understandably, “BP Oil Spill,” and an examination of that search shows that the PR team at BP has been doing their job. At the top of the search are the Google live-search results, drawing from various news sources. Although basically impossible to manage, BP doesn’t fare too poorly here, with much of the focus going to the financial impact of the spill, and a heated discussion over who is responsible for the spill which leaves doubt as to whether BP deserves the blame – an ideal outcome from their perspective.

Video searches follow, and these are very well managed by ensuring maximum Favorite-counts on YouTube are on videos that are neutral or positive towards BP. In this case the videos deal with a strictly factual analysis of what happened (which again calls into question whether BP is responsible), followed by President Obama speaking on the issue – a largely neutral video.

The top organic search result in this case is BP’s own website, and there they have also done a good job covering their bases. The front page features an extensive story on how they are addressing the spill, showing their devotion to dealing with it – while neither admitting nor aggressively denying responsibility. This front page blurb has been tagged so that is shows up in the Google synopsis of the page as well.

Finally, BP has purchased paid advertising for every key phrase that could conceivably be used by browsers searching for information. These ads lead to a special section of their site dedicated to showcasing their Gulf of Mexico response, showing what happened and how BP is doing everything within their power to help.

All in all, it’s difficult to imagine anything BP could have done better in managing what is a nearly-unmanagable PR disaster. They do this by: raising doubt about their culpability while avoiding the appearance of denial, pushing visitors to neutral coverage when no positive coverage is within easy reach, and creating a robust presence demonstrating their response and how seriously they take the issue, to which they then drive all traffic they have control over.

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April 29, 2010

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown captured d...

When British Prime Minister Gordon Brown failed to notice he was still wearing a microphone, and referred to a woman he had spoken to on the street as a bigot, there is no way he could have known exactly how catastrophic a public relations disaster it would be. Within twenty-four hours the internet was abuzz with news of his faux pas, with tweets flying rapidly, blog posts proliferating, every major news outlet running the story, and Facebook and other social media groups springing up to support the woman on the other end of his disparaging remark, Gillian Duffy.

In the world of reputation management, one occasionally encounters an impossible situation. Disasters such as this one have such a wide range of factors leading to negative publicity that it is not just unlikely, but impossible to entirely mitigate the damage. There are two main situations which may occur organically (without a deliberate attack crafted by a competitor) that can cause such a surge of negative PR there is little hope to really solve the problem.

  • An international news story. If a brand is faced with a bad situation that’s picked up by the international media as a front-page story, there is little to do but buckle down and wait for the next news cycle. While feeding positive stories to media outlets might mitigate the damage in the long run, in the near-term there is simply no fighting the power that the major news websites have in Google’s live results.
  • An internet phenomenon. The grassroots equivalent of an international news story, when a negative PR moment goes viral, there’s little hope in the short term. In Brown’s case, once his story became the lead on the Drudge Report, thousands of blogs were sure to follow suit, creating a landslide of sites carrying the damaging story.

So what can be done in situations like this? With a pivotal election debate only a day out from the breaking news, Brown’s public relations team obviously can’t afford to just sit idly by and let his online reputation be destroyed. In the case of a business, a situation this big and irrevocably would probably be a good time to seriously consider a new company name – rebranding can be the easiest and most cost-effective way to fight thousands or tens of thousands of high-profile negative press. In Brown’s case, of course, that isn’t an option.

Instead, the best way to try to manage the downhill slide of his online reputation is to hire a professional reputation management company to create an explanatory page and target it exclusively with traffic-generating techniques. In this case, Brown would do well to craft an eloquent apology and response to the negative publicity he’s getting. This can then be placed on a separate page on his website. This should be followed by a comprehensive paid ad campaign, targeting every keyphrase surfers are searching for to learn about the scandal, ensuring that the explanatory page is at the top of each of these search listings. This will also ensure it is well placed on blogs and other sites that pull ads from Google based on page content, so that sites carrying the story will have the explanatory page accompanying it.
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April 05, 2010

Image representing Google AdWords as depicted ...

One of the major challenges facing search engine marketers is leveraging every relevant keyword for their brand and market sector. Often new marketers focus exclusively on high-profile keywords, which are heavily impacted, and offer a great deal of competition. While this is, of course, necessary, diversifying by targeting lesser-known and tangential keywords can have a profound impact on your overall traffic. Of course, in order to do this, you need some reliable way to find other brand keywords that relate to your product.

