Brian Keaney

Month: October, 2010

Big Google and the puppy dog defense

A PG  version of this post that met the corporate sensor’s approval was crossposted to the EZG blog.

In a nation where one in 10 is unemployed and countless others are underemployed, during a time when people are networking like next month’s rent is riding on it (because it often is), what could cause a recent college graduate to pull herself off every social networking site she ever joined?  Ask Karen Owens… if you can find her.

In May Owens received a degree from prestigious Duke University, where she received “An Education Beyond the Classroom,” or so she titled her faux-senior honors thesis.  With a wink, a nudge, and a subtitle of “excelling in the realm of horizontal academics,” you can probably guess what it was about.  Not only did she name the names of her muscled Adonises in her 40 plus page presentation, she even included G-rated photos of them, and gave each a score based on looks, the entertainment value of the affair, and other, ahem, personal attributes, by which she later ranked them.

Though she submitted her thesis to “The Department Of Late-Night Entertainment,” otherwise known as three of her friends, what happened next was predictable.  One of those three sent it to someone else, and they sent it to someone else, and before Owens had any idea what was going on the whole world knew about her “tempestuous frolicking.”

I’m not linking to any of the many places you can find this PowerPoint presentation online for the sake of the unwitting men mentioned in it, but try doing a Google search of “Karen Owens Duke.”  I’m sure every employer she ever applies to will, and they won’t find a list of recommendations for her on LinkedIn.  They won’t find her a display of her expertise and a sample of her reading list on Twitter.  They won’t even see a Facebook or Google profile of her.

Instead, all they will derive about her from the web is that she compared seeing a certain Red Sox prospect naked to receiving a “beautifully wrapped present on Christmas morning” only to have your “smile plummet to the floor… as you thanked your grandpa for the single practical pair of coarse, grey wools socks.”  She can turn a phrase and create a mental image, I’ll give her that, but when it’s about the equally drunk guy she met at the bar the previous night, it loses some of its appeal.

Owens has expressed remorse for creating the list, and I’m sure she is mortified, but at some point she will have to emerge from the rock she is undoubtedly hiding under.  When she does, she will have to take control of what’s being said about her online.

Forget Big Brother, the bigger concern today is Big Google.  Managing a brand – personal or corporate – in the 21st century increasingly means managing what the search engines say about it.  The internet never forgets, so the trick is to be constantly feeding it new memories that convey the message you want to put forward.

Fortunately for Owens, there are a few steps she can take to restore, or at least repair, her online reputation.  For a price, says they can help control what is said about you around the intertubes.  You will never be able to scrape the internet completely clean, however, and you can’t stop others from writing negative things about you (or publishing the embarrassing things you yourself create).

What you can do is flood it with good news about yourself or your business, and with strong SEO hope that it pushes the bad coverage down in the Google listings.  The web is often the first place prospective clients will turn for information, and all too often they won’t scan beyond the first couple links their favorite search engine provides.

Scott Fayner, a former journalist covering industries not spoken about in polite company, for example, has gone on the offensive in trying to cover up his sordid personal and professional history.  Google him now and you can still find tales of his debauched past, but before that you will find pictures of cute little puppy dogs.  Seriously.  The erstwhile Hustler reporter is now publishing an online magazine dedicated to canines and featuring pictures of dogs at rescue shelters in an attempt to rebrand himself online.

His strategy has merit: to those who need to do a little online damage control, or even want to get out ahead of the curveball that will inevitably be thrown, the answer is clear.  Write blog posts, and comment on other’s.  Tweet.  Be a thought leader and publish in trade publications and journals.  Get your name in the press and on message.  Do great things and tell the world about them.  Give Google plenty of positive things to say about you, and watch as they crowd out the negative ones.

Most brands don’t have the same level of grime on them as Fayner’s and Owens’ do, but everyone’s could use a little polish.  As Fayner says of his puppy dog strategy, “It’s the start of my very long, very slow battle against the Internet — one that I realize I may never win.”  He may not, but by being proactive he gets closer every day.

The photo of Ella the Snow Dog by jpctalbot is used under this creative commons license.

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Some thoughts on media

A couple thoughts that have been kicking around in my head, in no particular oder, on the media today.

Online:  One of my guilty online pleasures is Texts from Last Night.  Reading them always has me entertained, and often has me disgusted, disappointed (that I didn’t think of doing that sooner), fearing for the future of our country, or laughing out loud.  Naturally, I check it at least once or twice a day.  That’s not the medium I want to talk about, however.  On the site, American Apparel, which I must confess to have never heard about before, is running ads.  It’s an interesting ad campaign.

The first ad I remember seeing from them was a blond wearing a little black dress in a rather awkward pose.  She was positioned such that you could see that she had a pair of matching black panties on.  Someone is going to get fired, I thought to myself, for letting that one slip by.  Not so.  It was my mistake, not their’s.

The following weeks brought more scantily clad models, so it was clear the woman was deliberately photographed such that we could see up her dress.  I’m still confused by the ad campaign though.  Their models are as unattractive as their clothes.  It’s as if the theme is ugly people wearing ugly clothes.

