Finally an Example of being Proactive in Online Reputation Management Courtesy of Obama

By Justin Seibert| 4 Min Read | June 13, 2008

I spend a lot of time talking with folks about online reputation management and how crucial it is in today’s world. Sometimes that’s to the press, sometimes at conferences, sometimes to my dog JJ after my wife goes to “sleep” to avoid listening to me anymore. (Honey, I know you’re just playing opossum; it’s okay.)
I can’t help it. Most organizations are just so bad at it and don’t seem to recognize that the internet has fundamentally changed the way the game is played. And yes, I’m looking at you, David Stern. I know you’re a smart guy, but do you seriously think you can just shout down claims by Tim Donaghy – no matter how false and self-serving they may be – when your league already has an image problem in today’s world? Really? </condescending sarcasm to David Stern>

Often times, my talking of online reputation management turns to government. We seem to like talking politics a lot around this here blog. I’m proud, though, that neither Paul nor I show our cards and our readers don’t know whom we support. Except of course that we obviously don’t like Barrack Obama since we’re a bunch of racist, redneck West Virginians. </condescending sarcasm to national media and The Daily Show> Yes, Paul, I’m including you – you live here now.

And every time I talk about it, I bring up examples of how it’s managed poorly or just completely ignored (which is usually worse). Examples are endless.

Examples of proper reputation management, however, are rare. That’s why I got a smile on my face when I read this article in Time (emphasis mine):

Will Obama’s Anti-Rumor Plan Work?

As long as there have been rumors in politics, there has been one widely accepted way for a candidate to deal with them. Basically, it’s not to. Otherwise, according to prevailing wisdom, all a candidate achieves is to elevate the rumors to a legitimate story for the media to feast on. That don’t-go-there approach was Barack Obama’s plan for months until, on the candidate’s first full day of campaigning as his party’s presumed presidential nominee, a reporter from McClatchy Newspapers who was traveling aboard his plane asked him about a particularly toxic bit of hearsay that was zooming around the Internet about his wife Michelle. Obama lost his cool. “We have seen this before. There is dirt and lies that are circulated in e-mails, and they pump them out long enough until finally you, a mainstream reporter, asks me about it,” Obama said, bristling. “That gives legs to the story. If somebody has evidence that myself or Michelle or anybody has said something inappropriate, let them do it.”

That night, in a conference call, Obama told his top aides it was time for a more aggressive solution to the rumors that have been popping up on the Internet about him and his family for months. And so the Obama campaign has built what might best be described as a Web-based rumor clearinghouse, located at fightthesmears.com, in which it hopes all the shady stories about Obama’s faith, his family and his rumored connections with controversial figures can go to die.

Obama is enlisting his millions of supporters to help him hunt down and quash these stories….

Go check out the site. It has just about everything I would have suggested:

  • A clear purpose (fight rumors it says are false)
  • A clean, simple layout
  • 4 calls to action. In many cases it’s best not to have more than 1, but it’s okay here. They are:
  1. Spread the word, e.g. send emails out to others debunking the “smears”
  2. Donate cash…since politicians on both sides of the aisle are so poor </condescending sarcasm to our political system>
  3. Sign up for email alerts – even geotargeted to zip code, a very nice touch.
  4. Be proactive and send in rumors to the campaign to be debunked
  • Nice use of video

Sure it could be more interactive (although that would require an immense amount of monitoring and could potentially make it less effective just as it could make it more so) and I might write the copy a little differently, but those are minor quibbles. Seriously, this site is darn near perfect for its purpose.

It’s no wonder this site – one of the first and best examples of its kind – came in the political arena given all the money tied up in politics. Considering the documented attention to paid search and its effectiveness; the use of blogs and online video; social media campaigns and email marketing, I think it’s safe to say that online reputation management has arrived. Surely corporate America is the next to follow.

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