Here in New York City where I own a PR firm, the tabloids are a-buzz about next year’s Mayoral Race, and as there isn’t a Republican candidate yet; rumors say Metropolitan Transportation Authority Chairman Joseph Lhota is considering a run. Low and behold, this weekend it was revealed that four domain names were recently purchased — Lhota2013.com, LhotaforNY.com, LhotaforNYC.com, and JoeLhotaSucks.com. Smart move.

As you may remember during the 2012 election, Rick Santorum was a candidate to receive the Republican nod to run against President Obama.  But he had a major reputational problem that is easily discovered on Google stemming from a 2003 incident.  Opponents to Santorum’s views on gay rights, purchased a website named “Spreading Santorum” which equated his last name to a vulgar term for anal sex. The gay rights activist updated the site regularly in response to perceived Santorum anti-gay comments – and the site ranked very well on search engines.

Being unprepared is a considerable mistake today.  You might recall that at the height of WikiLeaks scandal, there was a rumor that Bank of America would be exposed by Julian Assange.  That fear prompted the company to quietly buy and hold hundreds of domain names that could be easily used to host online criticism of the mammoth financial services outfit. The bank preemptively purchased all sorts of domain names that could be used to embarrass its CEO, Brian Moynihan.  For example, it bought BrianMoynihanBlows.com, BrianMoynihanSucks.com, BrianTMoynihanBlows.com, and BrianTMoynihanSucks.com. It also bought the .net version of these names and a few .orgs versions as well. That helps make it more difficult for opponents to create easily searchable negative web pages that damage reputations.

Brands big and small need to beware of disgruntled parties and follow the lead of companies such as Xerox, which has bought or registered about twenty unflattering domain names, including xeroxstinks.com, xeroxcorporationsucks.com and ihatexerox.net, all because in recent years disgruntled consumers have launched hundreds of Web sites to air their grievances against noted corporations, everything from starbucked.com and ihatestarbucks.com to boycottwalmart.org and againstthewal.com.

You must be vigilant.   Be aware of what shows up on Google regularly because it is constantly changing and you never know when damaging materials will hit. Create a Google Alert for your name and your company, which will be sent to you as soon as new content is posted. This is a basic way to be among the first to know what is brewing with your online reputation. You can then be the first to react.

At 5WPR, we urge clients to establish brand fan pages on Facebook and create a profile on Twitter, Linkedin, etc. I know of a company that felt having a fan page on Facebook was unnecessary – they just could not appreciate the value. It was a small business featuring gourmet food products and they did not see themselves as a social media driven business. They did not have to be.  Someone else – a fan – decided to make a fan page for them and managed it without consulting the company; which is legal. When we alerted the company to this, the page had racked up 10,000 fans and was posting relevant material regularly.

Suddenly the company “got it.” The company was able to gain control of the site – In this case, the page the fan had started was positive, and the company was able to gain control of it. However, it could have been a negative page filled with harmful content. Why wait for that to happen?

SHARE
Previous articleRonn Torossian Book Excerpt: Might Makes Right
Next articleThe Top Five PR Disasters of 2012 According to 5WPR
Ronn Torossian is the Founder, President and CEO of New York-based 5W Public Relations. He has overseen the company's rapid growth and expansion to the Inc. 500 list, as well as provided counsel to hundreds of companies, including members of the Fortune 500, Inc. 500 and Forbes 400. His work spans global interests, corporate entities, high-profile individuals, regional business entities, government agencies and academic institutions - both on routine public relations matters and extremely sensitive issues. One of the foremost public relations experts in the U.S., Torossian is known for his aggressive, results-focused orientation, as well as his close working relationships with members of the media, influencers, decision makers, politicians and celebrities. At 5W Public Relations, Torossian's client experience has included programs for Coca-Cola, Microsoft, Anheuser-Busch, Barnes & Noble, Cantor Fitzgerald, IHOP, McDonald's, Evian, EDS, VeriSign, XM Radio, Seagram's, The Loews Regency, Bad Boy Worldwide Entertainment, Marriott Hotels, Vail Resorts, Pamela Anderson, Snoop Dogg, the Government of Israel, and others. Referred to by The New York Post as a "publicity guru," by Fox News as a "high-powered PR CEO," by Tyra Banks as a "crisis management guru," and by CNN as "a leading PR expert," Torossian is regularly featured in and quoted by the media, including by CNN, Fox News Channel, MSNBC, NBC, The New York Times, and others. CBS National News said "Ronn Torossian knows spin," and a New York Times feature story on Torossian referred to him as "The consummate hard-driving, scrappy NY publicist." Earlier in his career, Torossian was a Vice President/Group Director for one of The InterPublic Group's (IPG) largest PR agencies, where he was responsible for significant client growth and successful client programs, including work for Clinique, Fox News Channel, DHL, Hard Rock Café and others. A resident of Manhattan’s Upper West Side, Torossian was named to the Advertising Age "40 Under 40" list, PR Week's "40 Under 40" List, is a regular lecturer at universities and conferences, a member of Young Presidents Organization (YPO) and a board member of numerous non-profit organizations.