Thankfully, Google offers a tool that can be used to generate lists of keywords quite easily: the Keyword Tool provided by Google AdWords. By entering a keyword or phrase, Google will provide you with a list of keywords that its algorithms have determined are related. While the bulk of these may be too broad to be useful for your marketing, if you sort through the list you will find many that you have not thought of. Each also includes a rough idea of the monthly search volume for the key phrase as well, so that you can determine how valuable it would be to target.

Using the Google Keyword Tool is a great way not only to discover other phrases used to describe your industry, but also to see which competitor brand names are most searched for. By targeting these competitor brand names not only as AdWords, but also as keywords for organic results, you can work towards ensuring that your company will come up in searches for your competitor’s products. A large portion of search traffic is directed towards a specific brand, rather than a generic industry term, and people using individual brands are on average much more likely to purchase a product or service, as they have a direct interest.

In addition to finding other brands to target, the Google Keyword Tool can give you a lead on what misspellings might be common in your industry. Often misspelled key phrases generate a sizable amount of search engine traffic, but are much less competitive than the accurately spelled key phrases. This gives you the opportunity to target high-quality phrases without having to deal with the same level of competition.

It is, of course, important to find these alternate keywords and phrases that users might use when trying to discover your brand for proactive reasons – marketing your product and services. But it’s important for defensive reasons as well. Any strong online business depends on its online reputation, and to keep that reputation positive you need to track what is being said about you in relation to your industry. There are many tools for tracking your reputation, but they all rely on sets of key words and phrases. By being equipped with a larger set of relevant key phrases, including misspellings and alternative nomenclature, you will be much more likely to get the full picture, rather than just a part of it. And when taking corrective action to improve your brand reputation if something goes wrong, you’ll be able to much more accurately target the full range of web traffic.
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April 02, 2010

Image representing Yelp as depicted in CrunchBase

Yelp is one of the largest business review sites in the world, with more than 25 million visitors each month, and its search engine presence is extremely powerful, making it a key factor in your online reputation. Because of the nature of Yelp, which allows anyone to review any business, negative reviews can be a serious problem. Not just unhappy customers, but also competitors who can use the site to snipe your brand, pose a risk to managing your business’ online reputation. Because of this, Yelp has a policy of removing reviews that it deems suspicious.

Since late 2009 more and more business owners have begun reporting that Yelp has approached them about negative reviews posted about their business. These owners allege that employees of Yelp have suggested that were the business to purchase paid advertising on the site, these negative reviews might be removed. This has been furiously denied by Yelp, but more allegations continue to surface from around the United States. As of March, 2010, there were three class action lawsuits pending on behalf of various businesses, accusing Yelp of extorting money from them to protect their online reputations.

In some cases businesses are alleging that Yelp actually fabricated negative reviews that they could then offer to remove in exchange for advertising. The possibility that this is true has led many businesses to turn away from Yelp, in spite of its high rankings in search engines, as they are unwilling to take on the risk that their business may be targeted in such a scheme. Instead, businesses may choose to address the problem of negative reviews in a different way: by burying them. With the vast majority of searchers looking at only the first page of results, pushing a Yelp review down to the second page can render its negative impact negligible.

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March 31, 2010

A view of Tiger Woods as he walks off the 8th ...

The recent Tiger Woods scandal gives us an excellent opportunity to look at a real-life situation where a single event can collapse a brand in on itself. Within days of Woods’ accident, millions of searches were being performed for the famous golfer, and unfortunately the majority of first page searches were uncontrolled by his Public Relations department, leading to negative spin that in the end cost him many lucrative endorsements. So what could Woods have done to better manage his online reputation, to minimize the damage done to his brand in the weeks and months following his accident and revelations of infidelity?

With Google syndicating real-time content near the top of search results for many famous brands, controlling the news feed should have been an important part of damage control for Woods’ brand. While of course one cannot (for the most part) simply write stories oneself, the same principles of burying can still be utilized. In this case, a strong PR move would have been to take the opportunity to push new leads on media outlets sympathetic to the golfer. For example, only a few days after the event, an AP poll naming Woods Athlete of the Decade was written up in a number of stories, bumping the scandal off of the news feed temporarily. Promoting even more alternate news angles would have been a strong way to keep the scandal buried, at least in the first page of searches.

