What is the right way to manage an online reputation challenge?

Over the past week or so, a number of news articles have appeared detailing how one university handled an online reputation issue. Rather than get into the specifics of that case, I want to address the general question – what is the right way to manage an online reputation management challenge.

I am the CEO of Five Blocks, a boutique digital reputation management company. Individuals, brands, organizations, and companies retain our services to handle online reputation crises. More than half of the clients engage us because they don’t like something they see when they or their brand is searched, typically in Google or Bing.

Our message to them is that their best bet is to utilize Google and other search engines to tell their own story, or that of their brand. This means optimizing their own website/s to appear prominently and to tell their story. It also means utilizing social media and business profiles to present what their organization stands for. Many of our clients need to publish more content or produce more video than they have previously. Our job is to provide the expertise to help them do it.

Yes, I know you want to get rid of an outdated negative news story – but the right way to do that is it provide searchers with rich, relevant, timely content that legitimately deserves to displace that news.

In some cases our clients will need to address specific negative news and in so doing, start putting it behind them. In other cases they may choose not to address the crisis directly within their online presence.

Our experience has shown that a long-term strategy should be about telling a story rather than hiding a story. You have far more resources available to use when you are telling a story than the opposite. You will also find yourself and your organization spending efforts on ensuring accurate information is easily found, addressing stakeholder concerns, and sharing thought leadership – all efforts you may have neglected in the past. And best of all, you will be working with Google’s algorithm rather than against it.

There are many tools and platforms that are available to you including: on-page content and technical SEO, Google and Bing Webmaster Tools, Wikidata, Social media profile optimization, YouTube video and channel optimization, Google images, Google Plus, etc. To really tackle these, you will often need expert help – and this is what digital reputation management experts should be helping you do.

For me, the difference between addressing unfavorable results correctly vs, incorrectly boils down to attitude. If your plan is to outsmart Google and subvert their algorithm, you will usually be unsuccessful – certainly in the mid to long-term. If instead, you use the situation as a catalyst to do a better job of telling the story of your brand, both through your owned properties and via third-party websites, and you utilize all of the tools available to do so, you are likely to be far more successful. In the process you will have added significant value to your brand’s reputation.

Maybe this should be the litmus test. Are you better off after the crisis than you were before. Is your brand better equipped to handle unfavorable news? Are you in better control of how your own presence appears online? If the answer is no – you have treated the symptoms of your problem. If you are now stronger – you have gotten to the underlying causes and you are well on your way to a long-term positive digital reputation.

When you come late to the party…

Here’s the deal. When you come late to the party – like really late –  you should do one of these:

1) Ride in on a motorcycle

2) Bring some good booze

If you don’t do either of these – or something else that sets you apart or provides enormous value – you’re not going enjoy the party – and you’ll probably go home early and alone.

The same is true with online marketing.

One of the questions I get frequently is how to best promote a new website in an existing field. For example you want  to sell baby clothes online or sign people up for a new credit card – and you are just now ready to launch  your new site.For some perspective make sure you look at all of the competitors and especially how long they have been in the market. (note that you dont even see all

Typically the question is asked by someone who is just now ready to launch, but whose most significant competitors have been in the market for 10-20 YEARS!

So my advice is, if you want anyone to notice you – make a big splash and ideally bring some real value!

What do Reputation Management and Snorting Nutmeg have in common?

Strange question, perhaps.

It turns out they have a great deal in common!
Over the past couple of days I have been experimenting with Google Correlate , a tool I recently discovered.

Basically, Google Correlate looks at the search volume patterns for any keyword and identifies other keywords whose patterns match.

So in addition to finding useful patterns, Correlate finds patterns that seem utterly meaningless (though perhaps they are statistically significant).

Google Correlate

So it seems the connection between Snorting Nutmeg and Reputation Management is that at both had a huge rise in search volume around the end of 2010, followed by a similar increased interest on an ongoing basis.

Using this tool, we have discovered some interesting patterns related to some of our clients – though there is a lot of chaff to work through!

Meanwhile snorting nutmeg is not recommended, while reputation management is!


Your Reputation is…

This is what Google returns when you type “your reputation is”

the one that really sums it up for me is the last one “Your reputation is what Google says it is.”

I was speaking with a journalist yesterday who confirmed what I believed was true. If a Google search brings up some issue, it is difficult if not impossible to completely ignore it when you write an article about a given topic.

Food for thought!

