Opinion: Don't even try and bring down a blog

Liverpool City Council's action to stop staff from accessing a website attacking its former chief executive has, somewhat predictably, backfired.

The ensuing media coverage has drawn attention to the site and thrown the spotlight onto the impact of blogs for public bodies.

A new weblog is created every second - and there are millions of them out there. Arguably the most influential commentary of the Iraq war came from frontline blogs.

There is no hiding place. Public sector PR practitioners must get up to speed with blogging and online social networks. Social networks are a big deal, and getting bigger - just take a look at MySpace.com to see the impact (especially for young people). It is the eighth most visited website in the world - Rupert Murdoch knew what he was doing when he bought it last year.

Corporate reputation management will become meaningless if people ignore what you are saying and turn to their internet peers for more trusted and insightful information. Consumers are increasingly listening to other consumers - with awesome effect. Who doesn't check out hotel and restaurant reviews before making a booking these days?

The vast majority of journalists use search engines to research stories, and articles and product reviews often feature highly. The impact can be deadly - and the critical battleground is a place in the top 30 listings.

Few bodies have policies to manage staff blogs (while most have policies to prevent staff talking to the press) and only the enlightened embrace them. All public bodies will get attacked at some time - whether by disgruntled staff, political opponents or unsatisfied customers. And, while the same laws apply, using them to bring down a blog can be difficult, time-consuming and costly.

In extreme cases one can use Notice and Take Down (telling ISP providers about unlawful sites), but this may just inflame the story.

My advice? Get the fundamentals right about corporate reputation and you'll have nothing to worry about. In other words, minimise the likelihood of attack - rather than spend time and money worrying about an attack's origins.

Lorraine Langham is managing director of Verve Communications

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