Why would you want to clean up the online reputation of a Saint?
Any savvy business which has had a major public relations disaster would tell you that you hire an online reputation management consultant when things go wrong. It has become a popular and attractive alternative to online defamation and is widely used by Fortune 500 companies.
When damage to an organization’s reputation threatens ‘brand equity‘ it can result in severe damage to operations, not to mention the exposure of unsavoury corporate secrets.
Online reputation management is a more more sophisticated, integrated and nuanced approach to damage control, which takes into account political realities and public relations, rather than focusing narrowly on the legal dimension.
Reputation management was borne out of the realisation that there was an almost fatal downside to big multinational corporations engaging in legal thuggery by pursuing legal action against anyone who attempts to expose their dirty secrets.
The phenomenon has become widely known as the dreaded “McLibel effect“.
Online reputation management is the smarter way of controlling information online during a crisis, and is preferable to issuing SLAPP writs and court processes that could result in damaging information becoming public knowledge.
It works like something like this. You get out your American express card and pay an online reputation management specialist to neutralise bad publicity you have identified online. Your specialist then employs strategies to either remove or relegate incriminating or embarrassing information in the search engine results pages (SERPs).
Reputation Management could be seen by some as a euphemism for ‘controlling information‘; essentially making the bad stuff online disappear or fade into the background, ensuring that only the good stuff makes it to the top of the search engine page results when internet users conduct searches for you or your brand online.
It is a great strategy for making negative commentary disappear online. It is employed as a risk management measure by prudent companies and PR Managers.
It is true that mainstream media is subject to manipulation and external pressures, however it is also a well known fact that reputation management companies hire writers to post favourable press, product reviews, forum and blog posts for them about their products to win the publicity war online. When done well by a team of experts it results in instant credibility.
You will often see ads on popular webmaster forums ‘$10 for one hundred blog posts/product reviews‘. What is happening here is that someone is recruiting an army of brand ambassadors, to listen, carefully scrutinise and monitor all social media channels for publicity that threatens the brand’s image. These hired helpers assist you to make it disappear
Some people see online reputation management as being built on a philosophy that says that respect and trust are managed rather than earnt.
Of course that is a gross oversimplification of online reputation management. It is blend of art and science, with a lot of PR, search engine optimisation (SEO) and SEOM specialists working as an interdisciplinary team.
Hiring an online reputation management consultant could be seen by some as symbolic, in that it signifies that a company has finally surrendered and acknowledged that it has lost control of ‘the story‘.
Instead of issuing court writs and suing for defamation, copyright and every conceivable course of legal action to suppress information, you call in an online reputation management consultant to eliminate any negative commentary about your products and/or corporate scandals.
The reputation management gurus would tell you that it is a far less subtle way of silencing dissent and stifling criticism.
The St Kilda Football Club and football players have obviously been getting better value for their money from whoever is giving them legal and/or PR advice lately.
The “McLibel effect” is the phenomenon that came out of the longest and most controversial libel trial in British history, in which two ordinary people (in what was a David versus Goliath battle), took on the powerful multinational McDonalds after being sued for distributing pamphlets criticising their food products.
On a technicality these two ordinary, yet extraordinary defendants lost the verdict, but won the war through the Court proceedings.
There was a huge backlash associated with McDonalds’ thuggish and arrogant attitude, and through the Court process, all of the company’s dirty laundry was exposed in a trial which captured the world’s hears and imagination.
Online reputation management is a prescription tailor made for the AFL and St Kilda Football Club. It is a preferable alternative to the high risk proposition of engaging in a lawsuit against an impecunious ward of the State, especially one which risks exposing the sordid details of their off-field activities and relationships in the most graphic detail.
St Kilda Football Club and their public relations team appear to fear that just as Helen Steele and Dave Morris proved capable of changing the world in their determined fight against McDonalds, so too might the Saints girl in her efforts to expose the darker side of AFL.
The famous McLibel case put UK libel laws under the spotlight, resulting in a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights to the effect that “UK libel laws failed to protect the public’s right to criticise massive corporations whose business practices can affect people’s lives, health and the environment“.
The case led to calls for reforms to British libel laws which years later are only now starting to be addressed in British reforms of defamation law.
So next time you go to your RSS feedreader, or Google for the latest information on the Saints scandal, remind yourself that you can expect to see stories such as this and less of the unsettling truths revealing factual details about the Saints chequered history.
Google isn’t lying to you when retrieve your search results! That information you remember seeing days or weeks ago was in fact there. The online reputation management specialists have just been busily burying it, by manipulating the search engine algorithms to ensure those ugly posts and forums that raise past misdeeds are relegated in their page rank to the point of disappearing into oblivion.
There is a saying that the internet never forgets and online reputation management can’t cause it to forget.
However we know that online reputation management sure makes it far less likely internet user would find information certain interests don’t want users to find, particularly unpalatable information associated with their brand.
Who said there wasn’t freedom of speech on the internet?
We do have some freedom of speech on the internet, but remember a reputation management company also has the freedom to build a great big sound proof building over the top of you.
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