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The Mount Vernon Report Fall 2009 - vol. 9, no. 3

The Mount Vernon Report Fall 2009 - vol. 9, no. 3

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"Issues Affecting Reputation Management and Strategic Communications"

Managing Your Reputation Through Search Engine Optimization
"Issues Affecting Reputation Management and Strategic Communications"

Managing Your Reputation Through Search Engine Optimization

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Published by: Morrissey and Company on Sep 01, 2010
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M
ore and more people are going online forinformation; approximately 5 billion peopleworldwide use the Internet daily. Consumers,journalists and investors are all searching for content onthe Web. Smart marketers are aware ofthe shift frompushing information out to external audiences toend-users selecting and pulling content, and have beenquick to take advantage ofthe opportunity to increasetheir company’s visibility by incorporating search engineoptimization into their Web site, marketing and publicrelations mix.Search engine optimization, or SEO, is a method of increasing awareness ofand driving traffic to a Web siteand its content by increasing the Web site’s rankingamong search engines. The higher a Web site’s ranking,the more prominently it will be displayed in the searchresults and, therefore the more likely to be visited byusers. People using a search engine like Google or Bingtypically only click on the first few links on the first pageofresults. SEO can increase visibility for a product orcompany, making it a great tool for advancing anorganization’s reputation.However, negative or damaging information can spreadusing the same principles ofoptimization. In the onlineworld, word-of-mouth happens via link-building. Forexample, someone publishes a negative comment aboutyour company. Others read it and start linking to it inblogs and discussion groups. These postings are forwardedon to more people and the next thing you know, thenegative information is at the top ofsearch engine results.
T
he more digital the world ofcommunications becomes, themore valuable the content.The fact that we can access news andinformation on a constant basis does not change the basic rulesofnews – theinformation must be interesting to the reader, timely andaccurate. At a recent communications conference led by social mediaguru Paul Gillin, he alluded to a Washington D.C.-based online newsservice that raced to get content out to constantly beat the competingconventional newspapers and wire services. That competitivenessis customary for the media as they strive for exclusivity andto be first with the story. The kicker here was that thismedia outlet was happy to go with a standard of85percent accuracy in their reporting. The idea was thatreaders would “self-correct”the inaccuracies inmuch the same way Wikipedia does. To me, this is adangerous melding offacts and fiction.Perhaps this dilemma has always existed, but themoment to moment urgency ofdigital media seemsto call for speed to trump accuracy and let the market-place decide the truth. Media ethics, in some respects, hasbeen a slippery slope as the business ofnews has always beenin conflict with the nobility ofreporting the truth. Bias has alwaysexisted in news media as owners and publishers exert their influence oreditorial policies over purportedly objective editors and reporters.In the digital and social media world we live in today, it appears that thewill ofthe masses overrules the sometimes brave and singular voice of the individual. Or is that even true? Social media is less about breakingnews and more about dialogues or online conversations between andamong interested parties. The old rule was that the media did not tell youwhat to think, but what to think about. The message ofsocial media isthat the parties talk about only what they wish to talk about and on theirown schedule and terms. Ifyou are not interested, you do not participate.Ifyou do not agree with what is being discussed, you start anotherconversation or group oflike-minded people and spawn yet another outletbased upon common interest. So, social media is both social andanti-social at the same time. Also, with search engine optimization, themore attention your conversation is paid, the greater prominence (whichsuggests validity and credibility) ofyour point ofview.There are dangers here, but also great freedom. The partic-ipant is the governor and arbiter ofopinion. I’m not surewhere this leaves the person who goes against the grain,a person such as a Gandhi or a Mandela whose viewsmight not have made it to the top ofthe search engineparade. But then again, their powerful words andthoughts may have caught on faster and spread evenfurther with the digital tools we have today.This issue ofthe
Mount Vernon Report 
is devoted to theworld ofsocial media and reputation. We touch upon thebrave new world ofthe big four – Twitter, Facebook, YouTubeand LinkedIn. I suspect that even this list will morph into the bigtwo or three, and then split up again to birth more venues for spreadinginformation. But no matter the channel, content remains king. Tweet on.
President and CEOMorrissey & Company
THE WORLD OF SOCIAL MEDIA AND REPUTATION
Fall 2009vol.9 no.3“Issues Affecting Reputation Management and Strategic Communications” 
I invite you to join the conversation and share your thoughts and ideas about safeguardingan organization's reputation. Please join me on my Reputation Excellence blog – http://blog.morrisseyco.com.
Managing Your Reputation Through Search Engine Optimization
Social media is lessabout breaking news andmore about dialogues oronline conversationsbetween and amonginterested parties.
SEO
CONTINUEDONPAGE2
 
