How would you like to be *almost* a good person?
How would it work if your company *almost* had a good product?
Not so hot, right?
How would you like if all your business associates read tomorrow a coordinated campaign (from your competitor) that you had committed fraud, crimes, theft?
How would it work if your customers all read tomorrow that your products were shoddy, with claims that your products were manufactured from stolen designs?
How would it work if the one you are dating reads an online post tomorrow that confuses you with a registered sex offender?
Not much fun. Not a good business.
This would be bad if it were true. It would be bad if it were all false.
Here’s what happened to a midsized manufacturer in Southern California …
“It Happened to Me”
Not the sex offender part, but the rest did. I’m in the music instrument business, and some years ago I used to buy and sell used guitars.
I especially liked this one obscure, rather odd guitar, and I placed some ads in a guitar-player magazine offering to buy and sell these instruments used.
I also called the manufacturer, and made an agreement that I could buy his instruments (at a very tiny discount) and sell new ones, but only if I sold these within 60 miles of my location. (He didn’t want anybody competing with his own nation-wide sales, I suppose.)
As soon as my next ad came out, I got a call. He accused me of selling new instruments nation-wide. Now since I’d not yet bought any new instruments from him, this was my first realization that he was a couple of sandwiches short of a picnic. It was loony. Impossible. But he was adamant, and proclaimed, “The deal is off!”
Just the Beginning
But it got worse.
Next I received a letter from his attorney, to “cease and desist” using his trade name in my little newsletter, which offered the instruments (which I had bought and owned) for sale. Lunatic.
I changed the name on the newsletter, put a disclaimer that there was no affiliation, and that died down.
My little newsletter was popular, and I began to sell 2-3 of these used instruments each month. I got to know some other folks around the country that played this type of guitar, and one of them had a newsletter with music written for these players.
Not long after, another manufacturer appeared, selling a similar instrument. I requested, and obtained, the right to buy and sell those instruments and added them to my newsletter.
The Sky Fell In
Soon after, with no warning, the three of us were served with notice of a lawsuit. The wacko competitor hadn’t contacted any of us beforehand. There was no negotiation. He just filed suit. The charges were horrifying. Beside libel and slander and stealing his customers, there were allegations of criminal activity.
None of the three of us had any idea what he was even talking about.
But we had to hire lawyers.
Online, We Became Devils
At the same time, the unbalanced competitor hired his web guy to create a new online site whose purpose was to cite all our crimes and how he was a poor victim, put upon by our criminal activities, and forced to defend himself by suing us, etc etc etc.
His hired guns began posting scandalous notices on the many music forums. We began losing friends, who believed these charges.
More and more began to appear, until you couldn’t search on any of our names without getting search results that read like the wanted posters at the post office.
Justice Prevailed … after a Long, Long Time … Sort Of
It took a long time, and many thousands of dollars of wasted legal fees, but finally a judge actually read the contents of the so-called lawsuit.
He threw it out, saying there wasn’t a shred of any evidence whatsoever.
But guess what was all over the internet.
Cleaning Up the Mess
Even though we were innocent, we were all still guilty to anyone on the internet.
To clear our names, what it took was a concerted campaign.
Just writing “It Ain’t True” notices on those forums doesn’t do any good of course. You just look like a criminal who says he’s innocent.
What actually worked?
It took quite a bit of work, but with guidance and using the principles that ReputationMojo has developed, we created new websites, filled with positive content. We created additional forum postings and online articles, and managed to move these positive webpages to the front page of Google. We solicited from our customers, who were happy to post positive reviews of us and our instruments, on their own websites, on forums and in blog comments.
We created pages on social media sites. These helped to elevate our new websites in Google results, and we did quite a bit more. Mark knows the ins and outs, and he works quickly.
Before long we had reclaimed the first pages of Google search results.
Blog posts, and the noxious website created by the unhinged competitor were in some cases removed, and in other cases they’d faded to page fifteen which makes them effectively invisible, as if they didn’t exist.
The forum posts, other comments, all faded into the distance.
Life is sweet again. Thank you.
– H. Kravitz, manufacturer, Tustin, California