Online reputation management for politicians
Politics is moving onto the Internet in force. It’s surprising in some ways that it has taken as long as it has for the web to feature heavily in mainstream political campaigns.
It can be seen quite naturally in the strategies in the US Democratic primary and in the recently finished London mayoral elections where twitter, facebook, paid search and SEO played their role.
While most politicians still have some way to go before they have mastered the medium, it’s importance cannot be understated. The electorate is increasingly turning to the net to research candidates, their parties, and their policies. In particular, I believe there is a lot of opportunity for search marketing around the ‘unbranded search’ of politics – i.e., those coverage hunts which mention neither candidate nor party. E.g., if, as a candidate, your viewpoint ranks for hunts on a specific policy issue (e.g., ‘knife crime in London’), it won’t only cement you as an expert on the topic in the eyes of the electorate but also function to place your point of view around.
Given the increasing dependence on looking for candidates, their online reputations are getting to be increasingly more valuable (or problematic). Go and have a search for your favorite (or least favorite) controversial politician and you will most likely find a motley collection of results such as old dirt dug up by rivals decades back that is no more relevant.
There are some reasons why online reputation management is very difficult for politicians.
In no Specific order, the top reasons for this are:
- Politics (and politicians) are obviously controversial and need to maintain the information – it’s no good asking them to keep their heads down.
- Compared to the ‘every man for himself’ universe of business, there are specific competitions to politicians (and they are frequently well prepared to perform dirty).
- The attacks never end. It is not likely to be an isolated lousy story – partisan press ensures that you will find steady streams of negative write-ups.
- Politics plays out in the public arena. Public evaluation means that any minor indiscretion is quickly blown out of all proportion.
- Journalists, opponents, and others have incentives to dig for dirt.
- Handling the issues can be sensitive. Clients are naturally cautious of appearing to influence their reputation or carry out ‘spin.’
- Newspapers are potent mouthpieces, and they’re not only typically partisan but additionally have authoritative sites that are well-liked by Google. Therefore any negative stories tend to rank well for the individual’s name naturally.
All of this doesn’t mean that politicians must stick their heads in the sand and ignore the issue, hoping it will disappear. It makes it more important to track their reputation online and to have plans in place for dealing with issues already in the public eye and any potential emergencies.