There is more and more discussion about using blogs as a crisis management tool. Steve Phenix, a smart blogger for certain, sent me an email with his promotional message for blogging during a crisis–using his PR firm. And he used his own reputation crisis as an example of how it works. First, here’s the story about how he got caught in a rather dumb publicity stunt by a client.
His email message (unfortunately, he didn’t provide a weblink) said this:
Bad publicity, I’m sure you know, is just plain bad for your client’s business. And here’s some scary facts to consider, according to a recent survey [PDF]:
62% of searchers click on a first page results
90% click on a result within the first three pages
So basically your clients are losing money the longer bad news remains on Google’s first few pages. And guess what? The client probably blames your agency for the bad news even appearing in the press. The good news is that only 10% of searchers are willing to click past the third page.
But the question is, how is it possible to move negative press down in Google rankings?
With the rapid, cataclysmic changes affecting the PR industry–with economists saying that recession is here (WSJ), news outlets laying people off and going bankrupt, while according to We Media/Zogby Interactive, “nearly 70 percent of Americans believe traditional journalism is out of touch, and nearly half are turning to the Internet to get their news”–blogs are becoming more and more the best way to communicate client messages.
In fact, blogs are the ideal tool to contain a crises. And that’s where Phenix Public Relations comes in.
I know blogging works because I employed my own blog to halt a potentially career-ending crises five years ago and have successfully used this tactic with many other clients ever since.
Briefly, here’s the details:
I had a client out of the Netherlands that pulled an April Fool’s Day joke on the Wall Street Journal, plus Reuters, AP, USA Today, Variety and many others. When the European media began calling at 4 AM Texas time, I immediately fired the client and began calling every U.S. reporter who had covered the story or even thought about it. I endured a two-hour interrogation from a WSJ deputy editor who wanted to know what I knew and when I knew it. I even wrote handwritten letters to all the reporters.
Ultimately, my company and I were held blameless and suffered no immediate no damage to our reputation. However, soon I noticed that when you googled my name, this disastrous episode was all over the front page. There was blood, alright. I couldn’t take the chance that potential clients would see these stories and read too fast and never see how well we handled the crisis.
I was very worried that my career was finished till I read an article that blogging can help drive negative news down on Google. Until then I just played around with blogging, but with my financial future at stake, I got serious with my experimentation. Long story short, if you google my name now this negative story is very hard to find.
Here’s why blogs — or rather OUR blogs — work to contain a crises:
I have another, much closer to home example of how blogging can help address a personal reputation crisis. Our current (for PIER Systems) Senior VP in Washington DC got caught up in a Washington dustup, as they say, and this extensive blogpost by Kami Huyse did more than just about anything to set the record straight.
No, you can’t blog your way out of a crisis. But as anyone knows who has been caught in a major crisis, what happens online matters a lot. What shows up in Google is both an indicator of trouble and trouble itself. Blogging is one absolutely critical way to address the comments, questions and problems head on. Talk directly to those who are trying hard to influence others with their very limited information and perspective. And in the process, help at least balance out the data on the Internet that shows up in Google searches.