© 2009 Jonathan Bernstein
Estimated Readership: 17,000+
JUST A THOUGHT
Magical elves will not come out at night and put even the best plans into action.
From an article called Minimize the Risk Within Your Business posted at www.positivelypowerful.com
CRISIS MANAGER UNIVERSITY
Why Blogs Are Effective For Online Reputation Management
By Chesa Keane
When your company or your name is being bombarded with negative commentary, your reputation is on the line and fast response is critical. One of the most effective tools in your arsenal is going to be blogging.
The term "weblog" was coined in 1997 and in May 1999 was shortened to "blog." Long thought to be a personal journal or a news reporting tool, blogging has become the most popular means of getting your message out to the Internet quickly. There are a number of reasons why blogging works so well for online reputation management:
- A blog posting can be created and pinged (alerting search engines) causing major search engines "crawl" (find) the content within minutes and search engine recognition is quickly established for both the blog and the company's core website. A traditional website has no counterpart for providing fast indexing results, and it often takes months before a search engine crawls a website for new content or changes. The value in having your blog crawled quickly is in the keywords you build into your blog content, which lead the search engines back to your core website for further indexing sooner, providing recognition for the relevance to those keywords in your site (you want your site to be associated with certain keywords). Changes to a website, however, are acknowledged only in the next indexing update from the search engines and that may take months.
- A blog is quicker to develop and can be used permanently or temporarily. This allows a company to respond quickly to a crisis and when the issues have passed, remove the blog from view. Or create an auxiliary point of presence to expand the corporate message. Control is the keyword here for web presence.
- An interactive environment is provided in the blog mechanism. If the company is open to receiving comments on their postings, the viewer can post a comment relevant to the content. The beauty of this is that the company can choose to moderate the comments before allowing them to be publicly viewed. Again, this control factor is valuable in maintaining open communication with the visitors. Derogatory or irrelevant information can be blocked while information that needs to be shared can be allowed.
Given the complexity of most websites, often a company is unable to quickly respond to issues through their website due to the layers of technical people needed to make changes. A blog can be company-maintained and moderated with little training. Please note that if reputation management is the reason for the blog's existence, content should be carefully screened before posting to the blog.
The more often a blog posting occurs, the more alerts can be sent to the search engines and the more frequently a search engine will crawl your blogs and websites. This can be an advantage in both delivering your message countering the negative commentary as well as building more online awareness to increase business competitiveness.
Understand that blogging is not a replacement for a website but rather an adjunct to an existing web presence or a boost for building a new presence online. It is still recommended that a company provide a core website for visitors interested in your products and services. Think of the blog as the "fan club" that send visitors to your website. The value from putting a little extra work into a supporting blog will show up in increased traffic, a counter to negativity, and additional positioning in search engine results pages. Do it right and you can reverse that negative online reputation in a relatively short period of time.
Chesa Keane, principal of Tao Consultants, is Bernstein Crisis Management's "go to" guru for search engine optimization, website and blog development, particularly with regard to online reputation management.
Crisis Management 2.0: Peanut Butter Blues
By Vince Bianco
My college sophomore called home from the peanut butter aisle of the grocery store last night to ask if I'd heard anything new about the salmonella outbreak, and specifically, if it was safe to purchase a particular brand of sandwich cookies.
Although I was busy, and because she's my firstborn, I did take a cursory look at the cookie maker's site. Unbelievably, particularly since this was a major player in the snack food arena, there was no mention of the peanut butter scare anywhere. I told her not to buy that product. And then I said, "But, Tiger's Milk snacks are safe."
I know Tiger's Milk is a safe product to eat because they've said so a million different times–on NewsforceÕs network of news sites. Tiger's Milk took a proactive approach in broadcasting its position on the topic of food safety, and used significant outreach and advertising efforts to support their message.