Now that great tool for managing your reputation has become adetriment. What to do? Here are a few tips:
MONITOR
To be prepared to mitigate the damage, a company mustfirst be aware ofthe discussion about its brand and products. There area number oftools available to help you listen to the onlineconversation about your company such as Google Alerts, which sendse-mails when your company appears in the news or on blogs. MBuzzspecifically monitors social media and provides daily reports and analyt-ics. Another method is to have your SEO team analyze what sites,forums, etc. bring the most traffic to your Web site and then monitorthem.
BUILD LINKS
Link-building should be a major part ofany SEOstrategy. Think ofit like networking. The more people in your network,the more exposure and recognition you receive. The same is true forconnecting your Web site with other content on the Internet. And, likenetworking, the same rules of“you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours”apply. Bad news rises to the top ofthe search engine results becausemany people shared links to the content – you can do the same withgood news. Specifically, build links outside your corporate domain,including news sites, corporate blogs and other pages outside your Website. Make it a practice to ensure that the content on these sites isconstantly updated and fresh.
EXAMINE KEYWORDS
Another SEO strategy is keywordselection and density. In the case ofnegative press, you want to createmore good than bad by optimizing around select key words. Sincenegative press is likely showing up when consumers search under yourcompany name, you will want to focus your SEO efforts on thosespecific keywords with the goal ofdriving positive hits up, whilepushing the negative ones down. How do you determine the bestkeywords to use? There are many elements that go into keywordselection and there are several services that provide data on what searchterms are being used and how often. Some ofthem charge to provide thisinformation and others, like Google Keywords, offer the information forfree. They have several basic and advanced options to help select relevantkeywords.In this age ofinstant publishing via the Internet, information – bothgood and bad – travels at lightning speed. News is updated so frequentlythat people only pay attention to what is at the top ofthe page, hencethe need to manage your reputation online using the valuabletool ofSEO. This is just a peek at the world ofSEO.~ Lauren DiGeronimo
SEO
CONTINUEDFROMPAGE1
S
ocial media has changed the rules ofmarketing and public relations.Through forums like Facebook and Twitter, consumers yield more powerthan ever before; according to a survey by the Opinion ResearchCorporation, 84 percent ofAmericans say online reviews influence theirpurchasing decisions.
1
Part ofthe value and allure ofpublic relations is the impartial third party;consumers may give more credence to a journalist’s opinion over anadvertisement because that journalist is theoretically unbiased. Social media isa lot like traditional public relations; it involves relinquishing control andmaking yourselfvulnerable, while providing the opportunity for (even betterthan third-party endorsement) end-user endorsement.As with the advent ofthe Internet and e-mail, organizations are nervous aboutcontrolling employees’use ofsocial media – ensuring these mediums are not adistraction, and controlling the content (and the organization’s reputation).
ESTABLISHING PARAMETERS
In the 90s, organizations began policing and restricting use ofthe Internet ande-mail by limiting sites employees could access and even monitoring e-mailcontent. While policies like these are sometimes necessary, most organizationshave come to trust employees’judgment. And, it seems most people behaveresponsibly (we haven’t seen the workforce disintegrate due to the potentialdistraction posed by the Internet and e-mail).Recently, organizations have begun instituting policies relating to employeeblogging, and use ofnetworking sites like MySpace, Facebook, and Twitter.These run the gamut from extensive legalese to simply: “Be professional.”While it’s important to communicate with employees about these mediums,ultimately, organizations should trust their teams. Employees can be anorganization’s greatest asset; ifyou believe in the quality ofyour organization’swork and treat your employees with respect, you shouldn’t need an extensivesocial media policy.A proposed policy: Everything you say should be truthful, kind and necessary.This rule applies in any situation, and social media is no exception. Otherhelpful guidelines to share with your team:
Always take the high road.
Ifyour organization is the subject ofa negative Tweet, for example,advise employees to step back and calm down before responding.Never get into an argument or debate; always take the high road andnaysayers will often change their tune.
Be responsive (timeliness is important, too).
This demonstrates your organization’s commitment to its audiences,and will only positively impact your organization’s reputation.Responsiveness will also help fuel more positive discussion, increasingyour visibility on social networks.
 pg.
2
Ethical Guidelines – Truthful, Kind and Necessary
ETHICS AND POLICIES IN SOCIAL MEDIA
ETHICALGUIDELINES
CONTINUEDONPAGE3
1
The New York Times 
, “Managing an Online Reputation,”Kermit Pattison, July 30, 2009
 
