When talking about reputation management, many companies will explain the importance of utilising SEO to ensure that negative comments do not rank highly for searches against a brand.
But when dealing with negative PR, it's important to consider multimedia & paid search as well.
Recently Danny Sullivan, editor of Search Engine Land, wrote a post on his personal blog explaining how he had lost faith with Virgin Airways as a brand, due to what he saw as poor service.
This was then picked up by Neil MacLean, who wondered whether airlines needed to follow in the footsteps of restaurants:
"[Restaurateurs] used to keep mug-shots of restaurant critics behind the reservations desk. Should airlines store passport photos of SEOs at check-in?"
Whilst I would love it if this were the case, I think that airlines, and other brands, should think about more than just SEO when considering how to manage their reputation.
Take Virgin for example. A quick search for Virgin airways complaints brings the following results page with a standard Virgin Airways ad at the top.
Now surely if someone is looking for information on complaints about your brand, they're probably pretty unlikely to come and take up the offer of your services.
But isn't it possible that if you turned off broad match, and actually served an ad acknowledging the query and asking if there was anything you could do to help, might turn negative PR into positive word of mouth?
Now obviously the results above also show that consumers already have a lot of power to damage a brand's reputation (they also suggest that Virgin might want to look at whether it can reclaim some domains).
But just as reading about someone's bad experiences can make people reconsider whether to go with a particular brand, isn't it also true that a picture is worth a thousand words?
So picture this; I go on holiday somewhere and have a really disappointing time.
Instead of being all British, and mumbling into my soup or writing to a non-existent customer service department, I document the whole sorry affair in video & pictures.
I then upload the pictures to my Picassa or Flickr account, whilst I upload the video of the dirty kitchen & cockroach infested bedroom to YouTube and send it to all of my friends so that it starts to build up views.
The result? Courtesy of Universal Search, I find that searches for the offending tour operator/hotel chain/airline are now filled with footage & stills of my holiday from hell.
And that's a place where no brand is going to wish they were there.