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

By Greg Jarboe

Manage Reputation

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.

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

Owner, SEO-PR

Greg Jarboe
Greg Jarboe is President and co-founder of SEO-PR, an award-winning content marketing agency. Jarboe is the author of YouTube and Video Marketing: An Hour a Day. He’s also a contributor to The Art of SEO, Strategic Digital Marketing: Top Digital Experts Share the Formula for Tangible Returns on Your Marketing Investment, Complete B2B Online Marketing, and Enchantment: The Art of Changing Hearts, Minds and Actions. He’s interviewed in Online Marketing Heroes: Interviews with 25 Successful Online Marketing Gurus. A frequent speaker at industry conferences, he writes for ReelSEO, ClickZ, and The SEM Post. He’s an executive education instructor at the Rutgers Business School and the Content Marketing faculty chair at Market Motive.

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