Two Silver Bullets for your Digital Reputation: Content Marketing, Earned Media

Two Silver Bullets for your Digital Reputation: Content Marketing, Earned Media

Those of us who deal in Digital Reputation Management (DRM) are often thought to be practicing a dark art to protect bad actors. But that’s an unfair assumption. Much like advertising, DRM is simply another way to shape public perception by promoting the more favorable attributes or assets of a person, product, or company. At our firm, Haystack Reputation, we hold tight to our integrity and adhere to the Spider-Man mantra of “with great power comes great responsibility.” 

In fact, a significant portion of our work is consulting with individuals and companies about the proactive measures they could take to defend their digital reputation before any negative news drops. As the saying goes, the best defense is a strong offense. Currently, there is no better DRM offense than using two silver bullets that each can shift the search landscape faster (and oftentimes more significantly): 1) a rigorous earned media strategy supported by 2) robust content marketing. But before you can do either, you need to understand search engine optimization (SEO). 

What is SEO? 

SEO is the basic strategy of embedding specific words and phrases (keywords) into your online content to be crawled and analyzed by Google’s search algorithm. The more of these query-specific keywords you use, the more Google will find your content when these terms are searched, and the more your links will be clicked. The more clicks, the higher your content will appear in search engine rankings. Which in turn results in more clicks, and on. While SEO is ever-evolving, just as Google’s algorithms are ever-changing, this compounding effect is the not-so-secret weapon that can make or break a DRM campaign. 

But there’s a catch. Search engines are uncaring entities that won’t spare a thought as to whether the content reflects positively or negatively on you. And, because of the irresistible click-bait nature of negative news and sensational headlines, unfavorable articles and assets can quickly outmaneuver and outpace other positive content in the struggle for search ranking dominance. Therefore, an ideal DRM strategy should be proactive, laying the SEO groundwork ahead of any unfavorable news and sustained, with continuous vigilance and maintenance. 

Employing earned media and content marketing strategies are proactive and interrelated ways to use SEO to build a robust DRM defense system. So let’s take a look at how you can put them to work. 

Earned Media

There are three types of media an individual or company can receive or generate: paid, owned, and earned. 

  • Paid media is anything that you have paid or traded for, such as advertising, sponsored content, contracted influencer mentions, sponsored search results, or promoted social media posts. 
  • Owned media refers to any assets under your direct control; websites, organic social media, blog posts, professional profiles, etc.
  • Earned media is different. Earned media is unpaid third-party content that reviews, profiles, quotes, or critiques you. 

While we don’t subscribe to the “all publicity is good publicity” philosophy, indeed, any positive media mentions—whether paid, owned, or earned—will reinforce your digital reputation defense system. But earned media is by far the most valuable DRM asset in the eyes of the public and the algorithms of search engines. Because it feels unbiased and untarnished by incentives or quid-pro-quo, earned media is more trusted and thus more likely to be clicked and shared. 

However, the fact that you don’t control earned media makes employing a strategy for it that much more difficult. Anything you do to manipulate earned media diminishes its value. Google automatically demotes the authority of your content at the slightest whiff of inauthenticity. But that is not to say that earned media can only come from the whims of random press cycles and Glass Door reviews. There are strategies that any individual or company can put in place to encourage even the most fickle of earned media opportunities to come knocking. 

How do you get earned media? 

  1. Be newsworthy. Comment publicly, speak authoritatively, and do something surprising out of the box that catches people’s attention. They don’t call it “earned media” for nothing!
  2. Create compelling, shareable content. The more high-quality, SEO-focused content you put into the world, the more likely someone will share it, like it, review it, comment on it, or link to it.
  3. Use relevant keywords and share your content on all the distribution channels. Social media sites (LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, even TikTok) are free and accessible places to share, while other and respected long-form content sites such as Medium, Forbes, and Substack can be even more fruitful since they infer a level of authority.
  4. Tout your expertise. The more you establish yourself as an expert in any specific area – the more likely you are to be contacted, quoted, or interviewed whenever issues around your area of expertise arise.
  5. Nourish your media and social media networks. Journalists are people, too; be nice to them, and they’ll be nice to you. If you have friends in the media or have a social media following, don’t reach out only when you need them. Stay in touch, comment on their work or posts, and they will do the same for you.
  6. Hire a PR  expert. We work with communications mavens and publicists often – and if they are savvy to the value of SEO in earned media, they can be invaluable in a DRM strategy.

Getting consistent, positive, earned media coverage isn’t easy, but that’s the point: You have to earn it. It takes planning and work, and even then, you are only increasing your chances of success, not guaranteeing it. But when it pays off, it is worth every effort. 

Content Marketing

Content Marketing is touted as the new cure-all prescribed for all your marketing ills. While certainly not a magic elixir, it can be a powerful tool in your DRM arsenal when used with creative, consistent application. Content marketing is essentially creating owned media content that you distribute digitally through your website, blogs, social media, and personal channels. Content marketing doesn’t move the search needle as quickly as earned media, but because it is entirely under your control, it provides endless opportunities to pique search engine interest and perhaps stir up some earned media in the process. 

The outlets and styles for content marketing are many and varied. A CEO might want to focus on long-form thought leadership pieces highlighting their innovative approach to an issue. A new brand might lean towards shorter-form content on social media that clearly expresses its unique personality. It doesn’t matter where you choose to focus your output as much as you are intentional and strategic in how you employ content marketing to serve your digital reputation. Content marketing allows you to control the story, so be sure to tell a good one!

How do you create effective content marketing?

  1. Know yourself. Know your audience. Be clear about your objective, and always think about how the content speaks to that objective and the audience aligned with that objective. Stay focused and relevant.
  2. Be consistent. Consistently produce content so that you are seen as authentically active and present (this is attractive to both Google and your audience). Furthermore, it’s crucial to keep writing in a consistent style and with a recognizable tone of voice. This adds an attractive sense of personality that keeps your audience coming back for more (and hopefully sharing).
  3. Make it compelling. Sloppy writing on uninspired topics will do you no favors. Coax your audience to your content with quality, compelling writing, and topics. Build trust by utilizing original research, article links, and testimonials.

You can control your story and how it’s told through content marketing. If you keep your eyes on the prize and create content following the rules above while strategically using SEO, you will be able to connect more directly with your audience, and you will begin to build a protective wall around your online reputation. 

DRM from Day 1

These days absolutely nothing happens in a vacuum. Every misstep, gaff, or flub that an individual or company makes can be turned into addictive clickbait capable of destroying an otherwise flawless digital reputation. This is often when a company like ours gets called in to try to limit or reverse the damage. So, why wait for the inevitable digital takedown? Begin building your DRM defense brick by digital brick and boost those search results starting now.

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