The risk of silence on your company news page or blog…

Content is an amazing way of building up a business, but there are certain requirements you need to meet for it to be successful. I wrote a while ago about the time it can take to build up a content site organically, and a key part of that is adding content on a regular and consistent basis.

The good news is that your competitors are handing you a massive advantage every day, week, month or even year that they leave their website dormant, particularly when it comes to news sections and blogs.

And in an emergency or crisis, the days of being able to keep quiet until an official statement can be prepared are pretty much gone. You really need to have a crisis communications plan in place right now – you’ll understand why if something goes wrong without it, and the option of waiting for an official statement to calm everything down has gone the same way as the daily news cycle. Even if your staff can’t give out full details and solutions, they should be trained and prepared to acknowledge events and provide whatever assistance and information they can.

silence is spoken here by Mr Kris on Flickr

'Silence is spoken here' by Mr Kris on Flickr (CC Licence)

Obviously there have already been a number of examples, such as Eurostar, but technology companies are no better. Take for instance, the recent New York Times article covering the ‘secrets of search’ which led to JC Penney dominating Google results for lots of top product purchases in what appears to be the largest example of linkbuying and other ‘black hat’ practices.

The bottom of the second page reveals that JC Penney has terminated its search engine consulting, SearchDex.

‘PENNEY reacted to this instant reversal of fortune by, among other things, firing its search engine consulting firm, SearchDex. Executives there did not return e-mail or phone calls.’

So someone at the firm is theoretically aware that the NYT is doing a story on the events surrounding JC Penney, and that article was published on February 12th, 2011.

So when you visit the news section of the SearchDex website on February 15th, 2011, you might do a double take –

Searchdex JCPenney News 2007

You can click to enlarge, but the latest news on the SearchDex website three days after the NYT published the JCPenney story online is the March 15, 2007 announcement that JCPenney has signed for a ‘an unprecedented 4th year of service’ – and goes on to say ‘JCPenney has trusted SearchDex to handle all of their organic search marketing efforts’.

That’s 4 years ago, and 3 days after a huge news story concerning the brand, with anyone involved in the search business taking a look. Just scroll down the first page of Google results for SearchDex and see what you find… #5, #7, #8 and #9 are discussing what is going on, and one of them is Doug Pierce, who shares all the data that uncovered what SearchDex was doing.

If SearchDex did decide to update their news, there are a number of routes they could take. They could deny all knowledge, blame a scapegoat, or debate the data.

Alternatively, and here’s where I’d really like your views, they could take a different tack. They could come clean and admit everything, perhaps referencing how competitive search rankings can be, the fact that they may have known they were being dishonest, but that digital marketing companies are often under pressure to deliver results and using dishonest tactics are hugely tempting. If that was followed by future transparency, would that alter your opinions of the company, in comparison to your views after reading the NYT piece?