For nearly 10 years, KnowEm has been helping people and brands protect themselves online from misuse of their names and trademarks. This is something that we are extremely proud of. Some clients have found themselves entangled in conflict that led them to using our services with a desired result of reclaiming and rehabilitating their reputations.
Given the current climate of the world and social media landscape it is more important than ever to choose your words wisely, both in public and in private. When a potentially dangerous situation arises, brands and those involved need to be very careful in their approaches in communication.
Jonathan Friedland, a senior spokesperson formerly employed by Netflix, was recently fired for his repeated use of racial slurs in meetings. Many were left to wonder why no action was taken after the first use of such vulgar language. Reed Hastings, CEO of Netflix, was put in a position where he needed to explain this. He wrote a memo for internal use at Netflix, which was released publicly.
A message in such a situation needs to be effective, but how do you craft such a response? No matter the platform, there are some qualities that are necessary. The message should be clear, contrite, empathetic and show a level of sincerity that accepts responsibility without deflecting or shifting the blame elsewhere. Hastings wrote:
I’ve made a decision to let go of Jonathan Friedland. Jonathan contributed greatly in many areas, but his descriptive use of the N-word on at least two occasions at work showed unacceptably low racial awareness and sensitivity, and is not in line with our values as a company.
Here, Hastings comes right out with the explanation, he does not try to hide or cover it up. Hastings has made it abundantly clear that the use of racial slurs will not be tolerated at Netflix. He continues:
The first incident was several months ago in a PR meeting about sensitive words. Several people afterwards told him how inappropriate and hurtful his use of the N-word was, and Jonathan apologised to those that had been in the meeting. We hoped this was an awful anomaly never to be repeated.
Three months later he spoke to a meeting of our Black Employees @ Netflix group and did not bring it up, which was understood by many in the meeting to mean he didn’t care and didn’t accept accountability for his words.
The second incident, which I only heard about this week, was a few days after the first incident; this time Jonathan said the N-word again to two of our Black employees in HR who were trying to help him deal with the original offense. The second incident confirmed a deep lack of understanding, and convinced me to let Jonathan go now.
In these paragraphs he admitted that he had exercised poor judgment in the past in regards to this now fired employee and his repeated use of racial slurs. Taking ownership of his flaws is crucial in the development of an effective statement. Hastings goes on to say:
As I reflect on this, at this first incident, I should have done more to use it as a learning moment for everyone at Netflix about how painful and ugly that word is, and that it should not be used. I realize that my privilege has made me intellectualize or otherwise minimize race issues like this. I need to set a better example by learning and listening more so I can be the leader we need.
Reed Hastings sees where he failed. He realizes he must change, improve and grow as a person and as someone in charge of a large company. Will Friedland learn from the situation? Maybe, maybe not but that is not for Hastings to comment on. It seems apparent that Hastings has learned and wants to be better and provide a safer environment for all of the employees under his watch as CEO of Netflix.
In the world of social media it is of the utmost importance that you always be genuine. Even in hard times, honesty is often appreciated. Own your mistakes, explain how you plan to prevent such events from occurring again and you may be able to get public opinion back on your side.
Building your brand isn’t just done overnight or in any specific length of time. Building your brand is an ongoing and never ending process that begins with defining what your brand is – your ideals and goals; in short, your mission. It starts with creating a memorable logo that represents those ideals and goals, and of course securing all your brand’s social media profiles [shameless plug]. It doesn’t end there – it includes making sure you monitor how your brand is being represented on the internet as well as in traditional media, and keeping tabs on how people that work for you represent your brand. Honestly the list could go on forever. As your brand evolves so will everything that you need to do to keep its reputation clean, keep your customers and clients happy, and perhaps most importantly, keeping your core business profitable.
All of these are factors in building a brand, but today I wanted to speak to you about something that is, in my opinion, one of the most important facet of any brand: Trust.
Without trust, your brand is nothing more than a name, a logo, a pithy slogan. So how do you build trust? I’d like to present here three tips that I have used along the way to help gain trust in any and all brands I have built or helped to build.
