Whether it’s a disgruntled customer who was impossible to please, an ex-employee being swayed by an unscrupulous rival, or a person attacking your own good name through false accusations, a black propaganda campaign against you or your business is never more than an earshot or mouse click away. And when done online, it can be all the more damaging, with negative content spreading like wildfire across the web. In an age where Internet presence is all but a requirement for people and businesses today, knowing how to deal with the inevitable stream of negative content can make or break your business’s online presence.
The traditional business owner would think that the best way to inhibit the spread of black propaganda is to tackle it head on, usually by refuting the charges publicly, making amends for legitimate criticism or addressing actual concerns, or, in extreme cases, taking legal action against the offending parties. However, the last of these (which also involves cease and desist orders and forced takedowns of content) isn’t always applicable online and tends to be counterintuitive, garnering the needless attention of netizens and accusations of curtailing freedom of speech. Legal action is best suited for dire circumstances and is often little more than a stop-gap measure unless the actions are done with tact and the underlying problems that led to it are resolved.
Unlike most counter-propaganda tactics, online reputation management (ORM) focuses more on highlighting the positives, involving the creation of high quality optimized content to bring up positive or neutral links in search engine results, suppressing the negative content in the process. It is most effective when employed alongside traditional crisis management strategies, effective in its targeted and tactical approach to clearing negatives. When done properly, ORM attracts far less attention than forced takedowns of content, decreasing the chances of possible Internet blowbacks. In fact, an effective ORM service is evidenced by the establishment and continued update of high-ranking online assets containing high-quality, search engine optimized content that is focused on promoting the positives instead of directly reacting to negatives. It certainly can be said that the best defense against smear campaigns is a better offense of positive branding.
Although some aspects of good business stay the same, the rules of the game are constantly changing. Addressing customer concerns and taking action against black propaganda take more than just standard brick and mortar methods—sustained, tactical action by professional online reputation management consultants yields results that would benefit businesses for the long term.