Retired Lt. Gen. Patrick O’Reilly, former chief of the Missile Defence Agency, used to have some serious PR problems.
In a May 2012 the inspector general of the Department of Defence (DoD) released a damaging report citing O’Reilly as a toxic general who routinely bullied and belittled his subordinates.
This report, and other negative news, is becoming increasingly diluted by dozens of positive characterizations of the general from social media channels.
As Joe Gould, a staff writer for Army Times, reports:
It appears the retired general hired OptimizeUp, a company that advertises its ability to game Google’s algorithm, boosting positive information and burying the negative. Online reputation management is legal, sanctioned by Google and it’s a big business …
In June, blog posts attributed to O’Reilly but written in the third person, began to appear on tumblr.com, blogspot.com and wallinside.com. They stopped coming a few months later. They omit any mention of the allegations against him, but highlight his career accomplishments and indicate he intends to become a part-time consultant to industry and universities working with the U.S. government.
Gould talked to Andy Beal, an online profile expert, who estimates O’Reilly spent anywhere from $US10,000 to $US15,000 trying to rewrite his online reputation.
Reputation management is quickly becoming a boom industry. A 2010 Microsoft survey found that 70% of companies have rejected job applicants due to their online reputation. Reputation management companies try to fool Google rankings into displaying targeted content higher in their search results.
Often that means several “positive” posts with specific SEO — full name, etc. — which can make for some odd pages.
In the case of O’Reilly, a number of accounts, on sites ranging from Google+ to Zerply.com, all hyperlink back to each other in an effort to create a network of positive news surrounding the general. Such blog posts generally try to put a positive spin on the general’s negative reputation.
His own personal blog stresses:
“General Patrick O’Reilly always makes sure his subordinates know exactly what he expects of them. When people know what is required, they are less likely to shy away from their duties. If people are unclear of what is asked of them, more times than not they won’t do anything at all.”
Unfortunately for O’Reilly, the attempts largely seemed to have failed on Google. A quick Google search for “Lt. Gen. Patrick O’Reilly” still lists the DoD release as the second result.
Now all the retired general has to show for himself is a negative report and a series of half-baked, self-serving blogs.
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