Looking at top Google AdWords promoters also would have been a strong play. More and more media outlets use AdWords to promote individual stories using topical keywords. In this case a number of online media outlets were running stories about Woods and promoting them on Google. There are two main strategies to deal with this: either purchasing competing AdWords for those phrases, and directing them to a spin control page, or contacting the media outlets positioning themselves with the phrase, and offering something like an interview or some other alternative to a negative spin story.

With a brand like Woods’, purchasing AdWords and pushing news stories to key outlets would have been a very pricey affair, with millions of searches for his name each month. To help control the organic rankings he may have also wanted to invest in professional online reputation management -- creating new sites and landing pages for his name. Since the scandal had legs that lasted weeks, and to some extent months, these organic rankings could have had time to take root. The combination of all of these tactics would have cost considerably more than most campaigns for a single brand, as the competition is stiff from media outlets and the traffic volume is incredibly high. Even with a price tag of a few million dollars, however, stronger online reputation management could very well have managed to keep his name slightly less tarnished, and may have saved him an endorsement or two, more than paying for the campaign in the long run.

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March 02, 2010

With the growing importance of consumer-based reviews, it has never been more important to have the proper toolkit to manage your reputation online. Sites like Yelp!, UrbanSpoon, and Epinions all give users an immense power over your brand. When potential customers do a search for your brand, they may read some of the positive reviews – but primarily they will be looking out for the negative reviews. As a result, when a bad review is written, you absolutely need to deal with it one way or another.

Image representing Yelp as depicted in CrunchBase

Let’s consider a pretty typical negative review, and look at how a company might address it. The reviewer of a coffee shop says, “Perhaps I just came here on the wrong day. I found the staff to be rude and slow in preparing my coffee. The decor is cute but this coffee shop was slightly on the small side for me. Not a place I would frequent during peak hours.”

A review like this (a two-star out of five review on Yelp!) shows some unhappiness, but the problems seem relatively superficial and not too damaging. The reviewer seems like a rational person, and mostly just seems dissatisfied with their experience.

The first step should therefore be to reach out to the customer and try to resolve the issue. Many review sites now allow businesses to respond directly to the customer, either publicly or privately. In this case, responding publicly would be the best option. Most people writing negative reviews are mostly just frustrated, and even receiving a bit of personal attention can fix the entire problem for them. At the same time, potential customers browsing the reviews will see your response and know that your business is one that reaches out to customers to try to fix problems that arise, which will increase their trust immensely.

A response might look something like, “I’m sorry to hear you were dissatisfied with your experience! We pride ourselves on our friendly staff, so it may just be that the staff member in question was having a particularly bad day. If you’d like to stop in again for a complementary cup of coffee, we’d appreciate the opportunity to show you the excellent quality and service that have made us so popular.”

If the person does take you up on your offer, they will be predisposed to have a positive experience, and hopefully will. In that case, they can post a follow-up review to mitigate their original negative review. If they don’t, you will still have done your part in showing how caring your company is, and you can take the further step of trying to bury the review.

Both review sites and search engines have a strong preference for fresher content – and for good reason. A four year old review doesn’t do much to tell people what sort of experience they can expect from a business in the present. As a result, one strategy for dealing with bad reviews, if reconciliation fails, is to simply create enough new material that the bad review is buried deep in search results. In the case of a review site, this will mean soliciting positive reviews from patrons, which will both increase the overall average rating for your business, and put the negative review on a deeper page. In the case of search engines that may scour review sites, this means providing a number of alternate pages for your brand, which will come up earlier in search results than the negative review.

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February 18, 2010

Google Buzz CrisisImage by Getty Images 

One of the most influential companies in the world is the search-engine and information technology giant, Google. Although users around the world love Google for the many tools it offers to make their lives easier, recently Google has rolled out a number of services which people see as violations of privacy. These technologies include Google Buzz, Google Streetview, Google Mail, and even the core search engine.

When Google Buzz rolled out in February, Google Buzz users had their Gmail contact history revealed on their public Google profile. Every email sent and chat message exchange was available for the public to see. A boss could see an employee emailing competitors, a partner could see their significant other emailing an ex, and any number of other revealing situations.

Since many people did not know how, or did not realize that they need to opt out of this Google Buzz feature, it has led to cries that Google is showing sensitive information without explicit user consent. A related concern is with the mobile version of Google Buzz, which by default reveals the exact location a person was at when they made a post.

