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What aspiring politicians need to know about online reputation management


by Jennifer Bridges  @JenBridgesRD

Mid adult Hispanic man is giving speech and answering questions while running for local city government political office. His children are standing on stage next to him in support.

It can be difficult to ensure your message reaches—and resonates with—voters, especially if you’re new to politics. To help people find truthful, factual content about you and your campaign in an era defined by content saturation and fake news, you need to learn about online reputation management.

Keep reading to find out what reputation management can do for you, why you need it, and what it involves.

Project the image you want others to see

Today, when people want to learn about you, they google you. As such, your search results can be an effective tool to convince people of your trustworthiness and your qualifications for holding office.

Rather than leaving it up to your competition to define you and what you stand for, you can create a better first impression by producing and promoting your own content. This way, when people search for you, they will find lots of information about your campaign, as well as evidence of your good character and reasons why you are the best candidate for the office.

Seek out and neutralize any damaging content

Like all public figures, political candidates are under constant scrutiny. Both supporters and opponents will be watching your social media and blog posts closely and looking for your opinions on controversial issues or for any mistakes you might make. 

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Further, if you do make a political misstep—or even just make an awkward statement like Joe Biden’s “Poor kids are just as bright and talented as white kids” remark or Rudy Giuliani’s recent statement that “Truth isn’t truth”—the permanence and viral nature of the Internet makes it easy for others to use your words against you. 

This makes opposition research annoyingly easy. All someone has to do is google your name to pull up the bad news—even if it’s decades old—and then share it on social media.

Online Reputation management deprives your competition of ammunition by enabling you to find and neutralize false or misleading statements other people make about you or your campaign. It can also help you identify things you’ve done or said online that people might take out of context to use against you. 

Tips for building a strong online reputation

While you can’t prevent people from criticizing you online, you can take the following steps to proactively construct a solid reputation defense. This ensures that any attacks on your good name have little effect on your reputation:

“In politics, you want to define yourself, your opponent and what’s at stake. If you look at memes through that lens, it’s just another way to help candidates do that.”—Rob Shepardson, founding partner of marketing agency SS+K and political consultant to Barack Obama

  • Register websites in your name—When voters search for you online, you want them to find sites you own, not sites your competition has set up to make you look bad. For example, if your name is Jane Doe, your competitors might create attack sites like JaneDoeSucks.com or JaneDoeLies.com to turn voters against you. You should buy those domains first so that they can’t use them. 
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  • Make your websites SEO friendly—To help your constituents find accurate information about you online, you need to make it easy for them to find your websites. And because most people only look at the first few results for any query, you need to get your sites to rank at the top of the search results for your name. The best way to achieve this is to follow search engine optimization (SEO) best practices, such as identifying keywords and phrases that address questions that people are asking, and then including these items in your content. It’s especially important to follow Google’s quality guidelines for expertise, authority, and trustworthiness (EAT) when creating content for your webpages. This is because Google considers high-EAT pages to be the most valuable, and it ranks them accordingly.

  • Monitor the Web for your name—You need to know what people are saying about you in order to be able to respond effectively. One good method of proactively discovering problematic content about you is to use an automated tool, like BrandWatch. In addition to alerting you to mentions of your name, BrandWatch lets you track audience demographics, sentiment, and trending topics. You can also train the system to categorize data however you want. Another smart option is the media analytics platform Zignal Labs. Originally developed for political campaigns as a virtual media “war room,” Zignal Labs gives you real-time insights into social, print, and digital, and broadcast media.

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Of course, this is just scratching the surface. If you need to improve your online reputation for your campaign or are unsure how online reputation management can fit into your overall campaign strategy, ReputationDefender can help. We’ll show you how to build an online reputation that fits your needs, including reputation management strategies for dealing with smear campaigns and other common problems politicians face. Let the voters, not the Internet, decide who wins the race.