“There is no such thing as bad publicity except your own obituary.” – Brendan Behan
Not true according to at least one law firm.
As you may have heard, in November 2009, a New Jersey law firm, brought a lawsuit against a former associate and his law firm over a blog (www.levinsonaxelrodreallysucks.com) he operated complaining about the firm.
In the end, it appears that the firm may have gotten more satisfaction from the online reputation management consultant it hired to minimize the damage done by Heyburn’s site.
We talk a lot about increasing your firm’s online visibility, but what do you do when you get undesirable visibility? This is where online reputation management and defense come in.
In its most basic form, reputation management involves monitoring mentions of your law firm (or your name) online.
One simple reputation management strategy is to set up a Google Alert for relevant brand keywords like your firm name, your name, and other names specific to your practice. When one of these keywords is indexed by Google, you can be notified by email or in your RSS Reader.
In case mentioned above, the gripe blogging former employee actually took out a separate top level domain extension (i.e. .net, .org, etc.) from which to launch his complaints. This is good reason to consider registering each of the extensions for your site.
But reputation management and defense can be much more robust than just Google Alerts and domain registration. In his 2008 Search Engine Watch article, William Leake discusses how SEO has a pivotal role in reputation management, as it can push down negative results and enhance positives in search results.
In fact, it appears that the online reputation management firm, The Search Engine Guys, has done a pretty great job of mitigating the damage caused, at least as it pertains to the gripe blog’s visibility in Google. Check out their free white paper on online reputation management (.pdf).
Granted, the site has been taken down, but the majority of pages have also been de-indexed and de-cached from Google. Something that without effort, would probably take much longer than the time that has elapsed since the settlement. There are also other signs that reputation management countermeasures were put to work here.
Unfortunately for the law firm, the story has grown too big to be completely neutralized. In fact, several Google results for a search of the firm’s name produce articles about the gripe blog and lawsuit:
While I don’t know all the details and decisions that went into this particular case, it is clear that this situation grew ugly quickly. It would be interesting to know what other countermeasures were taken by the firm to counteract the effects of the blog.
As discussed by Marketing Pilgrim’s Andy Beal, social media marketing can also help reduce the financial impact of a reputation management crisis.
Whether you decide to handle it yourself, or outsource your firm’s reputation management, failing to keep an eye on what is being said about you online may lead to missed opportunities, and of course, damage to your professional reputation.
Has your law firm or business faced negative online reputation issues? What, if any, action did you take? What were the results? Have you seen value from hiring web reputation consultants?