Apparently, this is not always the norm in crisis management: IÕve been talking to a lot of crisis management firms since we started running the campaign, and IÕm learning that part of the traditional approach to crisis management is to try as hard as possible to be invisible. You want to stay *out* of the news, not put yourself front and center, I was told. That sounds like solid strategy, but it makes me wonder if companies arenÕt missing out by not considering the impact of the internet and social media in both creating and squelching crises.
You canÕt really hide from the Internet. If anything, the recent ŅMotrin mommiesÓ Twitter episode, which actually created a brand-damaging mini-scandal based entirely on a negative reaction to an ad campaign, shows us how quickly things can escalate across shared networks and into mainstream news. The poor response of Motrin to the situation was noted by the social media pundits: a meager blog entry apology which didnÕt even show up in search results, and a press statement.
The stakes are much higher in food safety, where lives are actually on the line. I read a blog entry by attorney Bill Marler who attended a speech by one of the food safety executives at Jack in the Box, perhaps the first famous brand to deal with a deadly national food crisis (not counting the Tylenol poisoning episode). He said:
ŅÉhe still keeps a picture in his briefcase of one of the children who died in the 1993 E. coli O157:H7 outbreak. He told us that whenever he made a food safety decision, he always had that child's picture in his mind.Ó
That story stunned me when I read it. ItÕs real, itÕs honest, and it shows me that they are more than just apologetic. If more people knew that story, theyÕd probably have a different view of the Jack in the Box brand.
So why donÕt more brands tell their stories, and give the public more information so that no one is left standing in the store aisle wondering if a product is safe?
According to a February 7, 2009 NY Times article, peanut butter sales are down nearly 25% for the month of January. This has caused companies to take unprecedented steps in assuring the public of their product's safety. At least one brand recently placed costly full page newspaper ads, but those only reached a limited number of people and only on the days it ran Š if someone didnÕt read their paper that day, they missed it. And more than likely, theyÕre reading the news online (40% of Americans now do), not in a physical paper.
IÕm biased towards our Newsforce approach to news advertising, of course: we replace the normal banner ad units on news sites with sponsored stories that our customers want to tell, and we run it as long as they want. That way, it reaches the largest number of people and thereÕs no journalistic bias because it comes directly from the company.
Of course, no channel operates in a vacuum. Just like you wouldnÕt just take out one ad on one day and call a campaign ŅdoneÓ, companies need to hit on all fronts Š particularly social media and online news search. Kick up the PR outreach to bloggers, not just mainstream journalists. Issue a YouTube statement, like the CEO of Jet Blue did a few years ago. Link all of your efforts together to build cross-channel message support. An integrated front is essential, and itÕs no time to sit in silos and pretend these channels donÕt touch each other.
Public Relations, Corporate Communications, Marketing and Advertising are continually changing and evolving on the web. The lines have been blurring for years, people, and itÕs just getting blurrier. If anything, the lessons weÕve learned in online marketing about transparency and corporate participation should be applied immediately to crisis management, and given more than just lip service.
By the way, parting thought: a crisis for one company or industry sector may be another companyÕs opportunity. IÕm betting sales of other sandwich spreads are up!
Vince Bianco is the CEO of Newsforce. He can be reached at 949-230-1354 or by email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bernstein Blogging Update
Over at the Bernstein Crisis Management blog, some of the most recent tantalizing titles include:
- Crisis? What Crisis?
- Corporate Conscience
- You're Caught!
- A Vital Tool
- I Ain't Lyin'
Please visit and chime in!
CRISIS MANAGER BUSINESS ANNOUNCEMENTS
Refer Clients, Earn Referral Fee
Within the public relations profession, as with many others, referral fees are commonplace and Bernstein Crisis Management is pleased to pay such fees, generously, when the referrer's own industry doesn't preclude receiving them. For more information, call Jonathan Bernstein at 626-825-3838.
