Brand Under Attack: 2 Must-Read Online Reputation Management Case Studies

Has your brand or its CEO ever been the tar­get of mean-spir­it­ed and scur­rilous attacks? This is what hap­pened to Elixir Inter­ac­tive.

Greg Jarboe By Greg Jarboe from SEO-PR. Join the discussion » 1 comment

Has your brand or its CEO ever been the tar­get of mean-spir­it­ed and scur­rilous attacks? If not, it could hap­pen at any time.

It hap­pened to Elixir Inter­ac­tive a cou­ple of years ago. The inter­ac­tive mar­ket­ing agency, which pro­vides online rep­u­ta­tion man­age­ment and search engine opti­miza­tion ser­vices, and its well-respect­ed CEO and Pres­i­dent, Fionn Down­hill, were both tar­get­ed.

Now, I’ve known Down­hill since 2003, when she found­ed Elixir Inter­ac­tive. She served on the board of the Search Engine Mar­ket­ing Pro­fes­sion­al Orga­ni­za­tion (SEMPO) and was a found­ing mem­ber the SEMPO Insti­tute, which was launched to pro­vide first class train­ing for the search engine mar­ket­ing indus­try world­wide. She is also an adjunct pro­fes­sor at the Thun­der­bird School of Glob­al Man­age­ment.

Down­hill is also a fre­quent speak­er at Ad:Tech, AMA, SES, SMX, Search­nomics, Amer­i­can Mar­ket­ing Asso­ci­a­tion, PRSA, and the Soci­ety for Women Engi­neers. She is a sub­ject mat­ter expert in online rep­u­ta­tion man­age­ment and has been inter­viewed by The Wall Street Jour­nal and Com­put­er Week­ly, as well as quot­ed in the book “Rad­i­cal­ly Trans­par­ent: Mon­i­tor­ing and Man­ag­ing Rep­u­ta­tions Online” by Andy Beal and Judy Strauss.

And Down­hill has a delight­ful sense of humor. I still remem­ber when she told me that St. Patrick was the top viral mar­keter of all time while giv­ing me a les­son in the fin­er points of Gael­ic and tra­di­tion­al Irish danc­ing.

Fionn Down­hill Dances to the Beat of Viral Mar­ket­ing

Elixir Inter­ac­tive also has its own YouTube chan­nel, and Down­hill has used video to dis­cuss things you should con­sid­er before look­ing into rep­u­ta­tion man­age­ment.

Online Rep­u­ta­tion Man­age­ment — Part 1

Online Rep­u­ta­tion Man­age­ment — Part 2

So, you know there’s some­thing seri­ous­ly wrong when Elixir Inter­ac­tive and its CEO are the tar­gets of a mali­cious smear cam­paign.

As the Elixir Inter­ac­tive Online Rep­u­ta­tion Man­age­ment Case Study said, “You are prob­a­bly aware that cus­tomers and investors tend to research your brand, prod­ucts and asso­ciates before decid­ing to engage with your com­pa­ny. What you may not real­ize is how com­mon it is for good, rep­utable brands to fall vic­tim to a direct attack by com­peti­tors.”

Due to the inten­si­ty of the attack – with new con­tent being cre­at­ed on an almost dai­ly basis – Elixir had to imple­ment a full online rep­u­ta­tion man­age­ment pro­gram to pro­tect its own brand. Using best prac­tices steps the top results have remained pos­i­tive so far.

Elixir Inter­ac­tive had thor­ough­ly doc­u­ment­ed the cam­paign against them and the process­es used to com­bat it. The result is an in-depth case study and step-by-step exam­ples on how to take back con­trol of your online rep­u­ta­tion and defend your name and brand when you are the vic­tim of a smear attack.

You should also read the Elixir Inter­ac­tive CEO Online Rep­u­ta­tion Man­age­ment Case Study. It doc­u­ments the aggres­sive attack on Down­hill’s per­son­al rep­u­ta­tion.

Because it’s com­mon for CEOs to fall vic­tim to Inter­net slan­der, Elixir Inter­ac­tive cre­at­ed this sec­ond case study on rep­u­ta­tion man­age­ment based on the expe­ri­ences of its CEO. The attack on Down­hill was extreme, but there are still many steps detailed in this case study that you can take if your com­pa­ny’s CEO falls vic­tim to an online smear cam­paign.

In short, both case stud­ies are must-reads. Here are some key rea­sons why you should read them soon­er rather than lat­er:

  • This is Elixir’s rebut­tal of the mali­cious attack on its brand. Down­hill and her agency strong­ly encour­age their clients not to rebut direct­ly on the site when deal­ing with an anony­mous detrac­tor. They are prac­tic­ing what they preach by not engag­ing direct­ly with the attack­er.
  • The attack on Elixir’s brand was pro­longed and sys­temic. The agency does not expect the attack to stop. This case study high­lights what can be done to negate any fur­ther dis­in­for­ma­tion that is put out. The goal is to tell Elixir’s side of the sto­ry and have its site rank above any­thing the attack­ers cre­ate.
  • Elixir’s goal is also to high­light the way the web is used in this way and, in their line of busi­ness, the agency sees it every day. The com­plaint sites use CDA 230 to pro­tect them­selves, the posters are anony­mous, and the legal sys­tem falls short when it comes to online defama­tion. Down­hill and her agency have a voice to tell their side of the sto­ry and they are hop­ing this detailed report on the attack will help oth­ers in the same sit­u­a­tion find their voice and speak out to pro­tect them­selves.
  • As Down­hill says, “We have worked very hard to build our name and our brand and will do what it takes to pro­tect it.”

Now, I real­ize that these online rep­u­ta­tion man­age­ment case stud­ies are from a cou­ple of years ago. So, some peo­ple will mis­tak­en­ly think that they are “ipso fac­to” out of date. How­ev­er, CMOs and senior mar­keters can still learn some impor­tant lessons by read­ing them, hope­ful­ly before your brand comes under attack.

Greg Jarboe

Written by Greg Jarboe

President, SEO-PR

Greg Jarboe is President and co-founder of SEO-PR, an award-winning content marketing agency that was founded in 2003. He’s the author of YouTube and Video Marketing and also a contributor to The Art of SEO, Strategic Digital Marketing, Complete B2B Online Marketing, and Enchantment. He’s profiled in the book Online Marketing Heroes, a frequent speaker at industry conferences, and writes for Tubular Insights and The SEM Post. He’s an executive education instructor at the Rutgers Business School and the Video and Content Marketing faculty chair at Simplilearn.

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