Today’s BIG Blog post is from Mark Macias, author of Beat the Press: Your Guide to Managing the Media.
Everyone likes to secretly Google himself, but what happens when Google turns up results you don’t like? How do you get your name removed from the search engines when the material is damaging?
An established New Jersey financial consultant, Alan Gottlob, woke up one morning to discover his reputable name was falsely accused of ethical violations. Making it worse, the writer never called Gottlob for a response. Gottlob first learned of the article three months after it was published when a client read it on the Internet and asked him about it.
These strong allegations can destroy nearly any person’s business but in an industry built on trust – like the financial industry – the article nearly destroyed Gottlob’s private practice.
Gottlob reached out to me to manage his crisis communications after he didn’t get anywhere with the web publisher, Investment News. We applied several new strategies and within weeks, Investment News and its parent company, Crain Communications Inc., were in discussions to correct the article.
If you find yourself in this situation, there are several steps you can take to get the material removed from the Internet. Contrary to the popular saying, “the Internet is written in ink,” it is possible to modify the record if you apply some proven crisis communications strategies.
Here are some of the strategies you can take if you find yourself in a similar crisis situation as Gottlob.
1) Go after the power brokers or the people who finance the publication, which includes the publisher, city editors, Executive Producers, and most important: the legal counsel for the publication. Do a quick Google to find out who owns the website or publication. Most people, like Gottlob, contact the writer when a negative article is published, but that’s like complaining to the sales clerk when the cashier gives you the wrong change. You need to complain to the people who control the money. Your letter to these power brokers needs to state why this article is inaccurate and most important, how the article has financially harmed your business. If you can’t show any financial duress from the article, you won’t succeed in the court of law or with the publisher.
2) Understand the difference between libelous, slander and opinion. If a blogger writes that you smell, you can’t take legal action to bring down the story. However, if the blogger writes a factually inaccurate article that accuses you of wrongdoing and harms your business, you do have legal recourse to get the web page pulled down. And you don’t always need an attorney for this. Sometimes a strongly worded letter that outlines the bullet points from above is enough to get the publisher’s attention.
3) Don’t wait. Go after the website’s owners immediately. The longer the website is up, the more time search engines have to index the web page. Unfortunately, it took Gottlob several weeks to get a hold of the reporter and her superiors. By the time he was able to speak to the reporter, the web page had already been indexed and was on the first page of Google.
4) Google will stop indexing the website if you can prove the website displays private personal information like social security numbers, however you need to make a case to them if it involves other matters. You can find this page on Google at https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/removals.
5) Push the article off the first Google page with new content. There is another strategy you can take to bury the article off of the first page from Google. You can accomplish this by writing your own blog or material and making sure it is indexed with the proper search engine optimization.
6) Once the page is removed, you need to write a letter to all the search engines to make sure the page is no longer indexed.
This form of crisis communications will only grow in the future as more bloggers and news organizations post articles on the Internet. If the article is false and inaccurate, don’t be afraid to fight back. Just make sure you’re not picking a fight over someone’s opinion because luckily the First Amendment still protects us from that.
Mark Macias is a crisis communications consultant. He runs a TV production (www.MaciasTV.com) and PR company (www.MaciasPR.com) that has consulted restaurants, retailers, lounges and Congressional candidates, including one challenger who beat an incumbent. Macias also wrote the communications book, Beat the Press: Your Guide to Managing the Media. You can read excerpts at: www.BeatthePressBook.com.