Gini Dietrich

Trolls, Smear Campaigns, and Reputation Management

By: Gini Dietrich | October 18, 2012 | 
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I am a big fan of The Good Wife. Not only because it’s set in Chicago, but because it’s really well-written (and, let’s be real, Mr. Big is on it).

My winter training has begun, which means I’m stuck on the trainer for one or two hours four times a week. The Good Wife (and Revenge and Scandal) get me through those long boring hours.

This past week (not a spoiler if you haven’t see it), there is a lawsuit against an Internet search engine because they dropped a company’s rankings from the first to 28th page in results. All because the company wouldn’t buy advertising with the Internet giant. Choosing, instead, to invest that money into staff.

A little far-fetched in today’s world, but it goes to show how important reputation management is online and what can happen if one person, organization, or group decides they’re going to take you on…and they have deeper pockets and more resources.

Trolls are Alive and Well

A good example of this is Scott Van Duzer, the pizza restaurant owner who hugged President Obama during a campaign stop.

But once word got out Van Duzer is a registered Republican who voted for Obama in 2008 and is planning to do so again next month, angry conservatives flooded his restaurant’s Yelp page with negative reviews and began staging a boycott.

Even if they’d never been there.

A sample gem:

Notice the reviewer is from New York? The restaurant – and Van Duzer – are in Florida.

The story ends well in that real patrons of the restaurant came to Van Duzer’s defense on Yelp and posted so many good reviews, they knocked the bad ones down. And it’s reported sales are up for the pizza maker.

But not everyone is so lucky.

Smear Campaigns Exist

Sri Lankan hip hop artist, DeLon, was recently forced to resign as the opening act for Lindsey Stirling, an America’s Got Talent artist.

Why?

In 2008 (yes, four years ago), DeLon called out M.I.A., another Sri Lanken artist, for her implied support of  terrorist group the Tamil Tigers (or LTTE).

She accused DeLon of doing it for publicity and he paid a high price for taking a political stand, including death threats and a vicious Internet smear campaign created to ruin his reputation.

Tamil Tigers supporters even went as far as to fabricate and spread a news story claiming DeLon had been arrested in Thailand for unthinkable acts against children.

Although the Sri Lankan government confirmed these reports were lies and DeLon has worked to clear his name, he had to quit the tour because,

Fans, sponsors, and parents who took their kids to his concert were a Google search away from believing he was a criminal.

Reputation Management

These are the types of stories that concern business leaders when we talk about the pros and cons of using the web for business growth.

Understandably, they don’t want people posting negative things about them or their companies online. So they take the ostrich approach instead. If they can’t see it, it doesn’t exist.

But people are posting things about you online, even if you’re not participating or listening to what is being said.

Trolls and smear campaigns don’t happen to most businesses, but it’s no longer an option to ignore.

If there are negative things being said about you online, those things last forever on Google. You can’t erase them.

But you can begin to rebuild your reputation by working with brand ambassadors, creating extremely valuable content, and collecting testimonials.

Those types of things will push the negative reviews down in the Google search results, providing you the opportunity to change the conversation.

But one note of caution: If your customer service sucks or operations are whack or you don’t deliver on time, it won’t matter how much you do to help your positive reviews, from a PR perspective.

Get your business model fixed first so people aren’t enraged. Then a good reputation management program will help.

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About Gini Dietrich


Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She is the author of Spin Sucks, co-author of Marketing in the Round, and co-host of Inside PR. She also is the lead blogger at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro.

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