UnGoogle Yourself – Push Negative News off the Web

By Mark Macias

It’s easy to Google yourself, but it’s much harder to UnGoogle yourself.

What can you do when the search engines start information that is unflattering – or worse – not true? Is it possible to get it removed?

A few years ago, I was approached by an established financial consultant who discovered Google was leading people to a false article that falsely accused him of ethical violations. These types of allegations can destroy any person’s business but in the financial industry, it can close your practice overnight.

For months, the financial consultant hired an attorney who tried unsuccessfully to get the article pulled down.

Then, he reached out to MaciasPR.

UnGoogle Yourself

This form of crisis communications will only grow in the future as more bloggers and news organizations post articles on the Internet. It will also become more rampant as younger and more inexperienced journalists are hired by the larger news organizations.

If you find a negative news story appearing on the web, 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 change the story if you apply some proven crisis communications strategies. Here are some of the strategies I learned during my career as an Investigative Producer with NBC, CBS and American Journal that will help you in these situations.

Understand the Difference between Libelous, Slander and Opinion

If a blogger writes that you smell, you can’t take legal action to bring down a story, but if he writes a factually inaccurate article that accuses you of wrongdoing and harms your business, you do have a legal right to bring down story. 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.

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.

Go after the Power Brokers

When a negative story is published, most people, like the financial consultant, contact the writer to complain, but that’s like complaining to the sales clerk when the cashier gives you the wrong change.

We were able to get that negative story pulled down on the financial consultant because we went after the power brokers – the parent company of the company and explained how their story was inaccurate. No publisher will pull down a negative story that is accurate, but if you can prove that the story in inaccurate or libelous, you will succeed in getting it corrected.

Push the Article off the first Google Page with New Content.

Another strategy you can take to bury a negative article is through new content. That means write more content on that same topic that will ultimately lower the ranking of the negative news story. 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. Want to learn more? Click here to watch a TV news story where Mark Macias gives CBS in Phoenix advice on how to UnGoogle yourself.

Mark Macias is a former Executive Producer with WNBC, Senior Producer with WCBS and Special Projects Producer with NBC. He’s also the author of the communications book, Beat the Press: Your Guide to Managing the Media. Macias now consults small and large businesses on how to get publicity. You can read more on his firm at MaciasPR.

 

Negative Political Press

By Mark Macias

In the political press game, you’ve got to respond to bad press, quickly and loudly.

If you don’t defend yourself, people will assume you are guilty. It’s a form of public opinion that goes back to high school.

Remember when you used to hear rumors about someone in high school? You always assumed the gossip was true unless the person came out and denied it in a credible way. The laws of human behavior haven’t changed since then. If a source is credible, most people are going to believe the bad press has merit unless there is a strong denial involved by the accused.

It’s no different in politics.

If your candidate is accused of doing something that he or she didn’t do, make sure your denial is clear and crisp. There must be no reading between the lines. Don’t mince words when you tell the reporter or producer that the allegation is false. And if you talk on television, don’t give viewers an opportunity to draw their own conclusions. Make it easy for them to believe that the accusations are false.

Be clear in your denial.

President Bill Clinton was a master communicator and he articulated his denial to perfection when he told America in 1998 the allegations against him involving Monica Lewinsky were false: “I want to say one thing to the America people. I want you to listen to me. I’m going to say this again. I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky.”

The President sounded sincere, honest and straightforward in his denial, and many people, including myself, assumed he was the victim of dirty politics.

But What Happens when the Accusations are True?

I’m of the journalism school that subscribes it will almost always hurt you to decline an interview with the media, regardless of whether you are guilty or innocent. If you say no to an interview, you have virtually no chance of shaping the story’s coverage.

However, if you say yes to an interview and artfully prepare your statements you can at least maintain damage control.

There are several reasons why I say it will almost always hurt you to not talk to the media. The most important reason is you give a reporter full reign to pursue his or her story when you decline to speak on the record. You effectively remove a reporter’s checks and balances by refusing to respond to the allegations.

Mark Macias is author of the crisis communications book, Beat the Press: Your Guide to Managing the Media. He has run crisis media campaigns for politicians and nonprofit organizations. You can read more at MaciasPR.com.

 

 

Crisis Communications – Protecting your Brand

By Mark Macias

It was just a little over a decade ago when newspapers wrote what they wanted and TV stations didn’t fear advertisers. The news organizations were cash cows for their influence with consumers, and the community had little alternatives for news sources.

But those days are gone. The New York Daily News – one of NYC’s largest newspaper – is up sale this week even though it is losing a reported $20 million dollars a year. Even its long-time publisher, Mort Zuckerman, is giving up on the news industry.

While this is extremely bad for journalism and democracy (and it concerns me), this weakened news-state can work to your advantage as a business owner. But first, you must understand how the editorial and legal process works inside of the newsrooms.

A story with any legal ramifications doesn’t just appear on television or in the newspapers. Depending on the complexity and litigious risk of the topic, it must go through a rigorous script-approval process that reaches editors and lawyers for the corporation. The more hands that are involved with a script-approval process, the better odds you have of influencing the story’s coverage.

And don’t assume the media doesn’t care about your business or background, especially if you are the center star for an investigative report. Large media organizations, like NBC, CBS, the New York Post, do fear litigation if you have the ability to sue or ignite any underground campaign against the news agency.

Adding more scandal to editorial decision-making, the rumor inside most newsrooms is that the legal team gets a bonus if their news organization is not sued during the year. If that allegation is true, you can bet many people inside of the news organization have an invested interest in making sure you are not slandered.

So the next time you are on the negative end of a story, just remember, you do have an opportunity to give your side of the story. While the power of the ink is still with the media, businesses or people with money will grow in clout if they threaten to fight back from any negative news story.

Mark Macias is a former Executive Producer with WNBC and Senior Producer with WCBS. He’s also the author of the crisis communications book, Beat the Press: Your Guide to Managing the Media. Macias now consults small and large businesses on how to get publicity. You can read more on his firm at MaciasPR or MarketYourFund.com