A good brand reputation is not a service you can buy and can’t be gained by a clever stratagem. Still, reputation managers at companies trying to do damage control or damage prevention always seem to be on the look-out for shortcuts that can shut down any negative conversation about brand.
Preventing Negative Conversation Is Impossible
Some companies use stratagems to try and prevent negative conversation. In advance of an expected Wikileaks attack, Bank of America registered hundreds of negative domains in mid-December. Erik Sherman writes on bnet “BofA executives have limited imaginations when it comes to the many ways people could put down the company and its managers.” And he points out they are years too late, with sites such as www.BankofAmericaSucks.com having carried on a brisk trade in negative consumer opinion for years. Despite Bank of America’s big URL buy, hundreds of negative URLs remain. In fact, another blogger Cory Doctorow calculates that the number of potential URLs limited to just five negative variations (blows, sucks, crook, thief, and fraudster) at a cost of just $5 each would exceed the capital reserves of the bank.
Drowning Out Negative Conversation Also Doesn’t Work
Some companies try to flood the conversation with false positives. Techniques can be as ham-handed as reviewing your own company (five stars!) on Yelp! to systematic attempts to manipulate search engine results. Companies like ReputationDefender.com floods the Web with positive content optimized to make the pages of search engine results pages. Covering this company years ago, Forbes.com recounted a story of one executive who used the service to drown out sites calling her a “fraud” and “con artist” with stories of her business, her upcoming book, even her recipes, though she is quoted in the article as saying, “the truth is, if it doesn’t go in the microwave, I don’t make it.” Google “Reputation Defender Scam” and you’ll find dozens of reasons to stay away from this company and any service like it. It should come as no surprise that cheaters cheat. If your company is already battling negatives, don’t pile on with dishonesty. A good brand will behave as honorably online as in real life.
Honesty is its own reward, but in business, it is also profitable. I have talked about transparency of today’s world and the absolute need for brands to be genuine in a half dozen articles. In a world of Wikileaks and Gawker, nothing is secret for long. Whatever might be gained by shading the truth will cost plenty when your brand gets lambasted in public. A good reputation is not gained by a stratagem and can’t be bought as a service. It takes genuine effort over a long, long time. Build your brand on solid rock and it will weather many a storm. (see here and here)