Books:  I really enjoy the writing of Andrew Ross Sorkin most of the time.  I often read his work in the New York Times, and if he didn’t write 100 posts a week I would read his blog, too.  I can’t keep up with him, so I’ve given up trying.

Being a fan of his work I thought I would check out his book on the near collapse of our financial system and the actual collapse of our economy, Too Big to Fail.  I got about a third of the way through it but eventually gave up, something I rarely and don’t like to do.

It was focused too much on the personalities involved, and almost seemed like a way for Sorkin to advertise how good his sources are.  What the chairman of Goldman Sachs had for breakfast as he talked to the president of the New York Fed isn’t of any interest to me, but much ink was spilled telling us.

I’m much more interested in knowing about the economics behind the collapse.  I don’t know any of the people he is writing about, so reading about their interpersonal relationships and the internal politics that allowed to to rise to their current positions holds no appeal for me.

I’m instead now reading Quantum: Einstein, Bohr, and the Great Debate about the Nature of Reality.  Early on author Manjit Kumar has given some biographical details about the principal players, but its just enough to set the scene.  He certainly is not dedicating whole chapters to their upbringing and career paths as Sorkin did.  It’s still early going, but I like it so far.

Television:  I’m not a big TV fan, but every now and then I’ll turn it on if something reaches such huge level of discussion in popular culture that I feel I should at least see what everyone is talking about.  Truth be told that’s how I became a fan of The Office, the only program on television I think is worth recording.

Glee has now reached such a level of pop culture prominence that I thought I should check it out.  My expectations were pretty low going in, but I have to admit on some levels I did enjoy it.  The song selections were excellent, and the actors (or their voiceovers) could sing.  I wasn’t expecting to hear Aerosmith or Journey, but I did and they actually did a great job covering them.

On the other hand, the shows were over the top.  I haven’t been to Mass on a regular basis in a while, but after watching a couple episodes I feel like I’m good until at least Christmas.  The shows were much preachier than anything I’ve ever heard escape a priest’s lips.

I don’t necessarily object to the messages they are promoting, but I don’t want to be hit over the head with it either.  What ever happened to those “very special” episodes of Saved by the Bell where Jessie has a problem with caffeine pills?  Get the message across in 22 minutes, and by tomorrow we are all worrying again about whether Mr. Belding will catch Zack in whatever his latest scheme is.  It might not be true to life, but there’s a reason sitting in front of the tube (or the flat screen, as the case may be) is called vegging out.  People use it to escape reality, not focus on it.

The loss of a love

Happier times with me (center) and my Jeep (right).

I’ve always wanted a dog, but in the past couple days I’ve been giving it serious thought.  I’ve experienced a tremendous personal loss and I could use the comfort that a dog will bring, but I also need something to love now that my Jeep is gone.

My Jeep was totaled last weekend when I came around a corner and into an intersection to find a woman taking a left in my lane.  When I took the plates off of it the other day it was like attending a funeral; I’ve been less heartbroken ending relationships with girls than I was knowing that I was saying goodbye for the last time to my Wrangler.   After all, at 6 years, 6 months, and 2 days, this was the longest relationship I’ve ever had.

Standing in the shop of the mechanic who towed it away for me, I took a moment to walk around and say goodbye and to remember the good times.  It was like my own private memorial service.  I don’t think a priest would say a Mass for it, but maybe I can commission a musician to write a Requiem for a Wrangler.

People are shocked when they hear I am now looking at vehicles other than a Wrangler.  My mother, who was never a fan of its propensity to roll over or the places it could take me that she would rather I not go, said it best when she told me, “That Jeep was you.”   The fact remains that I think the new Jeeps are hideous – the JKs are so big that they look like mini-Hummers.   I’m not opposed to buying a used car, but I’m not sure I want to buy a ten year old automobile, even knowing that a Jeep will run forever.   Besides, any other Jeep just wouldn’t be the same.  They are all great, but none of them are mine.

Then again, this weekend I spent an all too brief period down the Cape.  My sister’s boyfriend remarked that if I bought anything other than a Jeep that I would be “miserable down here in the summer.”  He was absolutely right.  I would be.

I also can’t afford a mid-life crisis car, financially (for the car) or psychologically (for the idea that I might be approaching middle age), but neither can I stomach the thought of driving around in a Camry.  I’m not that exciting, and I need my half hour a day in a distinctive and cool vehicle to feel as young and cool as I still like to believe I am.  The thought of writing a check once a month for a grocery-getter is just too much to handle.

Owning and driving a Jeep was one of the coolest things about me.  People identified me by it and associated it with me.  I identified and associated myself with it.  My mother says it is now time for a “grown up car,” as if I’m graduating from diapers to underroos or taking the training wheels off my bike.  I don’t care what my driver’s license says – I’m not that old and I’m sure as hell not a grown up.  Getting anything other than a Jeep would be a blow to the psyche bigger than anything even the coolest puppy could cure.