For people working in the Online Reputation Management industry, this month has been quite politically focussed - and the same is true for the ORM team here at Distilled, having just launched Online Reputation Management for Politicians.
In America, with the Presidential race stumbling into action, character assassination is a likely tactic over the next few months. Barak Obama's team have already announced a new unit to tackle any any inappropriate rumours against him online. Earlier in the month he showed an understanding of the way the internet was being used against him, discussing dedicated blogs and viral emails that make various outrageous claims about his past and his campaign. The new team will be monitoring for and responding to problems as they arise. The Times quoted a spokeswoman, Jen Psaki:
The only way to run a campaign is to respond immediately when inaccurate information is put out.An early part of their strategy has been the launch of Fight the Smears, which Wired.com referred to as 'his own personal Snopes.'
By contrast, John McCain's PR team were successfully deployed in the 1990s to manage negative stories, but in the new millennium they have struggled to recognize the damage that could be done by stories and slander being shared online.
Although it might seem incredible to readers of this and other blogs, it is an understandable position to have ended up in. Although many older people - as I'm broadly assuming those in Team McCain are - use the internet, they're likely to be less inclined to stray from the bigger news sites, shops and portals into the sometimes confusing and even scary worlds of social media and blogging.
Sadly, even the best PR teams can overlook the new media - not long ago, whilst discussing Reputation Management with an established UK PR agency, we were surprised to hear from them, that "no one cares about the internet. It doesn't matter what people say there."
Wow. I know more than a few people who might disagree, and I'm sure you do too.
New Services for PoliticiansDistilled's political week began with the launch of our Political Reputation Management services. This package of services combines our reputation management and search engine optimisation skills with our experience in a niche that we know a fair bit about. The aim is to help politicians gain visibility online, and to monitor for and combat any unfairly negative or slanderous stories.
The anonymity offered by blogging, or simply commenting on others' websites, sometimes leads people to write without the same thought that they'd put into an offline letter or article. This leads to a potentially dangerous situation where people are happy to create and repeat rumours, that can quickly become conventional wisdom.
A chain-email about Barak Obama is a case in point - after gaining ground online, the story ended up on TV news before it was debunked.
Will - regular readers will know him as a director at Distilled - had the chance to discuss some of the work that we do for politicians in an article in new magazine Total Politics this week. Will has previously discussed why online reputation management can be so difficult for politicians in particular, and in the new article had a chance to expand on a number of topics. Firstly, they asked him more about online activity in the recent London Mayoral elections.
"The first name to come up in a natural search for 'the Mayor of London' was Boris Johnson rather than then incumbent mayor Ken Livingstone. Boris had a powerful campaign team but as an incumbent you expected to find Ken at the top of any search."In a discussion about Wikipedia (the online encyclopaedia that anyone can edit), Will covered the potential circular nature of the internet and print media relying on each other for research:
"Wikipedia can become authoritative, giving ‘right’ answers, in fact journalists have been known to use this to check facts, and when it appears in papers people say ‘well it's definitely true it was in the papers’."If you'd like to improve your online reputation, but don't need us to step in and help just yet, you may be interested in some tips that Will shares on SEOMoz.
We'll continue to be busy for the foreseeable future with work in this new, and interesting, niche of ORM - though unfortunately we won't be able to share any of the juicy inside stories with you. In the meantime, keep an eye online to see which is the next big political story to break online, or who the next MP to join Twitter is.