Have You Endured Your 15 Minutes of Internet Shame? (Jeff Hankins Publisher's Note) - Innovate Arkansas
Have You Endured Your 15 Minutes of Internet Shame? (Jeff Hankins Publisher's Note)
By Jeff Hankins, 11/7/2011 12:00:00 AM
While the explosion of social media has created another multibillion-dollar marketing industry and connected everyone with long-lost friends, it has also turned reputation management upside down.
Take a moment to search for your name or your company's name on Google. You might be surprised what turns up through a seemingly obscure comment on a website you didn't even know existed.
Richard Torrenzano and Mark Davis have written a new book titled "Digital Assassination: Protecting Your Reputation, Brand, or Business Against Online Attacks." Torrenzano, a strategic communications guru who has advised some of the largest companies in the world, was in Little Rock recently to talk about the issues we all face as privacy goes by the wayside.
Everyone is going to face "15 minutes of shame," Torrenzano says, and most people and companies aren't equipped to tackle it. Competitors, disgruntled employees and "trolls who like to inflict pain" anonymously visit blogs and post harmful information.
Attacks are nothing new - graffiti was used in ancient Rome when people had scores to settle, and then the walls would be repainted. Today's graffiti on the Internet, however, is permanent, shared widely in an instant through social media and readily accessible in search engine results.
He quoted actor Robin Williams, who says that instead of worrying about "Big Brother" we need to be concerned with "Little Snitch." At any moment, one's actions can be captured through a smartphone recording and shared with the world permanently. This can lead to companies instantly losing market value. It can result in extraordinary personal losses, as well, as we saw in the tragic case of a gay Rutgers University freshman who committed suicide after being humiliated online.
Response to digital assassination must be swift to minimize damage, Torrenzano says. We have to think in terms of an "eight-hour digital day" instead of 24 hours because of the speed with which Twitter or Facebook can spread misinformation. Waiting three days to respond to an allegation on the Web is like nine ordinary days, and you or your company could be sunk by then.
A major challenge to proactive, prompt response is the legal system. Federal protection for what is written on the Internet remains broad, and anonymous posters are empowered to say basically whatever they want without regard for the truth. Lawyers don't move quickly and live in a system of endless briefs and hearings. The public relations impact always takes a back seat to legal ramifications, and the delays result in costly losses. "Lawyers don't know how to deal with eight-hour digital day responses," Torrenzano says.
He also notes we need to prepare for "digital combat marketing" that will be fierce among competitors. Digital people - applications such as Apple's new Siri service that can act and respond digitally - could automatically post good or bad reviews on a restaurant, physician or plumber.
Youth will have to learn to approach technology with greater wisdom. They have to understand at some point that potential employers will search Google and Facebook to learn about an applicant. Interestingly, they know their life is an open book on Facebook and most don't worry about privacy, but they haven't thought through all the ramifications of 15 minutes of shame.
So what can we do to overcome digital assassination? The book offers lots of suggestions, but here are some of my quick takeaways:
- Employ best search-engine optimization practices to ensure that accurate and positive information about your company is displayed ahead of the bad.
- Monitor as regularly as possible what appears in search engines about you or your company.
- Respond very promptly to criticisms and bad reviews. But in doing so, never criticize the commentator.
- Remember that trying to prevent or control a digital assassination can actually make matters worse. Actress Barbara Streisand learned the hard way when her $50 million lawsuit to try to prevent photos of her home from appearing on the Web resulted in far more widespread circulation.
(Arkansas Business Publisher Jeff Hankins can be reached via email at JHankins@ABPG.com, followed on Twitter @JeffHankins and connected with at Facebook.com/Jeff.Hankins and Linkedin.com/in/JeffHankins.)
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