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  • Taking the High Road

    What do you do when you or your company is vilified on the net? Many of us have suffered the shock and dismay that comes with ‘Googling’ ourselves and seeing angry comments plastered across the SERPs. How do you handle this with grace and decorum?

    Integrity and reputation are hugely important, and each individual, business or firm should have a plan in place in case the worst happens. If someone with a beef accuses you of incompetence, negligence, or collusion, what should you do? If you are personally attacked, with smears on your name on moral or ethical grounds, how can you combat the damage without making things worse?

    The first thing to remember is that the media would rather make things worse than better. They are not your friends. There is no news in a retraction; even if they got the facts wrong, they would rather paint you as furious and enraged and make you look even worse than to come back and say you are innocent of wrongdoing. No battles are won in the press.

    Well, a single web result is one thing – you can SEO it out of existence and quash it before it becomes a major issue. If a bad review or personal attack goes viral, however, you may have a fight on your hands for damage control.

    Step One – stay calm! Panic can ruin you at this point, which is why it is so important to think about the possibility of a bad situation ahead of time and prepare, so you don’t sit paralyzed and wondering what to do.

    Don’t depend on employees or flunkies to mouth words at the situation and try to shield you – you are the boss, the buck stops here, so buck up and deal with the situation yourself so that you know best practices are being followed.

    If you are hopeless in the limelight, appoint a high ranking person from your organization to speak for the company and make sure you and they are on the same page as far as what is to be said and how the affair should be handled.

    Hammer the web with positive content and work seriously on getting each piece SEOd and linked for maximum rankings to push negative results down off the front page.

    If necessary, hire out this reputation management to a trusted form to get faster results – experts know how to deal with the problem.

    Take action as soon as possible to address the problem, and go over and above as regards to honesty and transparency. If you really did cause the problem yourself, admit it and make it up to injured parties twice over.

    Do it right the first time – formulate your stance then stick to it. If you are blameless, then don’t back down. Find positive messages as responses to the negatives. Let the public know what you are doing to resolve the problem, and then move on to reveal your brave new plans for the future.

    Keep in mind that forest fires can jump and flare again in a new location, so even if you have smothered them in one spot they can unexpectedly resurface elsewhere. Watch for lingering effects of the situation and continue to blot them away.

    Continue to monitor and measure public perceptions long after the immediate crisis has passed to see if there are lasting implications for your brand and reputation, and act accordingly.

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