Keeping the Wolves at Bay 3.0 Reviewed
"Keeping the Wolves at Bay" is much more than another media training guide - it is perhaps one of the most concise, insightful, useful and savvy guides to strategic thinking about reputation issues available.
Founder & CEO of PIER System and host of Crisisblogger.com
"It's like a Swiss Army knife -- lots of cool tools in a compact package. In case of emergency, grab this."
Steven R. Van Hook, PhD
Publisher, About Public Relations
In addition to individual and business usage, the manual is now being required as a textbook at Seton Hall University, Grand Canyon University, and Singapore Management University, amongst others. It is available in both PDF and hard copy formats at www.thecrisismanager.com, with reseller arrangements available for collegiate bookstores.
Jonathan Bernstein also offers on-site media training worldwide, using this manual as the basis for training. Write to email@example.com.
Internet Counter-Intelligence CD-ROM
In a one-hour teleseminar recorded in December 2007, search engine optimization expert Diana Huff interviewed Jonathan Bernstein, a pathfinder and innovator in the field of Internet-centered crisis management, who described how a wide range of companies have been damaged by the Internet's virtual terrorists, and how some companies have been responding effectively.
In this one-hour session, you'll learn how to conduct your own Internet vulnerability audit; develop strategies for identifying your foes -- activists, disgruntled employees, or unhappy customers -- and tracking Internet chatter; build the case within your organization for ensuring someone is monitoring the blogosphere, news, and Internet forums every day; plan for an Internet crisis and, when one hits, assess the situation to determine an appropriate response; develop the action steps you can take to neutralize attacks, including starting your own blog and developing collateral such as brochures, video, podcasts, and Web links to other reputable and informative sites; and effectively use search engine optimization tactics -- not just because you want customers to find your products -- but so you can beat these guys at their own game!
Available at www.thecrisismanager.com, as are our other titles.
Disaster Prep 101
Bernstein Crisis Management is pleased to present one of the most comprehensive and user-friendly family preparedness texts available today. "Disaster Prep 101." by Paul Purcell, goes above and beyond the simplistic "72-hour kit" concept and provides simple, yet detailed educational material that will drastically improve the ability of any family to respond to all manner of disasters or emergencies. This preparedness package contains over 400 pages of well-organized, original preparedness material written in an easy-to-understand, non-panic format; 80 pages of family data forms and worksheets (many of which are also useful to the employer); and a 2-CD set containing two interactive and searchable links collections for additional educational sources; all the family data forms and worksheets in softcopy format; and a complete emergency reference library of over 450 additional books and training manuals! US$59.95. Available here.
PLAIN ENGLISH DISCLOSURE
Bernstein Crisis Management, Inc. has formal or informal co-promotional and mutually beneficial business associations with a number of the services we mention periodically in this newsletter. No, we can't go into details because that's confidential, proprietary, etc. But our relationship is NOT "arm's distance" and you should know that, since we regularly write about these services as we use them for crisis and issues management or other purposes. That said, you should also know that Bernstein Crisis Management sought the relationships because its staff is convinced that these services are the best of their kind for Bernstein Crisis Management's needs and those of its clients. If you have any questions about these relationships, please contact Jonathan Bernstein, (626) 825-3838.
ABOUT THE EDITOR & PUBLISHER
Jonathan Bernstein is president of Bernstein Crisis Management, Inc., www.bernsteincrisismanagement.com, a national crisis management public relations agency providing 24/7 access to crisis response professionals. The agency engages in the full spectrum of crisis management services: crisis prevention, response, planning & training. He has been in the public relations field since 1982, following five-year stints in both military intelligence and investigative reporting. Write to firstname.lastname@example.org.
GUEST AUTHORS are very welcome to submit material for "Crisis Manager." There is no fee paid, but most guest authors have reported receiving business inquiries as a result of appearing in this publication. Case histories, experience-based lessons, commentary on current news events and editorial opinion are all eligible for consideration. Submission is not a guarantee of acceptance.
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