Sunday, October 3, 2010

RSAF Apache: Internet Presence and Google Keywords

Singapore (3 Oct 2010).

A major impact of social media on the new information environment is that stakeholders now seek information and news from multiple platforms and sources.  Whenever an incident occurs, stakeholders instinctively go to online search engines to "google" for breaking news.

As mentioned in my earlier posting about “google bombs”, search engines like Google rank "popular" websites highest and return them whenever related keywords are searched.  This is a self-reinforcing loop as high rankings lead to even more hits that in turn guarantees the website continues to rank high.  Conversely, a poorly visited company website is unlikely to get a high enough ranking to ensure that the company's side of the story is told.

In the recent incident on the emergency landing of a RSAF Apache helicopter, a search for the keywords "RSAF Apache" on Google returns the website Temasek Review at the top.  This is unfortunate as the Temasek Review is a well-known anti-establishment website and people interested in finding out more about the emergency landing may get a bias view of the incident.  Thus, while MINDEF's Public Affairs Department did well to proactively report the incident and get their initial side of the story out into cyberspace, they may need to apply one of the key lessons from BP's handling of the Oil Spill in the Gulf of Mexico - purchasing Google Keywords.

In BP's scenario, in order to gain control of the information environment, BP purchased Google's search words for "oil spill".  This then ensured that BP's official website was returned at the top of every search and BP's side of the story was readily available (See Diagram 1).

Diagram 1: BP Uses Google Keywords to Control the Information Environment
While the RSAF incident has not turned into a crisis and hence may not necessitate the purchase of Keywords, MINDEF's Public Affairs Department needs to monitor the type of stories/ posts being linked to the incident.  Then, should the stories/ posts linked to the incident become exceedingly negative, the appropriate counter-measures taken.  In the mean time, MINDEF would do well to push out more positive stories to balance the reporting.

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