In response to a recent outcry over privacy concerns, Google CEO Eric Schmidt was quoted in The Register saying, “If you have something that you don’t want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place.” This cavalier attitude towards privacy has led some Google users to question whether they can simply forgive Google pushing Google isto an ever growing  reputation management crisis.

Analyzing The Crisis Response

However, Google, for its part, has been quick to respond to their reputation management crisis. The company has integrated features allowing users to turn off updates about their location, and to stop information about their contacts from being shared by default. While many people feel this is too little too late – and indeed, that the fact they made these changes is tantamount to admitting wrongdoing – others believe the company is making a genuine effort to correct an error in judgment.

Whether the public ultimately accepts Google’s attempts at reconciliation remains to be seen, but in similar cases in the past the company has shown themselves to be adept at addressing concerns, explaining their logic, and making amends for any damage that was done.

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February 14, 2010

Google Buzz
Last week when Google released its new social networking feature, Google Buzz, to compete with other popular social networking and micro-blogging services like Twitter and Facebook, the media giant set up their new social network to automatically enroll tens of millions of Gmail users. While having millions of new users instantly is a competitive advantage the only online giants like Google can enjoy, the company's unilateral actions have resulted in a large and vocal Google Buzz backlash.

As angry users have noted online, automatically opting-in people and intimately connecting them with their email contacts oversteps the social boundaries that many users have worked to create online. Today people have multiple identities online that they manage through distinct avenues--they know that they must carefully craft each of their online reputations depending on what social network or online community they are a part of. For example, many people use facebook to connect with their friends and LinkedIn for establish relationships with professional contacts. When Google Buzz stepped in and suddenly, without much of a pre-buzz, intimately connected users with their distant and disorganized email contacts, users responded by giving Google buzz a reputation management problem that they’ve been scrambling to correct ever since.

What’s to be Learned from Google’s Buzz Backlash?

As internet companies continue to provide powerful technology and communication solutions for businesses and individuals, they must keep a balance between meeting their users needs and their needs. It’s also very important, as Google’s users noted, to understand the social distinctions between different types of media--social bookmarks are clearly less intimate than social networks, and social networks far less intimate than email. Each type of media has different social norms that companies must recognize and attempt to blend slowly. Coercing millions upon millions of users to allow their private information to be used by a new technology that breaks the current online social norms is bound to result in a backlash bigger than your new products buzz.

How To Prevent Buzz Backlash

If you want to prevent buzz backlash or are looking to manage your own online crisis, LookupPage can be one of the best places to find highly effective online reputation management strategies, brand reputation tips and crisis management tools.

February 11, 2010

Lindsay LohanIn days of yore, when reporters were writing articles they had to make dozens of telephone calls to track down celebrities and their public relations representatives to get contextual quotes. However today, reporters have started taking quotes for their articles directly from the web--making it more important than ever that high profile individuals know how to craft their online reputation and use social media to their advantage. 

While it’s easy to imagine how this new type of reporting could get out of hand--tweets taken out of context and facebook posts altered for articles--these powerful new online publishing platforms also have the ability to help set the record straight and be effective crisis management tools.

Take the case of celebrity Lindsay Lohan and her x-girlfriend Sam for example. When RadarOnline, an online celebrity gossip magazine, published an article about Lindsay’s x-girlfriend beating and chocking her, Lindsey took the web. She tweeted, "This is become a bit much...Samantha R never raised a hand to me. I've never said she did. Enough is Enough. Focus on more important world issues." Shortly after publishing this tweet, a more popular news source, US Magazine, picked the story up and published her tweets online--allowing Lindsey to set the record straight.

By having an established presence online, Lindsay Lohan was able to communicate directly with her fans and the reporters always following her every move. She no longer has to wait for someone to contact her and write a favorable story because she can use twitter, facebook and other social media to connect directly with her fans and set the record straight. In addition, Lindsay’s tweets also created the space for Sam, her x-girlfriend, to respond publicly and now the two have a unified public presence denouncing RaderOnline’s accusations.

While it is possible to manage your own online reputation, as Lindsay did in this case, their are also many services that help celebrities and high profile business people set the record straight. For example, by registering for LookupPage, users have the ability to create a webpage with positive content and track who views their profile online. In addition, LookupPage has one of the highest rankings on Google, so every user that signs up can be sure that their positive profile will be at the top of their Google CV, an accessible place for internet reporters and followers.   

