Seattle Taxpayer Money Used To Bolster The Online Reputation Of Utility CEO
from the how'd-that-work-out? dept
We’ve written previously about this online reputation management thing and how often it backfires. For some reason, there are people out there who somehow think that you can effectively hide your past from the internet instead of understanding both how futile a thing that is to attempt and how horribly it can backfire on you. Celebrities, athletes, and criminals all have been forced to learn this lesson the hard way. But, hey, at least they didn’t use taxpayer money in their attempts.
The same can’t be said for the city of Seattle, which one paper discovered has been footing the bill for two years worth of internet reputation management of a utility company’s CEO.
A newly-published document shows that Seattle’s publicly-owned electrical utility paid thousands of dollars to Brand.com to manage the online reputation of CEO Jorge Carrasco. The document, which was received and published Saturday by the Seattle Times after a public records request, shows that Brand.com charged City Light $5,000 in December 2013.
The report adds that the company actually extended that contract into 2014 and has paid out a total of $17,500, which really sucks considering the utility company is owned by the municipality. Any way you slice it, that sure sounds like thousands of dollars of taxpayer money went to bury some less-than-flattering links about Jorge Carrasco with trumped up positive search results. The most infuriating part of this is that nobody really seems to be able to find anything about Carrasco worth hiding.
It’s not clear what negative stories City Light executives were trying to squash—or whether the utility got any lasting results for its money. Google search results for City Light last week were dominated by news and criticism of Carrasco’s proposed raise. Among the negative headlines from previous years that ranked high in search results was a Seattle Weekly article from 2008 that called Carrasco’s tenure at City Light “polarizing” and described the utility as “beleaguered.”
I mean, people bitching about you getting a raise might not be the most welcome thing ever, but battling that criticism about you getting more money by spending taxpayer money to drown out that criticism may not be the best of plans. Hello Streisand Effect. On top of that silliness, some other folks are getting caught up in the fallout.
“Among the mentions generated for City Light by the deal were blog posts on websites including Huffington Post, which did not disclose they were connected to a paid marketing campaign for the utility,” the Times added. The relevant article on the Huffington Post has since been removed. Neither City Light nor Dana Robinson Slote, a city spokeswoman, immediately responded to Ars’ request for comment. Ars did however put in a public records request for these documents.
Yeah, while rules dealing with what must be disclosed and when can tread into silly territory, this is kind of a huge no-no. If larger blogging sources like The Huffington Post are suddenly allowing unacknowledged paid articles to be posted to their site, readers are going to quickly lose trust. If THP received no payment for this article, which is very hard to believe, they will still find readers questioning what else on the site has been bought and paid for.
So way to go, City Light. Once again, attempts to “manage” online reputations results in everyone being worse off. Enjoy that Streisand Effect.