The Court of Public Opinion

Here is a perfect example of how the Internet becomes the “court of public opinion.” Our team is working on this project with today being the worldwide announcement of our client’s lawsuit. If you follow this case online, you can see how the process works.

First, we created a blog,, with the complaint and the facts of the case presented online. Once everything was in place, a press release was sent out for worldwide release. Within minutes, the story began showing up everywhere. Additional support for the release was offered through Twitter postings and retweets.

If you wish to follow this as a case study, it is the perfect example of how a well-managed reputation management campaign can get your message out to the right audience.


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Ethical or Unethical?

I’m in a quandry.  I was hired by a group of doctors manufacturing a single-use, disposable gynecological product to build their brand and market their entry into this new market.  After four or five teleconferences, three or four proposal modifications, and the final go-ahead, I felt I was dealing with a group of honorable men.

Apparently not.  After one month into this one-year project, I billed them for the first month’s work and continued working.  Oh, by the way, I never work this way — billing in arrears.  As any consultant will tell you, you need advance payment to begin your project because work done as a service can’t be recalled for lack of payment.  But I softened on these guys — they have a good product. I know I could build their brand recognition and increase their sales using my strategies.  And after so many conversations, I also thought I was dealing with an honorable company.  Not to mention that I was working with my partner who was doing other work for them when he referred me to them.

Well, I billed mid-November 2009 and here it is the first of February and not a dime has come my way.  I have talked to them, emailed them and offered to accept payments. Nothing.

What is their reason for not paying?  Well, it seems a little false, but they said they didn’t see any results from my work after one month.  Anyone who know anything about SEO, ORM and the Internet knows that immediate results are a pipe dream especially for a start-up company with a relatively new product.  I was in the first month of a 12-month project building the foundation for the year.  Since sales were down from the month of October, they seemed to be looking for any excuse at all to simply not pay.

Two Courts

I have two options:  the Court of Law or the Court of Public Opinion.  Given the cost of a lawsuit, you can imagine that I am pondering the Court of Public Opinion. My dilemma is that it is my job to help my clients manage their online reputation.  I help repair a negative online reputation; I help build a non-existent online reputation (like this client); or I help pave the way for future problem solving by creating a strong online presence in a troublesome industry.

I am simply not interested in damaging anyone’s reputation online.

Likewise, TAO Consultants has been in business for more than 27 years, I am not used to being taken advantage of and my own reputation in my area of expertise is impeccable. I have earned my reputation with successful results for my clients. Ignoring this lack of payment puts me into a frame of reference I am simply not used to.

So let me ask for comments. What would you do? Let it go or go over to the dark side by going public with this client’s name and web address?

I leave it to you.

Chesa Keane

Manage your environmental crisis before it happens

An article on points out the how too often a company fails to prepare for the unknown crisis that could threaten their business continuity and lead to online reputation management problems.  As the article states, “The time to put together a management plan for handling all the negative press you get from an environmental or social crisis is before it happens, not after.”

Two companies that have experienced reputation problems in 2009 are Trader Joe’s and Sigg.  Trader Joe’s was ranked 17th out of 20 grocery store chains and the worst among national chains in sustainable seafood practices because of its lack of publicly available purchasing policies.  Around the same time, Sigg, a water bottle brand popular among environmentally-conscious consumers, revealed that its bottle linings contained bispenol-A, a hormone-disrupting chemical.  Worse, the CEO had to admit publicly that he had known about it long before the public revelation.

These two companies had a slight advantage in managing these crises because of their well-established brands and good environmental track records prior to these incidents.  However, without strong branding, a company faced with environmental issues can be in jeopardy of irreparable damage before the problems are corrected.

Authors Stephen Linaweaver and Brad Bate suggest that there are three steps that any company should take to manage crisis:

  • Know what you know – and what you need to find out. Environmental issues are often complicated and proactive research to determine a corporation’s vulnerability can shorten the time of response in the face of crisis.
  • Acknowledge the event, and put it in context. Responding to an event quickly in a manner that recognizes the big picture rather than focusing too closely on specifics can place the proper emphasis on the issue without dwelling on it.
  • Engage in dialogue. Environmental issues create an opportunity to communicate with the accusing organizations because their acknowledged purpose is to bring about change, not simply attack the “bad guys.”  Developing a positive relationship with activist environmental organizations can open the doors to both sides sharing what they know, believe and want, leading to a positive resolution.

For the full articles, read more…


Now that’s what I’m saying

Julia Angwin was frustrated because every time someone Googled her, the top results were for an article she wrote for the Washington Post in 2005 about Lewis “Scooter” Libby who was indicted for making false statement, perjuring himself and obstructing justice by lying about how and when he learned the identity of CIA operative valerie Plame.

Now you might think this is not such a bad thing, but Angwin as a journalist felt stuck in the past and her work as a longtime media and technology reporter was not shining or showing up well-positioned for a search on her name.  Frankly, this one article wasn’t representing her career very well.

This issue is a prime example of someone who wants to change or enhance their reputation online.  However, this isn’t the worst issue I’ve come across, but annoying for Angwin just the same.  And she decided to go about changing her online reputation and her story is outlined clearly in an article, It’s a New Me (As Seen on Google) in The Wall Street Journal | Personal Technology.

The really interesting thing about this article is that it follows the strategy we use in our business to change, enhance, subdue, or repair reputations online.  While she did the work herself, she had some good advice and she followed it well.  Read her whole story about changing her online Google image for the details.

Then contact TAO Consultants if you need help changing your online reputation.


SEO Basics – always important

One of the most important tasks in  SEO strategy is to make the website SEO friendly.  The results give the website increased traffic based on industry keywords rather than relying solely on the corporate identity or product, branded keywords.  More traffic, in turn, results in better ranking and positioning.

When a website has no appreciable changes over time, the site will be viewed as stale-dated by viewers and by Google even with traffic.  Search engine results positioning relies on several elements:

  • Age of domain
  • Length of time domain is active
  • Keyword-rich content
  • Keyword positioning (titles, <H#> tags, body usage of keywords, file names)
  • Absence of broken links
  • Free of navigation errors
  • Changing content, frequent updates
  • Traffic, consistent and growing

As an SEO consultant, these aspects are discussed over and over with my clients — yet, the work that it takes to maintain this activity is often dropped.  And the result is to see the positioning of the website drop in a relatively short period of time.  The message here is that the Internet is not a static environment and activity that goes stale does not “fit” the Internet.

We can never forget the basics.  Fortunately, when these activities are resumed, positioning will return fairly quickly.


Human Error Caused Google Glitch published an interesting article  on Feb 2, 2009, reporting how Google labeled all websites as potentially harmful the prior weekend.  This problem helps us see that Google is, indeed, fallible.  “Nearly all search results were flagged with the warning the site  ‘may harm your computer.”  Google’s vice president of search products and user experience, Marissa Mayer, issued a statement on the company blog that attributed the inappropriate warnings to human error.”

Google maintains a list of sites that are known to install malicious software and this list is updated manually and through automatic methods.  Unfortunately, in one of the updates, the URL of  ‘/’ was mistakenly checked in as a value to the file.  ‘/’ expands to all URLs and the result was that websites that came up in a search results page between 6:30 am PST and 7:25 am PST displayed the message, “This site may harm your computer.”

Google has an on-call site reliability team that managed to fix the problem within about 40 minutes but if you were one of the searchers during this timeframe, it would have been frustrating in the very least. I wonder how many people began to clean their systems of a non-existent virus?

You can read the entire article, Human Error Caused Google Glitch, on Google dominates the search market with almost 70% of the searches on the Internet.  But their dominance seems to also be supported by a strong support team.