Composition of an online reputation dream team
If you're hit with an online reputation attack, you'll need the best possible team of professionals on your side. Columnist Chris Silver Smith outlines a list of specialists who can help you get the results you need.
If you are the victim of an online reputation attack, you might wonder what you could do about it if you had substantial resources to get the very best-in-class help.
Would it be one person/company you would hire, or a few handfuls? What would be the makeup of an online reputation “dream team?” I’ve worked on a few of these, so I’ll provide some insider information.
To be clear, a top-notch reputation dream team is not required for every online reputation issue. The majority of reputation-damaging situations could be covered by only one or two types of reputation pros.
For instance, if you had only an arrest record, a mugshot, a negative review or a few isolated defamatory posts, you might only need the assistance of a lawyer and/or an online marketer.
A dream team may be required when the scale of an online reputation attack reaches crazy-ridiculous proportions, such as when one is fighting hundreds to thousands of separate web pages or other types of materials online. In these extreme cases, a combination of multiple strategies is likely to be the only way that the matter will be adequately resolved.
Assembling an online reputation dream team typically requires one to obtain the help of a few common types of professionals that are particularly skilled in their disciplines. In some cases, there may be agencies that have all of these sets of skills under one roof — in which case, one could merely contract with that agency in order to get all the help needed to fight and conquer a particular problem.
But it’s extremely rare to find an agency that has a representative from every one of these disciplines in one company. Some agencies that work in this area can pull in partners to fill holes in the dream team that are not covered by their own personnel.
Here are some of the most common types of professionals one would want on an ideal online reputation management (“ORM”) dream team.
Primary members of an online reputation dream team
• The Search Engine Optimization Expert: The Search Engine Optimization (“SEO”) Expert is an online marketer who is skilled at enabling web pages and other media to attain highest rankings in search engine results pages, particularly in Google and Bing.
The skills of this expert are directly applicable to helping positive content outrank negative content, for creating that content and perhaps also for de-optimizing negative content and for the related skills of identifying all the negative content URLs.
• The Attorney: The Online Reputation Attorney can be the most powerful force on the dream team, depending upon the issues involved, because he or she may be able to get negative material completely deleted at its source and/or get the search engines to remove links to materials that cannot be deleted.
Of course, the Attorney may need the skills of other team members to locate content and find and identify the authors, and the wheels of justice can turn slowly.
• The Crisis Management Publicist: The online world doesn’t completely exist in a vacuum — it’s a reflection of things that happen in the real world, and stuff that happens online can transmit back into the real world, too.
For some cases, particularly those involving more traditional media, it’s ideal to have an experienced traditional publicist who knows how to communicate effectively for news or who knows how to craft statements to reposition people and companies that are being presented in the worst possible manner. A Crisis Management Publicist can plot a course for rehabilitating a tarnished image.
• The Private Investigator: If you need to figure out the identity of someone who anonymously hurled online reputation missiles or discover the physical address of a defamer in order to serve them with court papers, a good Private Investigator may be invaluable. This function can be related to pros who are cyber-detectives and process servers.
In the case of an anonymous online detractor, simply discovering their identity and calling them up to talk with them might allow one to persuade them to disassemble their reputation-damaging campaign.
There are a few additional specialists who could be pulled in on a particular project:
Secondary members of an online reputation dream team
• The Social Media Marketer: Some reputation attacks are confined to a particular social media platform like Twitter or Facebook, and having an experienced social media marketer who specializes in that platform could help you amp up your game enough to match or surpass the voice(s) of negativity you’re fighting.
Some of the very worst online reputation attacks I’ve worked on were intensified when an attacker fooled others into knee-jerk reactions that exacerbated and broadened an attack.
• The Political Lobbyist: If your company is being cast in an unflattering light by a particular special interest group, it may be advisable to loop in an experienced political lobbyist. An obsessed special interest group often may have the ability to create a lot more critical buzz online, versus a sedate small company.
Don’t allow a small group that’s generating a larger-than-representative amount of sound and fury to push their agenda through the legislative machinery without a fight. The political lobbyist is really necessary for those situations that go beyond mere online reputation.
The Hacker: Not advising that you do anything illegal here, but sometimes having a talented, er… “developer” on hand can be extremely useful in making something pesky go away online.
Remember back when RipoffReport.com delisted itself from Google? Imagine if a hacker were to make something similar to that happen. All it would take might be an exploit to gain access to a defamatory site to add in a robots.txt rule to deindex the page causing problems.
Or, add a little code so that when the webmaster views the page it looks normal, but for all other user IP addresses, the page errors out. Or what if that pesky mugshot photo on a news site that ranks very high in image search results were to no longer link to an article about an arrest, but instead link to a page containing positive information?
There’s really no end of possibilities if one were to have root access, so it’s hard to discount the potential, particularly in cases where lies and misinformation have been willfully spread to harm innocent people.
There are substantial costs involved with hiring all the members of a reputation dream team, as you can imagine, based on the list of professionals. Specialists who are skilled in these areas can have a pretty high demand upon their services and may only have time to work on a limited number of projects at a time.
But if you’re looking to have dramatic results, hiring an entire reputation dream team may help ensure that you get precisely what you want.