Media Mentions – One of the quickest ways to gain trust in your brand is to list a few of the articles or media outlets where you have been mentioned. Logos of known and trusted news sources help build trust showing that your brand has received some major regional, national, or perhaps even international, attention. But a HUGE no-no, as well as one of my personal pet peeves and something that can actually damage your brand, is the practice of just slapping a couple trusted news outlets’ logos on your home page WITHOUT linking to the actual article or site where you were mentioned! Anyone can use a quick image query to pull the logos of CNN, Newsweek, Forbes, Inc. and USA Today and throw them up on their site, and then claim they have been mentioned there – and people are aware of this trick. Customers are savvy enough to realize a couple logos without citations mean nothing. So always be sure to show the proof that you have been mentioned on those sites.
ProTip: Don’t overdo it, especially if you are linking to each individual article. Not only will this hurt your rankings with the amount of outbound links but it also looks tacky in my opinion. Keep it simple, just list a few of the big ones and if you want to list more, have a footer link with a list of “Media Mentions” where you can go crazy. You don’t want your home page looking like someone ate a copy of every media outlet’s logo and then puked it over your page. Also, if you have print mentions where there was no online content, then scan and create a digital copy of the article where you were mentioned and post it online. If it happens to be a print magazine, be sure to scan a copy of the cover of the magazine so in case someone sees it and wants to verify you were mentioned in it, they will know what to look for (specifically, which month/volume it was published in).
Testimonials – Testimonials work great from clients or fans of your brand. Don’t be afraid to ask for a testimonial or a comment on your service to a client, advocate or fan of your brand. But make sure the person who is giving the testimonial caters it for the vertical market they have the most influence in. As an example, I am not going to ask Andy Beal for a testimonial on KnowEm’s use in the local search marketing world. Just as I wouldn’t ask Andrew Shotland for a testimonial on how KnowEm’s service helps with online reputation management.
ProTip: Seriously, don’t be afraid to ask. The only stupid request or question is the one that is never asked. It will take literally seconds out of your day to ask someone that you feel comfortable with for a quick blurb and if they are a fan of your brand and have a moment they will do it. Here, it’s easy, I’ll even do it right now…
That was the email that I sent and I received back this testimonial…
The first step to building a great online reputation is to secure your brand across every social network. KnowEm takes the pain out of that process.
Author of “Repped: 30 Days to a Better Online Reputation“
Client Logos – These can be VERY powerful. If you have well known brands using your service flaunt it! The larger the brand the better, if you can put up some logos of clients go for it. The larger the company the better, because their brand has probably already built trust. Definitely make sure you ask the company’s permission to use their image or mention, as a lot of large companies have policies in place regarding the use of their brand, image, slogan or mention of their name for advertising purposes. One way that you can try to get some of your clients to use their logo is to offer them a deal or a discount on your brand’s services.
(COMMON SENSE) ProTip: If it’s not actually your client, don’t post their logo. In case you missed that – DO NOT POST THEIR LOGO UNLESS YOU WORK WITH THEM AND HAVE THEIR PERMISSION. You are going to look dumb and break trust, especially if a potential customer asks you for a reference at the company that you have a logo up on your site as a featured client. One of the amazing KnowEm
Clones Alternatives decided to slap 6 logos up on their site as being “featured clients”, I guess they didn’t think that 3 of the 6 were actually clients of KnowEm’s, so we happily reported it to each of our clients’ legal departments and they immediately requested the logos be taken down under threat of legal action.
In closing, your brand’s trust is going to be determined by multiple factors. Helping to make the factors all go in your favor is not difficult at all if you always remember one thing: Be honest. The honest brand and transparent brand will always gain the public’s trust faster then the brand that is nothing more than smoke and mirrors.
<Cue cheesy announcer voice>
Tired of having to spam blogs, write nasty comments on forums and get repetitive stress injuries just to ruin someone you don’t like?
What if you could run a smear campaign against your competitors, slandering them in front of millions of people per hour?
