SAN FRANCISCO: A piece of bad press sticks with a company for a long time like "gum," according to research by Grayling.
Research by the Huntsworth agency found that negative news or content litters the first page of Google search profiles for 64 companies in the Nasdaq 100 Index, which is comprised of the 100 largest non-financial companies listed on the Nasdaq based on market cap.
The study, "Search … and Rescue," found that some of these stories are more than one month old; in other cases, more than one year old.
"There’s this perception that the news cycle has a clear beginning and end," said Sharon Barclay, an SVP at Grayling who helped analyze the data. "Our research shows that’s not the case. Even if you deal with and manage your reputation through a crisis, that can stick around for a long time."
Issues that appear to have the greatest reputational drag include unethical company or employee behavior and poor financial performance, each affecting 29 brands apiece across 45 and 54 unique stories, respectively. On the lowest end of the spectrum, cost cuts only affected six brands with seven stories.
"It’s the potency of the issues and how long they stick around," Barclay explained. "They tend to stick around longer than other negative stories."
That could be particularly distressing for a corporation, not only because of Google’s ubiquity – there are 5.8 billion searches every day on its platform – but also because Grayling finds it’s the most trusted information source.
"While many companies invest heavily in search engine optimization, insufficient attention is paid to optimizing branded search results," according to the study.
Asked why this is the case, Barclay said, "because it’s hard. There isn’t one way to measure it. And there’s a tendency to measure outputs rather than outcomes. And the two are very different."
To rectify this, Barclay recommended greater collaboration among an organization’s comms disciplines and regular check-ups on the company’s search profile.
You can’t assume "everything is fine," she said. This integration necessitates that the different comms functions better understand how SEO fits with their discipline.
Most negative content came from news outlets, signaling that despite the industry’s hardships, its impact and influence is changing. Grayling ranked these organizations by the percentage of negative content vs. positive. The Washington Post had the highest percentage of negative content at 80%.
This does not mean the outlets posts more negative articles than positive ones, the agency cautioned in the study.
"It simply means that when they do publish an article that is critical of your company, or any other, it is more likely to stick, and to continue to appear in your search results long after you have (you believe) dealt with the issue and moved on," the study said.
As a final recommendation, Barclay said organizations need to be more proactive with the media.
"Now, more than ever, your reputation can be shaped by what people see online, whether true or not," Barclay said. "And managing that in as many ways as possible is important."