When footage of students at the University of California, Davis, being assaulted by campus police appeared online, the school enlisted the help of online reputation management consultants to erase any evidence. As a result, the chancellor of the University was placed on leave.
The article on marketingland.com gives a rundown of the events leading up to the chancellor’s suspension. In November 2011, video footage showed students who were protestors in an Occupy Wall Street movement being maced by UC Davis police. The officers subsequently left the university or were terminated. Chancellor Linda Katehi issued an apology for the harsh treatment of the students, but in April 2016, The Sacramento Bee reported that the univeristy had spent over $175,000 on online reputation management consultants who were hired to clean up their online image and erase any damaging information relating to the events.
The article goes on to explore why people found the university’s choice to hire ORM consultants shady and presents an argument in support of UC Davis’s decision. An overview of what online reputation management entails is given, and Marketing Land calls the media’s perspective on the situation “the most disappointing area” of the entire ordeal.
Online reputation management is not a black market approach to the Internet. ORM’s main objective is to identify how a company or person is being perceived on the Web in order to make positive adjustments to marketing and public relations strategies. The article states, “It would have been terrible if the administrators and staff did not do something about the university’s reputation.”
The article also emphasizes the importance for the public to recognize that the actions of the police involved in the incident are isolated and not reflective of UC Davis as a whole. The author summarizes their argument with the following: “But I think it’s important to recognize that the actions of those police, and perhaps the administrators above them, were the guilty parties, and smearing the reputation of the entire university has direct and indirect damaging effects upon many more individuals who were not responsible for the unjustified pepper-spraying of the protestors.”
The article concludes with a breakdown of ORM and a brief exploration of its most common strategies, most of which are widely practiced throughout the digital marketing industry, such as SEO and keyword analysis. The author concludes the piece by attributing the scale of the UC Davis scandal to the public’s misconception and states that the real moral of the story is that ORM needs to begin working on improving its own reputation in order to avoid such negative retaliation in the future.