Big Google and the puppy dog defense

by

In a nation where one in 10 is unemployed and countless others are underemployed, during a time when people are networking like next month’s rent is riding on it (because it often is), what could cause a recent college graduate to pull herself off every social networking site she ever joined?  Ask Karen Owens… if you can find her.

After graduating from Duke, Owens created a fake senior honors thesis and submitted it to “The Department Of Late-Night Entertainment,” otherwise known as three of her friends.  What happened next was predictable.  One of those three sent it to someone else, and they sent it to someone else, before Owens had any idea what was happening, the online world was propagating and publicizing her somewhat severe personal missteps in judgment.

The details of her thesis aren’t appropriate for discussion here, but its rise to infamy is.  Try doing a Google search of “Karen Owens Duke.”  I’m sure every employer she ever applies to will, and they won’t find a list of recommendations for her on LinkedIn.  They won’t find a display of her expertise and a sample of her reading list on Twitter.  They won’t even see a Facebook or Google profile of her.

Instead, all they will derive about her from the web are some details of her private life I’m sure she would rather have kept under wraps.  Owens has expressed remorse for creating the “thesis,” and I’m sure she is mortified, but at some point she will have to emerge from the rock she is undoubtedly hiding under.  When she does, she will have to take control of what’s being said about her online.

Forget Big Brother, the bigger concern today is Big Google.  Managing a brand – personal or corporate – in the 21st century increasingly means managing what the search engines say about it.  The internet never forgets, so the trick is to be constantly feeding it new memories that convey the message you want to put forward.

Fortunately for Owens, there are a few steps she can take to restore, or at least repair, her online reputation.  For a price, ReputationDefender.com says they can help control what is said about you around the intertubes.  You will never be able to scrape the internet completely clean, however, and you can’t stop others from writing negative things about you (or publishing the embarrassing things you yourself create).

What you can do is flood it with good news about yourself or your business, and with strong SEO hope that it pushes the bad coverage down in the Google listings.  The web is often the first place prospective clients will turn for information, and all too often they won’t scan beyond the first couple links their favorite search engine provides.

Scott Fayner, a former journalist covering, ahem,  “morally questionable” industries,  for example, has gone on the offensive in trying to bury his sordid personal and professional history.  Google him now and you can still find tales of his debauched past, but before that you will find pictures of cute little puppy dogs.  Seriously.  The erstwhile adult entertainment  reporter is now publishing an online magazine dedicated to canines and featuring pictures of dogs at rescue shelters in an attempt to rebrand himself online.

His strategy has merit: to those who need to do a little online damage control, or even want to get out ahead of the curveball that will inevitably be thrown, the answer is clear.  Write blog posts, and comment on other’s.  Tweet.  Be a thought leader and publish in trade publications and journals.  Get your name in the press and on message.  Do great things and tell the world about them.  Give Google plenty of positive things to say about you, and watch as they crowd out the negative ones.

Most brands don’t have the same level of grime on them as Fayner’s and Owens’ do, but everyone’s could use a little polish.  As Fayner says of his puppy dog strategy, “It’s the start of my very long, very slow battle against the Internet — one that I realize I may never win.”  He may not, but by being proactive he gets closer every day.

The photo of Ella the Snow Dog by jpctalbot is used under this creative commons license.

Advertisements

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

2 Responses to “Big Google and the puppy dog defense”

  1. Big Google and the puppy dog defense « BrianKeaney.org Says:

    […] PG  version of this post that met the corporate sensor’s approval was crossposted to the EZG […]

  2. Is accuracy underrated? Keeping the message honest « EZG Blog Says:

    […] managed message is no picnic; it takes a concerted, long-term effort and sometimes some serious adjustments to brand strategy.  In this case, the onus is shared by both the media and the National Cancer Institute, which […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: