Balloon Boy Reputation Management

by Ruud Hein October 19th, 2009 

Falcon Heene, whom Wolf Blitzer in a most annoying unhip fashion referred to at times as "The Falcon" (#notcool), is going to need reputation management big time.

It's hard to get a picture of just how small a result set his name used to bring up; right now filtering out the words balloon and boy there are only 91 thousand results (and even in that set some are about The Balloon Incident of 2009). So it's pretty damn rare to meet someone named Falcon Heene; it's a name unlikely to be drowned out online by all the other Falcon Heene's

That means that for years to come the search [Falcon Heene] will look more or less like this:

Balloon Boy Reputation Management " Phase One

Here's what we would start doing when put on this account.

Since balloonboy.com has been in existence since 2000 and falconheene.com since last week, we're going to scoop up several variations of either. Keyword domains are still a great way to get something where you want it, fast.

From each list, the permutations for Balloon Boy and the ones for Falcon Heene, we'll pick one domain. That domain will be our base for that side of the story.

On the balloon site we'll put our version of the balloon story (more about that shortly) while we'll treat the Falcon Heene site as the usual social base.

Using a service such as Michael Streko's knowem.com we're going on the social and user content sites out there and again grab as many permutations as we can; we might not use them all but we need to have them to be able to make the choice not to use them vs. being forced not to use them while secondly we don't want others to grab good permutations and force us to deal with them also.

Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, Flickr, Digg " all these are sites that receive a lot of trust from Google and especially name searches will jump to page 1 in no time even with little activity and hardly any "friending" going on.

Multiple Social Profiles

We'll have people all over these accounts however being very active. As Disa Johnson demonstrated earlier this year, repetition is everything in this area.

Depending on how the family wants to handle this we'd like being talking with our press people too, see which "in's" they have.

The Strategy

If these are our tactics, what is our strategy?

Our strategy is to create as many outlets, as many channels, as possible for us and the client to funnel our message or query claim through. Deally we want #1 through #30 in major search engines under our control; you can't do that with one domain, one blog and a single social profile.

Secondly we will want links. Tons of them.

Why?

This huge story will result in about 30 days in 1-2 balloon news stories on top, a backup result, universal video inserted, then some older mixed stuff from the days Falcon's family participated in the reality show Wife Swap.

The news stories on top will be on trusted, better news sites. Seattle PI, LA Times, Boston Globe, etc. And those stories will be backed by a good number of heavy weight links and, increasingly under the "the rich get richer" (PDF) rule, by tons of smaller links.

So for a long time to come we're going to have to deal with that story on our number 1 page. The only way to do so is to "own" those links " and the only way we can do that in a short amount of time is to tell our side of the story.

By stepping into this story as soon as possible and telling our balloon boy story, disclosing our nuggets, we're running in the same link race as these big boys mentioned above but with one major advantage we are the source. People who can't get enough of this story will link to us but so will major news outlets covering our story.

"Falcon: 'I Lied About The Show'"

The best way would be for Falcon to tell his story, tell the story from his side.

But it doesn't really matter much what the story is as long as it keeps going (keep them links coming!). "Falcon: 'I lied about the show'", "Mauyime: 'I knew where Falcon was but was too afraid to tell'", "What Does Richard Know? All About The Amazing UFO Balloon Design" " anything.

In reaction people will write things, be upset or not, incredulous or not " and link to proof it too. We'll be monitoring that space, picking up on trends " and feeding back into them.

Depending on which story or stories the family has ran with, we might go back into these pages as time goes by and slowly change them. We're not going to rock the boat by 301-ing them, at least not initially. We're simply slowly going to change what these pages are saying.

"Hi, I'm Falcon Heene"

Meanwhile on his basecamp site we're going to continue to build out a social profile of a likeable person. As he grows up Falcon himself will have to decide which strategy he wants to pursue:

  • Capitalize
  • Deny
  • Defend
  • Explain
  • Trivialize

"[] if someone posts a negative review [] you probably won't be able to completely remove it from Google's search results []. If you can get stuff that you want people to see to outperform the stuff you don't want them to see, you'll be able to reduce the amount of harm that that negative or embarrassing content can do to your reputation."
Google

Ruud Hein

My paid passion at Search Engine People sees me applying my passions and knowledge to a wide array of problems, ones I usually experience as challenges. People who know me know I love coffee.

Ruud Hein

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2 Responses to “Balloon Boy Reputation Management”

  1. Lee says:

    Ruud – you make some good points and I'm taking notes should I ever need this advice. But who is going to go to all this trouble for this child? It's pretty obvious that his parents are oblivious to what's good for him.

    That poor kid. It's bad enough when your internet reputation (or lack thereof) is based on your own stupidity, lack of judgement, drunken behavior, etc. but now kids have to worry about their parents' unthinking stupidity following them around for eternity in Google?

    This is sickening. There are young offender laws that prevent children's names being published so that they have a chance at a productive adulthood without being saddled by their childhood actions. This kid didn't even do anything except obey the careless adults in his life.

    How do we protect the little ones?

  2. Brent2 says:

    Frankly, the parents of Balloon Boy need to get a massive slap from a judge. Police, News, Air National Guard. . .

    At some point it's enough. This is just one more person that was slammed.