Old Tool, New Tricks


Companies facing reputational challenges can revisit an old communications tool for setting the record straight thanks to a change in the way Google selects items that appear in its “in the news” search results page.

Reuters recently reported that Google – without any public announcement – widened the number of sources used for its “in the news” search results to include press releases from companies. Previously, stories from approved news sites (i.e. newspapers, television stations, etc.) were the only items allowed to populate the news results.

This is good news for companies, because when a controversy emerges, reporters and stakeholders often turn to a Google search for a quick primer on the issue and its players. But all too often, a company’s response is buried deep in any resulting news coverage and, as a result, is easily overlooked.

At Blue Engine, we’re frequently hired to work for clients who are navigating a period of intense media attention, whether expected or not. In these cases, we counsel clients on the importance of charting a path forward that allows them to respond proactively to a controversy without raising awareness of the issue among audiences who don’t already know about it. Often, that means using tools that target only those audiences who are actively searching for information online. Google’s change to its “in the news” search parameters could give companies in crisis or with an announcement to make another targeted tool for achieving their goals.

While there have been some detractors of Google’s decision – those who warn that it “could confuse readers, directing them towards public relations material and away from news reports” – what’s already clear is that companies will be taking advantage. From Reuters:

– Last month, [Franco-Dutch SIM card maker] Gemalto confirmed reports it had likely been the victim of hacking by U.S. and British spies. The story garnered wide media attention but when users did a Google search for the word “Gemalto,” the first “in the news” listing was a Gemalto statement, which played down the impact of the hacking.

– Earlier this week, on the day Apple launched its new watch, a link to a promotional site for the product topped the “in the news” selection.

The bottom line? With Google’s updated algorithm, companies can be sure their press releases are actually helping their message rise to the top. Literally.