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Think Twice About that Press Release -
You May Have Entered The Google Zone

Copyright © Jeffrey Geibel, All Rights Reserved

Consider the following scenario: Your company, after some tough years (pretty typical for your industry) - finally has had a new CEO in place for the last year, shaped up the product offerings and won some impressive second-tier accounts. Now you've been selected as a finalist for that marquee customer Fortune 500 proposal. Your CEO personally heads up the presentation team, and delivers a ‘knock-em-dead' ROI justification for the multi-million, multi-year contract, and personally guarantees to oversee the implementation. As the presentation wraps up, you are daydreaming about the bonus - and then the bomb drops.

The first question comes from the prospect's CFO: How can your CEO guarantee his presence on multi-year implementation, when his tenure in his prior two jobs was only 12 months each? The next zinger comes from their CIO: When she asked questions about your much-touted ‘strategic alliances' that had been announced a few years prior - how is it that no one in your company knew anything about those ‘strategic partners'? Then their general counsel asks: How did that wonderful ‘success story' customer of a few years ago wind up as a brief mention as in "reached a settlement" in the ‘Prior and Current Litigation' section of your RFP?

It's turning out to be the review committee from hell - and you are wishing you had called in sick - because now you are.

What happened? Were you set up by your competition? Was your CEO's ex-spouse dating the prospect's CIO? Who dropped the bomb?

In all likelihood, it could be a self-inflicted wound. In other words - by not paying attention to how you have disseminated information over the years, your company has seeded the web with a complete dossier of virtual ‘insider information' that has come back to haunt you. And it is very easy to assemble it all. To paraphrase Rod Serling of The Twilight Zone: "You've just entered The Google Zone".

Here's what probably happened - like most companies, you touted everything and anything on press releases that were sent out on the wireservices, including every executive appointment, every ‘strategic alliance' and in some cases, jumping the gun on who you selected for ‘customer case studies' - before the relationship had completely matured. None of this is unusual or unique - it's done all the time.

Unfortunately, now that you are looking in the rearview mirror - you wish that some (if not most) of that stuff wasn't out there. But all those publications (including the wireservices) have archived it - and it pops up when they are 'Googled' - either on your company name or the name of the executive in question.

But what can you do about it, especially moving forward? On the one hand - you want market visibility, on the other hand - things change over time and you may not want to spend a lot of time explaining past history. Is there an acceptable compromise?

For the most part - there is - but it requires that before any information is distributed, it is reviewed from two dimensions: how long you want it to be available, and how much control you will have over it. This is done by evaluating everything you put out in terms of the nature of the content, the timeliness of the content, and the method of dissemination. By thinking ahead - you can limit the amount of damage done by a thorough "Google" of your company and its executives.

The most important aspects of controlling your information are to think about what you are sending out, and then how you plan to distribute it. Plain and simple - your web site is your best tool for that - and the one you have most control over.

Rather oddly - and I say this from a perspective of reviewing dozens of web sites each week - I've found that typically company web sites are the most poorly used tool for both conveying and ‘securing' company information. What that tells me is that the company is not thinking in terms of ‘Google information security'.

Just make sure that your company isn't one of those - and that you don't venture into The Google Zone - when you least expect it.


Here's what the Twilight Zone is: ... (it) delves into the odd, the bizarre, the unexpected. The Twilight Zone is a wondrous land of the very different. No luggage is required for the trip. All that the audience need bring is imagination.
- Rod Serling, November 7, 1959 (TV Guide)

© 2003, Jeffrey Geibel, All Rights Reserved

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