Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Don’t Be Evil – the Long View on Reputation Management

No doubt Google gave careful consideration to potential fallout that the January 12th news of their plans to review their business operations in China might bring. Nonetheless, it took three weeks for signs that the tailspin was under control. Although the future of the company's Chinese business is anybody's guess, Google's on its way to a PR win.

Over recent weeks, commentators claimed Google's approach to China demonstrated their failure to understand both Chinese business culture and American audiences. Among bloggers, the company's public threat to withdraw from the Chinese market failed to acknowledge the impact on its users. Among analysts, it represented naivete over the Chinese government's willingness to make concessions.

Competitors exploited the news by citing hacking concerns as "a Google problem." They suggested Google was casting wide allegations to avert crisis within their own business. USA Today reported predictions that "Google's dead in China."

This week's announcement by Senator Dick Durbin breathes new life into the search giant's decision to no longer adhere to censorship rules and possibly pull out of China. "I commend Google for coming to the conclusion that cooperating with the ‘Great Firewall’ of China is inconsistent with their human rights responsibilities,” wrote Durbin. We'll hear more about this next month when Google testifies before his Judiciary Subcommittee on Human Rights and the Law. The hearing on global Internet freedom, in light of recent events, will reset Google's reputation on censorship and access.

In 2005, Google gave censorship of search results a "go" in order to launch Google.cn. At the time, they meekly insisted that "we aren't happy about what we had to do this week, and we hope that over time everyone in the world will come to enjoy full access to information." For all the drubbing they took then, Google is becoming a more positive example. - Potomac Communications Group

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