Postings are permanent.
Once you post something, you can no longer control it and you can’t take it back.Venting during a moment offrustration may not be worth it when you can’t face afellow employee the next day or feel embarrassed in front ofyour boss.
Social media is subject to the same limitations – release offinancialinformation, client confidentiality, etc. – as other communications.
Employees should be aware ofthis and understand that the same consequences apply.
MORE THAN A HOBBY
Anyone can blog, tweet or network online, and the lines between work and hobby are often blurred.For example, software engineers are big bloggers because they’re passionate about technology, inand out ofthe office. A blogger develops a following who believes that person is interesting andtrustworthy. Sooner or later, followers figure out the blogger works for company X and wonder if that blogger’s views are independent or company-sponsored.While that’s a good example ofwhy it may be useful to have a general social media policy in place(because even ifthey’re not blogging on your behalf, employees can still be linked to yourorganization), some organizations are going beyond that and hiring individuals for the specificpurpose ofsupporting social media through “tweetingor posting on Facebook.When is this necessary and appropriate? Ifyou answer “yes”to multiple questions below,you may want to consider creating a role like this or dedicating some existing resources.
Is social media an important avenue for your customers and audiences? Does yourorganization appear often in social media conversations?
Are you trying to grow your business?
Does your stafflack the capacity to address comments made about your organizationin the blogosphere, on Twitter and on other social networking sites?Guidelines to keep in mind regarding social media support within your company:
Individuals should
support 
the company, not necessarily
 promote 
the company.
It must be crystal clear that individuals are representing the company.
Specific guidelines should be developed for these roles, aligned with the organization’sgoals for social media.
Social media interactions are not a substitute for customer service; they should referpeople to customer service representatives, ifnecessary. These interactions are nottracked by CRM software, so organizations can’t measure responsiveness throughsocial media (yet).Keep in mind that the goal ofsocial media is to participate in the debate as a peer, and everythingyou say should be truthful, kind and necessary. And, as Peter Morrissey says, “Ifthat sounds likesomething a nun would say, that’s because it is.”~MeganPage
If you believe in the quality of yourorganization’s work and treat youremployees with respect, you shouldn’tneed an extensive social media policy.
 pg.
3
Netiquette Tips
The basic guideline for onlinecommunication is common sense.But with new applications and explosivegrowth, a refresher never hurts.Below are the top seven rules.
1.
You can’t un-ring a bell. Once you’veput something on the Web, it’s there foreternity.
2.
Understand the limits of yourcontrol. Anyone can take your image orposting and repurpose it.
3.
The Internet does not operate in avacuum. Most people can figure outhow to get around basic security blocks.If you wouldn’t want your boss orgrandma seeing it, don’t post it.
4.
Spell-check. Online communicationfeels quick and informal, but the basicrules of English still apply to everythingfrom e-mail to Facebook to blogs. Twitterand texting get a pass because of lengthconstraints.
5.
Understand the core purpose ofeach tool and network. Party picturesdon’t belong on LinkedIn, posting yourresume on MySpace is odd.
6.
Act with purpose. It’s educational to test out various programs andapplications to better understand themand determine their usefulness. Notevery platform is right for every user andsituation. Find what works best for you.
7.
Be truthful.~ April Wildermuth
ETHICALGUIDELINES
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