likes to secretly Google their self, 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
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 libel, 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 ahold 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
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
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 optimazation.
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 company and PR company that has consulted
lounges and Congressional candidates.
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