Most larger companies have a dedicated PR department. Often members of these departments will use Google alerts to keep track of new info on the web mentioning their company. This is generally a good idea and can be used to do damage control when someone else in the company failed to do their job. So the question is, how can you as a PR rep best represent your company?
Background on bloggers
Most bloggers are fairly tech savy and will recognize where you come from fairly quickly. If you work for a company with any real size you will be running off of an IP address registered to your company. Wikipedia Edits are a good example. Many within corporate entities thought it would be a good idea to edit wikipedia “anonymously” but they must not have realized that their ip address would left which can often be tracked.
As a result, plenty of companies recently grabbed a lot of flak for editing wikipedia to improve their public image. In theory any interaction on the web should be one of the following
Being Totally Open
Acting totally open can be a major benefit. If a blogger is complaining about poor customer service at the local Cingular store, for instance; the interest of an apologetic PR rep will not only make the blogger feel better about his experience but will make the community of his readers appreciate Cingular all the more.
Many PR reps have been caught commenting on blogs when they didn’t want to be. In this specific case (previously linked to) the PR rep showed up on the blog and started insulting everyone. This is a really good way to make people hate you.
Being Totally Anonymous
If you do decide that rather than dealing with a negative blog entry head on is too hard and that you don’t want to take the time to make concessions with a blogger you can always try to influence them anonymously. To do this you need to worry about several things
Your IP Address
Hiding your IP address will stop webmasters from tracking you back to the company you work for. One free solution for IP masking is Tor, a free tool that sends your webtraffic through a network of other computers to hide your identity. Details aside, Tor is a secure way to help cloak your activity. They even have a Firefox plug in that can be turned on and off.
When you click on a link not only does your browser tell the website you’re going to what IP address you reside at but also where it found your link.
If you are using google alerts to follow your company’s name then when you click on your email link to goto the website with the keyword in question it will tell the website where you came from, in this case your inbox. This can be a giveaway to some webmasters that someone is working off of google alerts.
Beating the referring link or referrer id is easy, simple copy and paste the URL into a new window. Then it will show up as a direct link.
Sounding like a tool
We mean this in the literal sense, “Do you sound like the tool of a corporation” or in other words “Do you talk like a press release?”. Bloggers can sniff this out quickest of all. If you try to pass yourself off as a consumer people will generally recognize it and discount everything you say. Beating this is a little more tricky.
First of all, make a concession. No matter what company you work for they are not infallible. If you are unwilling to see a blogger’s point of view it will be impossible to respond to them in any relevant way. If they have a complaint about Sherwin Williams, point them to a place on the Sherwin William’s website to make a complaint or ask them more about their problem. If the paint was bad ask them if maybe their was a mistake. Whatever, the point is that if you try to act understanding of what’s going on people are less likley to think you are a PR rep that didn’t even bother to read or identify with their problem.
The Strength of an Official name
Acting publicly is generally the best policy. By joining a community like Wikipedia with your credentials on display you can gain more authority. If GM is “caught” anonymously editing their wikipedia entries to add information on safety standards it’s a scandal but if someone from GM openly(with a User account) edits the GM wikipedia entry their addition will likely be viewed as authoritative.
In Short, use your name rather than hiding it