You've spent countless hours and dollars building a brand. How safe is your investment in this brave new world of the internet?
A disgruntled employee, unhappy customer or even a disingenuous competitor need a few dollars to cause your brand irreparable damage in a few short days or weeks. In the process you are out millions, first trying to make them stop and then regaining the lost trust of your customers.
There are many ways your antagonist can get you without breaking a sweat. All they need is a dollar and a dream. Literally.
For as little as $5 one can register a site called "yourcompanyblows.com" or "yourcompanysucks.com." Then fill it up with juicy content about your company. Follow a few simple steps to get the site search engine registered and optimized and voila! Every time a visitor searches your company's name the first thing that pops up is: "YourCompanySucks.com!"
Then there is an even better way to get you. Try googling "terrorist bastard." What is the first search result displayed? "Bush is a murdering terrorist bastard!" Well, for all my disagreement and disappointment with our dear President, this is a bit extreme. I much prefer that the search on "incompetent fool" - you guessed it - displays Mr. Bush up top!
Kidding aside, the focus of this discussion is not on how this is accomplished - it is both a simple and widely used technique to get search engine ranking - but what to do to avoid being victimized.
Here are four simple steps to prevent being bush-whacked. (Sorry, that was just too easy to pass up J)
Is Prevention Better Than the Cure?
Let's face it, sometimes, some or all of what is being said about your company is true. You suck and you know it. Perhaps, you could have registered "YourCompanySucks.com" and saved yourself the trouble of seeing someone else own this invaluable domain.
"That does not mean that people have to hear about it," you scream. Wrong.
Treat everyone - employees, customers, vendors etc. - like you would like to be treated. Goodness is Godliness. Appropriateness is Godliness. Truth in advertising.
If you have heard the cliché, live it. That is may not prevent an attack but it sure will make it easier to fight back. Truth does set you free!
What You Don't Know Can Hurt You
Are you vigilantly monitoring your brand reputation? Hopefully, you are using more than Google Search to keep tabs on what is being said about you and where your name finds mention.
There is an endless list of automated bots and services such as Trackur, Critical Mention, Google Blog Search, Yahoo News Search, Technorati, Icerocket, Blogpulse, Intelliseek, Cymfony that can help you scour the billions of web pages, videos etc. to locate where your name is taking a bath.
It is easier to get this information than to use it. This is where companies make their biggest mistakes.
Just Because You are Paranoid Doesn't Mean They Aren't Out to Get You
You searched and found your name somewhere. What now?
The simple rule: separate the pertinent from merely interesting. Does the location - website, blog, forum etc. - where your name finds mention, matter? Or is your action going to put it on the map?
Then, try to ascertain whether the comments are really detrimental to your interest? Or is your action going to make people sit up and take notice?
Not everyone is out to get you - some people just do not know how to say even "hello" in a nice way. Not everything is going to hurt you. So, please take a good look before you lock and load...
To sue or not to sue, that is the question
You could chose to keep a bunch of attorneys in business for a long time and accomplish absolutely nothing.
First, try to hug ‘em. Click, call or meet. Just try to find out what is bothering your adversary and without seeming to cower under their assault, give them something so they go away. That is a good way to get over the problem but it could also be a good way to start a lifetime of pain. You see, you could be encouraging them to keep coming back for more!
So, option two is always a "cease and desist" letter from your attorney. Will it work? More often than not, it does work.
Then comes the lawsuit. Well, this is where you may be trading one problem for another. So make sure that all the effort does not go to waste. Make an example of someone so others know not to tread down this path lightly.
Fight the Smear
Want to have the last word on the things said about your company? Open up your own website that openly discusses the issues being raised and presents your point of view.
Why a separate site? Other than naming and Search Engine Optimization benefits, you are well served separating your brand from your explanations. First, this helps limit the damage because only those people who have already found out about the smear against you will visit the new site not everyone who visits your site. Second, a separately branded site prevents the appearance of "company spin" - so avoid press releases please!
Is there an example? Why of course. Please check out FightTheSmear.com where Senator Obama tries to fight the smear against him. Good luck, Senator!
Companies spend millions building a brand and then do virtually nothing to protect it till they are blind sided by some event. Then, it is ten times as hard to fix the situation.
It takes pennies to the dollar to destroy a brand. There is always someone who has a justifiable reason to go after yours.
Online Brand Management must be an integral part of your eStrategy to ensure a proactive defense of your most valuable asset - your brand.