World news

No doubt you’ve heard the news of Cecil the lion’s death last month and the subsequent furore directed at its hunter, the owner of a US dental practice. The internet’s reaction to the story has shown that when you’re a CEO or a director of a company, your personal and professional reputations are always interlinked.

Death of Cecil the lion

The BBC recently reported that US Dentist Walter Palmer has been accused of killing Cecil the lion. This was no ordinary lion; Cecil was a major tourist attraction at Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe’s largest game preserve.

Therefore, the lion’s fans – and indeed, plenty who had never heard of Cecil but were outraged at the story – reacted fiercely at the news of his death. The fall of Cecil has dominated international headlines, attracted negative attention on the internet, attracted the anger of various celebrities and even led to the arrest of two Zimbabwe nationals who allegedly helped Palmer end Cecil’s life.

Internet reaction

The internet descended on Cecil’s killer. Objectors were particularly vocal on Twitter; the hashtag #CecilTheLion appeared 250,000 times in 24 hours. One tweet on the subject by comedian Ricky Gervais was favourited and retweeted 40,000 times. A parody account of Palmer’s practice, River Bluff Dental, was also created on the social media site to harangue the beleaguered hunter.

According to Buzzfeed, Facebook was just as outraged as Twitter. The Facebook page for River Bluff Dental was flooded with angry Cecil fans, who flocked to litter every single photo and link on the account with furious comments. The reaction wasn’t just limited to social media; a ‘Justice for Cecil’ petition was circulated online garnered over 100,000 signatures.

Google “Walter Palmer”

Take a minute to Google “Walter Palmer” or “River Bluff Dental.” When you do, you’ll see that the first pages of these searches are plagued with unwanted content e.g. press articles, social media links etc., about the death of Cecil the lion.

This demonstrates the inextricable link between personal and professional reputations. This is because Google sees press articles, social media links etc. as reliable sources of information, ensuring they’ll appear on the first pages of searches for “Walter Palmer” and “River Bluff Dental.”

Google has over a billion users; therefore a large share of the practice’s target customers will see these unwanted pieces of content In other words, Palmer’s conduct in his personal life has actively effected his business’ reputation online.

Impact on reviews

Now, take a closer look at the first page of the Google search for “River Bluff Dental.” You’ll notice that it’s riddled with hundreds of one star Yelp reviews that lambaste Palmer as a “coward” and a “bloodthirsty trophy hunter.” Yelp tried to cull these bogus reviews, but it didn’t work, with one angry user commenting “Yelp, keep deleting… I’ll keep reposting… I have ALL DAY.”

Unwanted online reviews can have a particularly damaging effect on a business’ online reputation. Bright Local’s 2014 Local Consumer Review Survey revealed that 88% of people read online reviews to determine the quality of a local business. Google also sees review sites as trusted sources of information, which is why they rank on the first page of searches for “River Bluff Dental” and have damaged Walter Palmer’s professional reputation.

Crisis management

This is why company directors and CEO’s need to develop crisis management strategy. This gives business heads the tools they need to protect their professional reputation. Here are a few tips you can use to create an effective crisis management strategy:

  • Develop an online presence: You need to take control of the first page of a search for your name on Google before a crisis hits, to limit its effects. You can do this by creating online assets e.g. social media, blogs that will rank highly on Google.
  • Generate positive press: The stronger the reputation of your business, the more likely it will be to withstand the fallout of a reputational incident. This is why you should generate a steady stream of positive PR which will rank on Google for your company’s name and position you as a thought-leader consumers can trust.
  • Set up alerts: The sooner you find out about a crisis, the sooner you can deal with it. You should set up Google alerts for your firm’s name, so you’ll find out about a crisis that has the ability to damage your personal and professional reputation online as soon as possible.
  • Manage reviews: When people get angry with a company’s CEO/director, they rush to express that anger on the firm’s review pages. If you develop an online review management strategy you’ll be able to ensure that unwanted reviews don’t damage your business’ reputation online.

Manage your professional reputation online

The story of Cecil the lion proves that what happens in a company director’s personal life affects their professional reputation. Business leaders should develop crisis management strategies to manage their professional reputations online.

If you want to find out more about Igniyte’s crisis management services please contact Caroline Skipsey on tel: +44 (0) 203 542 8689 or email [email protected] in confidence.