Well, good news, kids! Now, thanks to Google, you can do it in seconds!
Yep, it’s Google real-time search. If you want to chop up someone’s reputation, Google’s new ‘cutting edge’ (hah, get it!) technology will slice, dice, frappe and otherwise grind it into pulp.
</End cheesy announcer voice>
I wish I was exaggerating. But Google real time search will be the biggest online reputation management (ORM) nightmare of 2010. They make it so damned easy.
I’m going to show you how it works. This isn’t earth shattering. All the bad people out there have figured it out. But you need to know so you can defend yourself (somehow):
1. Find a trend
First, go to http://www.google.com/trends
Pick a top-10 trending topic. Those topics are sure to have real-time search results. You can double-check. Just go to Google and search for the trending phrase. Look for the ‘latest results for…’ and your keyword. If it’s there, you have a winner:
OK. Now you have the territory staked out. Time to do some damage.
2. Commence abuse
Now it’s time to have some fun. Go to Twitter (if you don’t have a Twitter account, you’ll need to set one up). Type in the message of your choice:
3. Watch the results
Go back to Google and watch the real time results. In a short time, you’ll see your message show up:
That’s it. Do this consistently for a little while and you can create an online reputation management disaster.
You do. No one gives a flying crap about me, so I can beat myself up in social media all I want. You’re different. If you:
- Sell a product;
- Offer a service;
- Look for a job;
- Are a public servant;
- Or otherwise matter in the universe…
…I guarantee folks search your name and check on you before they call. And it only takes one negative listing in the search results to drive away customers. I’ve seen it time and again. If you and a competitor appear identical to a consumer, but you have one negative comment and they don’t, you’ll lose every time.
What to do
Remember that big kid that used to slap you silly at the bus stop? Bet your dad said something helpful like “ignore him and he’ll go away”. Didn’t work for me either. You can’t stop assholes from slandering you via real time search. You can make sure they do little or no damage:
- Take ownership of your brand name on sites like Twitter and Facebook.
- Monitor what people are saying about you. Get a report at least once a day (hourly is better).
- Make checking that report part of your normal routine.
Last, and possibly most important: Network with others online. The bigger your network, the more people you have to help you stand up to the bully.
I wish I knew…
…What the brainiacs at Google were thinking when they came up with their real time search model. Hopefully, they’ll fix the algorithm and make it harder to abuse the system. For now, though, your best bet is to think like a bully, keep an eye on the conversations that are going on out there, and know when someone’s abusing you.
Ian Lurie is the CEO of Portent Interactive, and writes the internet marketing blog Conversation Marketing. He’s been an internet marketer since 1995. Recent calculations show he’s had over 30,000 hours experience in the field. Which may explain his tendency to rant like a lunatic. He’s co-author of the Web Marketing All-In-One Desk Reference for Dummies, and author of the book Conversation Marketing. When permitted he rants and raves about internet marketing at various conferences, and attempts to use his powers of sarcasm for good.
Whether you’re ready to embrace it or not, social media is changing the way we communicate and make decisions. Today’s technology has impacted our daily lives and routines in a big way. If you don’t wake up to Facebook, you probably know someone who does. And good luck trying to escape the world of Twitter – it’s even invaded the nightly news.
If you aren’t participating in these sites, it’s easy to feel left out or alone. You may even proudly proclaim that you get more done without social networks and that strangers don’t need to know what you ate for breakfast. The problem is, if you’re an executive, a public figure or just Joe Schmoe looking for a job, you need an online presence. If I Google your name and find nothing but your qualifying time for a 5k and your Classmates.com listing, that doesn’t help me make a more informed decision about whether to hire you or your services. You need to dominate your search results and find ways to stand out from the crowd of other applicants.
Online reputation management (ORM) isn’t just about crisis management; it’s about relevance and prevention. If someone searches for your name, do they get relevant and positive results about you? If you share a name with Tom Cruise you may have a hard time ranking, but for the vast majority of us, it shouldn’t be too difficult to get at least one professional listing in the top ten results. And by professional listing, I don’t mean your MySpace page. You want a credible result that demonstrates your excellence in a particular industry or role.
