Let’s face it, no individual or brand plans to have something happen to their business that negatively affects their online reputation. Websites, blogs, and social media have afforded brands and individuals many opportunities to be authentic, transparent, and easily accessible to their audience. However, all of these avenues for instantaneous communication and brand awareness have also created spaces for negative narratives to spin out of control quickly.
Even if your brand properly manages the crisis on the public relations side, it can still negatively impact your brand’s search results for a long time. For your business, consider developing an online reputation management plan before an emergency. Having a reputation management plan in place prior to a crisis is the best plan of action and lessens the possibility that a negative or incorrect article will rank in the top results for the long term.
How a Negative Story Ranks for Your Brand
When a shocking or harmful story about your business is published, media outlets will syndicate the content to cover the story quickly while the news is breaking. Media sites aim to capitalize on interested people searching for information about the situation, which introduces some inherent risks about the validity of the information.
According to a study from ING about the impact of social media on news, almost half of the journalists surveyed said they try to publish as quickly as possible and then correct the information later if necessary. This means that an article that hasn’t been properly vetted could be published and syndicated before your public relations team can correct the information and mitigate the damage. Other insights from the survey to note: half of the journalists surveyed stated that social media is their main source of information, despite one-third of the journalists surveyed claiming that social media posts are not a reliable source of information.
Now imagine a breaking story is published about your brand that paints a negative, albeit incorrect, narrative about your brand. Public opinion and the search results about your company could shift dramatically in a matter of a few hours. Google aims to offer users dynamic search results, and if your brand normally experiences a strong, branded presence in the results, a negative “In the News” article could make its way to the first page of Google the same day it’s published. And stay there.
Recovering Your Search Results From Negative Press
Over time, a negative article may slowly drop in the results. However, a popular post or a highly cited post may stick in the results because of the amount of websites sourcing its information, even if it’s incorrect.
Fortunately, for a brand affected by negative press, what’s known as the scandal attention cycle is rather short. Scandalous news will experience a spike in media coverage followed by rapid decline in coverage. The unfortunate fact is that the press and the public also experience a rapid decline in interest about a scandal, especially after the facts of the story become less scandalous in nature. Even if your public relations team manages to correct all instances of false information published about your brand, public opinion may have already been altered and the public is most likely not interested in reading the corrected and less scandalous information about you.
To fully recover your brand’s search results and public opinion from the consequences of a crisis, focus on swaying public opinion once more by shifting the digital conversation to positive news, missions and offerings from your brand.