A Bad Online Reputation Could Cost You The Election
In years gone by, political mud slinging was tempered by the reality that it had to be done in the “open.” Newspaper and television journalists wouldn’t, and still won’t, publish or broadcast such stories without being able to corroborate and substantiate defamatory claims.
Today’s political candidates, however, don’t have it so easy. Now anyone with a grudge and computer access can defame and destroy a candidate’s reputation from the anonymity of a remote keyboard.
It has thus never been more important for political candidates on all levels to safeguard their Internet reputations and defend their good names. Yes, to win an election in the 21st century, online reputation management is essential, because a bad online reputation can significantly set you back.
Candidates face unseen foes online.
Today’s candidates must manage their reputations not only in traditional media outlets but also in new channels like websites, message boards and blogs. If someone has a gripe with a candidate, they need only go online to tell everyone about it. The fallout can be a major headache for the candidate who must defend his or her bad online reputation.
The Internet has also made it easier than ever to track political candidates. All you have to do is type in a name to pull up news that can span decades. Once a negative item is out there, the major search engines index it, Google being the most powerful. Google ranks all content by popularity and by how many sites are linking to it. If a candidate’s name is mentioned in several blog posts and online articles, then a search engine query of the candidate’s name will pull up the negative content for all to see — regardless of its substance or truthfulness.
The Internet’s power to affect political campaigns is a fact. A post-election survey by Princeton Survey Research Associates International showed the following:
- 55 percent of the adult population turned to the Internet during the 2008 presidential election to obtain information about the candidates.
- 45 percent of Internet users watched an online video about the candidates running for office.
- 33 percent of Internet users forwarded content of a political nature to others.
- 83 percent of voters ages 18–24 have a social networking profile, and 66 percent of them took part in political activity during the 2008 campaign via social networking.
Bad online reputation management and the successful candidate
Political victory is often determined by the narrowest of Because a candidate’s online reputation so strongly affects voter perception, it’s essential for political hopefuls to engage in proactive online reputation management. Here are a few ways to do just that.
Flood the Internet with good to suppress the bad. A viable option for candidates who are being bashed negatively on the Internet is to overwhelm the negative content with positive content. This can be a time-consuming, but ultimately successful, tactic.
Register websites in the candidate’s name. Several subdomains and blogs using the candidate’s real name will help to push the negative content even further down in Google’s search results. For example, if John Smith is running for mayor, he should register the domain names JohnSmith.com, JohnSmith.org, JohnSmith.net and so on.
Park your profile on high-ranking sites. Sites like YouTube, MySpace, FaceBook and Twitter rank highly with Google and other search engines. Having profiles and content on each of these sites (be sure to set your profile view to “public”) will also help to suppress negative content.
Though political candidates can’t control the actions of those who would defame their character from the anonymity of cyberspace, they can take steps to control the fallout, and mitigate a bad online reputation. Whether a candidate is seeking a seat on the local city council or running for US vice president, publishing positive online content and monitoring the Web for negative content has become a key strategy in today’s successful political campaigns.