It may not take much to get there, but you probably have questions about how to do it and you don’t have thousands of dollars to spend with a competitive online reputation management company. Fortunately, there are plenty of things you can do to actively manage your online reputation today. So, let’s dive in to three simple techniques for do-it-yourself ORM:
- Register your name. Use KnowEm to register your username across hundreds of social networks, reducing the likelihood of taken or, even worse, hijacked usernames. Since you’re reading KnowEm’s blog, I hope you’ve already made the investment. It’s worth its weight in gold when you consider the amount of money and time spent everyday by businesses trying to reclaim trademarked domains and social profiles. I can’t count the number of times I’ve had to salvage a username or work around a client’s terrible domain because they didn’t have the foresight to register it before a competitor or an angry customer. So, if you haven’t done it yet, sign-up for KnowEm, right now. Seriously.
Bonus tip: Don’t stop with your social profiles, register your domain name! It’s just a couple of bucks, so money isn’t an excuse when it’s our most powerful tool for repairing a client’s online reputation.
- Build up your accounts. Now that you’ve registered your username, identify the most relevant and powerful networks (mainstream and/or industry-specific) and beef up those accounts. During the registration process with KnowEm they customized your profiles, but there might be more opportunities, such as integrating your Twitter or blog feed, adding external links to multiple sites, customizing your URL or adding a longer bio or personal interests. Take advantage of every opportunity on those stronger networks.
Bonus tip: Befriend everyone you know by using the network’s friend or address book search feature (most social networks should have the latter). Also, look for active, new and similar contacts that you would enjoy communicating with on that network. This helps make your account more powerful by cross-linking it with others.
- Use your accounts. Once you know which accounts are performing the best and have optimized those, identify the ones that are most relevant to you and start participating on them. It isn’t enough to simply register the accounts. If you have any competition for your name, you’ll also have to use the networks. After you’ve identified half a dozen accounts you’re going to maintain, choose one to two that you check daily and just do weekly posts on the others. This adds fresh content to your account, increases interaction with other users and makes it more likely that someone will link to you. Each of those will help your account rank better in the search engines.
Bonus tip: Understand the privacy policies of each social network and your professional situation. The last thing you want to do is share private information or make slanderous remarks that could get you fired and force more drastic reputation management techniques!
Those few things make up the basics of DIY online reputation management. After you’ve set up your accounts, optimized them and used them, be patient. It could take several months to see significant results, but over time they should change in your favor.
Want to learn more about how you can improve your search results? Check out the online reputation management guide from Outspoken Media. And, if you have a problem that requires more aggressive results, contact us.
Do you know who it is you’re actually following on Twitter? Facebook? MySpace? Due to the recent explosion of interest in Twitter, thanks in no small part to Ashton (@aplusk) and Oprah (@oprah), celebrities and regular folk are flocking to Twitter. But how do you know if the person you’re following is actually a celebrity, and not just regular folk? You can’t, and Twitter is still very quiet about any plans to stop Twitterjacking: the act of impersonating someone else on Twitter.
The biggest concern with your brand identity in Online Reputation Management and Social Media used to be just giving your brand a good name. But what happens if someone steals your brand name? Do you think they’re going to be as concerned with your reputation? The need for businesses to secure their brand name on every possible venue has never been greater.
Knowem co-founder Mike Streko was recently interviewed by Fox News in a report about Twitterjacking: “Unless you start spending money to put out press releases saying that’s not your profile or jump through hoops to contact Twitter, it never works out well.”
The truth is, it’s almost impossible to get your brand name or username back once it’s been taken. Unlike when someone takes yourbrandname.com, there is no universal naming authority for social media profiles. As a brand owner, you’re basically at the mercy of the site owner. Or, since there are hundreds (if not thousands) of social media websites thriving today, you would have to appeal your case to every individual site owner to get your brand name profile back.
Or you could just use KnowEm’s username signup service (or monthly subscription service) to secure all your brand name profiles today, in just one click.