Control Your Company’s Online Narrative: Re-Thinking Paid Search with Google

I’ve spent my career managing digital marketing at companies like Nike, L’Oréal, and Meta.  I’ve always used Google Search to increase a company’s brand awareness and revenue. However, when I and others from The Bliss Group went to Google’s NYC headquarters the other week, I started thinking of another way to tap into this valuable channel: using Search to enhance a company’s reputation online, especially in light of negative publicity.  

We know that first impressions count, and unexpected disasters can destroy a business’ reputation if not handled promptly and correctly. A recent survey found that while the majority (84%) of organizations have an emergency communications plan in place, nearly two-thirds admit they are not confident in their preparedness for a crisis event. Companies have two identities when they try to respond to negative events: the reality (what’s going on behind-the-scenes) and the perception (the explosion of press coverage and social media posts). Opinions are formed quickly. While most of us might start our research with a simple search query online, studies have shown that only 5% of people look past the first page of Google. While it’s important to optimize your company’s website through Organic Search (or SEO), when disaster hits and negative press coverage takes over your first page of search results, how can companies ensure that their stories (or response to the crisis) are easily discoverable?  

As a marketing communications firm that also specializes in Digital Media, Bliss knows that a company’s reputation can plummet overnight. But, according to Bob Pearson, The Bliss Group’s CEO, we can use Search to protect a company’s reputation. If we identify where we have risk of negative publicity, map out the story, and increase visibility through Organic and Paid Search, we can methodically and effectively control the narrative. 

We decided to explore this important issue with our friends at Google. The other week, about 50 of us at The Bliss Group headed over to Google’s NYC headquarters for a Lunch & Learn. We discussed how we could help clients influence the conversation online and met with their New Business Solutions team, including Ben Walkley, Jake Lehr, Alex Geosits, Jake Bogart, Kyle Fitzgerald, Monica Nunez, Jessica Stelzman, and Sabrina Stanich. 

Our conversation got me thinking about the best way to control a company’s narrative online, particularly when it’s experiencing challenges. For example, suppose it experienced negative PR in NYC and its customers could no longer do business there. In that case it might be worth trying a geo-targeted campaign (focused on location targeting) to appear at the top of the search results page. At the same time, however, it’s always important to take a beat and avoid abrupt changes (i.e., don’t suddenly pull your ad budget). Monitor performance and make gradual changes (i.e., try contextual targeting to ensure your ad message is seen next to, or in the context of, other news articles where you’re trying to respond to the current story). 

Overall, to protect your corporate reputation, it’s critical to control your message online – whether you’re a marketer or a PR professional – especially in times of crisis. Paid Search is one channel I’ll be keeping top of mind. 

By Melissa Stone