Reputation Management:

Is Boris’s wine box painting hobby an SEO strategy?

Posted on October 3, 2019

Back in June, the then prime minister in waiting Boris Johnson explained to Talk Radio about his unusual hobby of painting wine boxes to create model buses. It seemed a typically quirky admission from a politician who has always been a little out of sync with the rest of Westminster, but a theory has emerged that his comments could be an attempt to influence Google search results relating to him.

Some observers have suggested that Johnson is trying to ‘game’ the news by dropping in words connected to negative stories about him in the hope of creating irrelevant, oddball stories that edge out less desirable ones. This theory was suggested by such sources as the Scotsman at the time the wine box bus story was making the news, but has reared its head again this week after Johnson described himself as a “model of restraint” during the BBC’s ‘Andrew Marr Show’ on Sunday.

What is the theory?

When asked by Talk Radio what he did to relax, Johnson’s exact words were:

“I like to paint. Or I make things. I have a thing where I make models of buses. What I make is, I get old, I don’t know, wooden crates, and I paint them. It’s a box that’s been used to contain two wine bottles, right, and it will have a dividing thing. And I turn it into a bus.”

There are three words in this answer that all relate to an existing controversy to do with the prime minister – ‘buses’, ‘wine’ and ‘model’.

A Google search for ‘Boris Johnson buses’ now brings up several stories to do with this hobby, but using Google Image Search, we can see multiple images of him giving a speech in front of the now infamous bus proclaiming that the UK should fund the NHS instead of sending £350m per week to the EU. Did he deliberately create another, much more innocuous story about himself and buses simply to quiet the fuss over the Brexit bus?

Similarly, only a few days before he spoke to Talk Radio, Johnson was at the centre of a police incident relating to an alleged disturbance at his house. Reportedly, a recording of the row included comments about red wine being spilled on a sofa, so was this also an effort to bury negative news in a ‘Boris Johnson wine’ search?

Johnson is also the subject of ongoing speculation over his relationship with former model Jennifer Arcuri, and whether she was granted favours during his time as Mayor of London. Is this why he’s dropping in the word ‘model’ in some of his public appearances? If so, a Google search for ‘Boris Johnson model’ suggests it has had little effect.

Reputation management?

The idea of Johnson trying to ‘play’ Google and the British media in this way might seem far-fetched, but the practice of online reputation management (ORM), often carried out as one arm of a search engine optimisation campaign, is well-known. Usually, it relies on creating and encouraging the publishing of neutral or positive stories about a person or organisation to cancel out negative ones, but few have the power to so easily focus such authoritative news sites on these stories. Only Johnson and his advisors know for sure whether this is an elaborate online reputation management strategy or just an insight into his offbeat personality.

Posted by John Murray

Successful Dragons’ Den pitch shows value of online reputation management

Posted on November 15, 2018

As a business owner with interests in a number of different industries, I love to watch business-related TV programs such as Dragons’ Den, The Profit, Shark Tank and even The Apprentice. I find it fascinating to see the mistakes people make (more…)

Posted by Darren Jamieson

When a company is completely oblivious to its online reputation

Posted on January 11, 2018

This week, it was announced that Yodel’s CEO, Mike Cooper, was to take over at Eurostar, with Andrew Peeler to take his position at the delivery company.

The announcement that a (more…)

Posted by Darren Jamieson

Cancelled music festival hits bum note on social media

Posted on August 9, 2017

One of my biggest passions is live music and festivals, and I think Liverpool, as my nearest big city, is a fantastic place for them to be held. Music is in its veins, the people are friendly and its venues, whether large or small, are fantastic, so I always welcome any (more…)

Posted by John Murray

Can poor reputation management damage your SEO strategy?

Posted on July 22, 2015

Many seem to believe that their search engine optimisation (SEO) campaign and reputation management strategy are two separate entities, yet it seems that having a poor public image online can negatively impact your SEO as well.

When we consider SEO, by and large we think about how well the (more…)

Posted by Carl Hopkinson

Why it’s important to protect your brand’s reputation online

Posted on July 7, 2015

Most businesses know that in the modern digital era, it is important to maintain a clean reputation for your business online.

It would be easy to assume that because you have control of your own digital footprint, that you also have complete control of your brand’s reputation online. Ultimately however, (more…)

Posted by Carl Hopkinson

Google exec calls for web ‘delete’ button

Posted on May 9, 2013

Anyone who has ever bashed out a drunken Facebook status they regretted the next morning, or blogged of their love of a certain brand of cringe-worthy music during a wayward time in their youth, might be relieved to hear that the chief executive of Google thinks that (more…)

Posted by Cheryl Mathews

German airline risks wrath of Twitter over cancellations

Posted on April 27, 2013

Germany’s flag carrier Lufthansa experienced some bad press on social media sites as it cancelled most of its flights on Monday April 22, due to ground crews taking action.

Usually, the airline has over 1,700 flights scheduled each day; Monday, saw this drop to a handful. Flights to UK airports including London, Birmingham and Manchester were affected.

Reputation management

It is the second month in a row that strike action has affected the airline. There are also four further walkouts already planned. Protests were seen here in the UK, with many staff blaming the tie-up with British Airways for the difficulties faced by the Spanish flag carrier.

With rising fuel prices, increased environmental taxation, and higher levels of competition, the flight industry is facing significant challenges.

In this connected world, there were a number of people taking to Twitter to complain. After the initial backlash, users began to demand more information on possible future strikes, and some even sang the praises of other carriers such as Austrian Airlines for coming to their rescue. Some users also tellingly commented that repeat strike action was making the airline less competitive.

It is no easy task working in reputation management for an airline at the moment.

Free alternatives

A dedicated approach is needed, which is why outsourcing such tasks would be a natural response.

Lufthansa do clearly know what they are doing though. Messages about the action, which is a so called ‘warning strike’, appeared as early as Sunday morning.

Passengers are also being offered free alternatives and other incentives at the airports.

In Germany, such strike tactics are common; with only a short period of time to organise a response.

Posted by Matt Jones
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