Five Blocks Briefs Reputation Management Clients regarding WikiLeaks Release

Los Angeles, CA (PRWEB) November 30, 2010

Five Blocks Inc. a leading US-based Online Reputation Management company reported today that it has briefed clients and business partners regarding the release of classified WikiLeaks materials some of which may pertain directly or indirectly to its clients.

Specifically, Five Blocks urged affected clients to analyze the unfolding situation and take the following into consideration:

1) The greatest issue raised in the various WikiLeaks has to do with countries being private rather than public about their intentions, their plans and their beliefs. The countries that came out looking worst were ones whose public face does not match what they are saying behind closed doors. The solution is to be more direct.
2) Embrace the fact that Google and Social Media have changed the world – diplomacy is now intertwined with reputation and the resultant public discourse.
3) Be a part of that discourse in positive constructive and substantive ways.
4) Generate as much positive and especially unexpected press as possible – It may for example be a perfect time to release prisoners who shouldn’t be in prison anyway.
5) While the world is focused on your issues – it may be the perfect time to show a human face, which does not mean you have to address head-on the specific issues.

CEO, Sam Michelson stated., “While some government and political clients are clearly in crisis mode, we are working to turn this situation into an opportunity for them.”

About Five Blocks: Founded in 2007, Five Blocks is a leading Online Reputation Management company. Incorporated in Nevada and maintaining an office in Los Angeles California and a development center in Israel, Five Blocks helps individuals, organizations, politicians, and governmental agencies take control of their online reputation, especially the search results seen in Google. Five Blocks utilizes proprietary analytics technology as well as search marketing and social media best practices to create and strengthen positive online content. This allows Five Blocks to provide best-in-class Reputation Management to leading organizations in the US and internationally.


Big Company – Small Company- Rep Management for Exxon Mobil

In our various businesses we work with various sized companies – some huge ones and others tiny.
As we have grown from 2 people to 12 over the past 5 years, I am constantly aware of the potential pitfalls of growing too big. At 2 people we could make any change to our websites or strategies immediately – at 12 people we need to talk to various people in the group to make sure our changes match their plans, don’t ruffle any feathers, etc.

Big companies take a lot longer to get things done. This is something we need to avoid in the Reputation Management business. Time is everything. But sometimes it’s just inexcusable. Exxon’s oil spill in Alaska happened in 1989 but yet when you Google “Exxon” you still see, prominently displayed, negative results!

I can’t believe Exxon doesn’t care. Either they don’t know that you can use Reputation Management to promote your online reputation and cause these results to drop lower – or they know this, but they can’t get their act together.

So, if you’re listening Exxon Mobil … contact us and we’ll do the first month free! What we charge is chump change for you anyway!

Sphinncon Israel 2010

Sphinncon SMX Jerusalem 2010
This past Sunday afternoon Barry Schwartz hosted a mini-SMX in Jerusalem, Israel. Vanessa Fox joined him from the US as well. A short, relaxed version of SMX. Nice event – loved that it was so close to our office! It was good seeing my friends and colleagues from various places in Israel who made their way through the mountains to Jerusalem on what turned out to be a beautiful springlike day!

I spoke about Reputation Management Pitfalls and I will share the main points.
Note: when I say reputation management I mean getting negative results for your keyword out of the top 10 in Google.
1) Understand what your client really wants – it’s not always what they tell you at first. Dig deeper.
2) The goal is to “own” the top ten in Google and other search engines by working with Google – create and promote sites full of relevant content and get authoritative and/or topic-relevant links.
3) Don’t confuse Rep Management with SEO – it’s not a good idea to overdo the linking process – you will end up making your job more difficult – you will need to compete with yourself to move more sites into the top ten.

I will post the presentation on Slideshare soon.

Social Media and Reputation Management


I just read a blog post about Reputation Pruning (originally published in May this year).  This is the practice of removing social media comments, picture tags etc. that can reflect negatively on your reputation. The author, Tyler Hayes, presents a point of view which I think is ridiculous.

In Tyler’s view social media is meant to be an extension of who you really are – and so altering any part of it is somehow dishonest.

My response is that people should put themselves in the best light.

  • If you discover that your delicious lunch has left some food stuck between your teeth – take it out. I don’t care  if it’s natural to have it there!
  • If you start to grow hair on your ears – shave it off!
  • If the kitchen at work has a terrible picture of you from the company picnic – take it down!

There is no moral obligation to let other people or situations show anything negative about you.

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