February 01, 2010


"It captured on tape the deaths of four people in an uncontrolled acceleration where the driver was an experienced highway patrol officer. If he couldn’t bring the car under control, who could?"

- CLARENCE M. DITLOW, executive director of the Center for Auto Safety in Washington, on a fatal crash that raised awareness about problems with many Toyota models, New York Times

As Toyota recalls millions of cars around the world, Toyota’s executives are running to traditional media outlets, publishing full page ads in major newspapers and appearing on “The Today Show” in hopes of calming their customers and quieting their growing bad rap. While using traditional media for reputation management can be effective in creating a sense of public urgency, in today’s web 2.0 landscape the majority of Toyota’s customers are online with their very own publishing platforms--sharing their worries with the world. If Toyota wants to effectively communicate with their customers, they will need to meet their customers online.

For Toyota, it is of the utmost importance that they respond to their customers concerns immediately. However, by communicating with their customers through traditional media like television, newspapers and magazines, Toyota is creating a one-way channel for communicating at their customers, not with them. Instead, if Toyota wanted to effectively manage their crisis, they could launch a social media campaign that would allow them to not only communicate with their customers and more importantly, allow customers to communicate with them. By meeting customers online, Toyota could turn their crisis situation into an opportunity and build clear channels of communication with the public, improving their relationship and calming the fears of millions of car owners.

Start managing your online identity and sign-up for a LookupPage account today.

January 25, 2010

One of the most famous cases of crisis management occurred in 1982 when Johnson and Johnson were forced to recall its popular pain reliever – Tylenol. The reason they had to do so was that someone was tampering with bottles of Tylenol in the stores and inserting Cyanide into them, resulting in seven deaths within a short period. 

Johnson and Johnson in retrospect saved their brand by pulling the product off the shelves and informing the American people of what had transpired. The fact that they chose to lose 100 million dollars by destroying 30 million pills and avoid additional poisonings, established Johnson and Johnson as a company that cares about the well-being of their customers – a title the company enjoys even thirty years later. The Tylenol poisonings essentially introduced the temper proof packaging for food and drugs in the U.S..

Crisis management has changed quite a bit with the advancement of technology. Major companies used to depend on journalists and newspapers in order to remain in contact with their customers. Businesses both large and small are now using popular social networks such as Youtube and Twitter in order to reach their customers both in on a day-to-day basis and in cases of “brand emergency”. Earlier in the year, Domino’s Pizza used Twitter and Youtube to express their concern and answer the public’s questions as a response to disturbing videos former employees had made in a Dominos store in North Carolina.  

The practice of reputation management (both online and offline) is something that most companies engage in on a day-to-day basis as opposed to times of crisis. Large companies spend a considerable amount of time and money monitoring what the public thinks of their brand and they are ready to spend even more resources if they feel that positive public perception is the missing ingredient that could lead to additional revenue down the line.

In online reputation management, sheer presence can make quite a bit of difference. Owning your own domain name and establishing a strong Google CV is critical so that people who search for a business or a professional could actually find who they are looking for as opposed to someone with ill intentions that is looking to take advantage of a company name that he or she has nothing to do with.

January 04, 2010

Dwight Howard Basketball superstar Dwight Howard is used to being in the spotlight for his athletic achievements on the basketball court. It seems that a messy break up with the mother of his 2 year old son has forced the Orlando Magic Center to pursue legal actions against her in a court of law. Howard has been locking heads with Royce Lynsay Reed over defamatory content published online by Reed in October 2009. Reed addressed Howard as a “dead beat dad” in her blog, Twitter account and on an ESPN interview.

The judge awarded Howard a permanent injunction that would stop the cyber bashing by Reed. She was banned from using his name, image or referring to him in any media including the web. This injunction was put to the test less than two weeks later when comments were made on a gossip website claiming Howard has not seen his son in two months and that the reason for the injunction is that he has something to hide. Howard claims Reed made the comments using an alias and is suing her for over $9 million in damages. 

A third and final installment of this battle conducted with the use of social media is from yet another lawsuit filed by Dwight Howard late last week. In this lawsuit against Reed, Howard is claiming she has not only defied the injunction by publishing photos of their son on Twitter but she has also endangered the kid’s well being because Howard is a well known and highly paid figure. Interesting enough, the amount of money Howard is seeking for this lawsuit is based on the amount of Twitter followers Reed has on the popular micro blog. Howard is seeking $500 per follower who was able to see the photo plus the cost of his legal team.  

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