When SEO appears on The Archers… | White.net

When SEO appears on The Archers…

By Rachel McCombie / September 29, 2011

…There can be no further doubt that it’s mainstream. Yes, a discussion around search engine optimisation has featured on never-ending Radio 4 farming-community soap opera The Archers.

You’re probably wondering why I would know this. The answer is that, being prematurely middle aged enough to refer to the radio as “the wireless”, I am also middle aged (and countrified) enough to tune into The Archers from time to time (I don’t follow it religiously or anything, honest!).

For anyone who isn’t a regular listener, let me update you. Bridge Farm has been responsible for an outbreak of e-coli, spread through its ice cream. It effectively poisoned some kids at a gymkhana and landed two customers in hospital. Naturally, the national and local press has gone to town on the story and the Bridge Farm dairy has lost all of its customers.

But the farmers now plan to rebuild their reputation and their business. The only problem is that anytime anyone searches for ‘Bridge Farm’, the top stories are all about e-coli – not exactly a message that’s going to get people excited about your ice cream.

So, they want to use an SEO agency to work some online reputation management magic and allow them to restore their brand. Here’s what I would advise:

Address the issues
Tony and Pat Archer need to draw a line under the crisis. Unfortunately, they can’t talk to the press – every time they do, the journalist reignites the e-coli story and they feed the flames. But they do need to ensure they’ve addressed the issues behind the outbreak and show that they have done so.

One option would be to fire the source of the outbreak – one of their dairy staff – and tell their customers what they’ve done. But Tony and Pat seem like nice people and don’t want to make their employee a scapegoat.

Instead, they should issue a press release highlighting the changes they’ve made that ensure greater hygiene standards are observed.

Move the story on
After that press release, they need to stop talking about the outbreak. Not on their website and not to journalists.

Each time they do that, they ruin their chances of moving the story on. Even a sympathetic journalist wanting to document how their business is recovering will be telling the story of how they put two children in hospital.

Create new buzz
Instead of dwelling on the negative story, they need to do other newsworthy things, so there are more recent, positive news stories that will potentially appear in the search engine results.

Perhaps they could attempt some silly news story, like making a record-breaking sausage, or a serious but positive story such as launching an organic farming awareness day.

They should probably steer clear of stories relating to any of their dairy business, as this simply invites mentions of the e-coli crisis.

Push other products
Bridge Farm’s website should be overhauled so that it is primarily optimised for their non-dairy products.

Rebuilding their dairy business is going to take time and the farm needs to maintain its income in the meantime. One way to do that is to ensure that the meat products are being strongly marketed.

If you search for ‘Bridge Farm’ and a load of content on organic sausages and happy pedigree pigs ranks first then you have an initially positive experience of the brand.

Drive their reputation socially
The farmers should use their website, write a blog, tweet and encourage supporters to ‘like’ Bridge Farm on Facebook.

Using these platforms, they can build customer loyalty and increase the amount of positive mentions of their brand on the web.

These help drive new customers and maintain ties with their current ones.

If all else fails, ditch the brand
Potentially, Bridge Farm has simply become a toxic brand. Giving a bunch of gymkhana kids e-coli is one hell of a reputation crisis.

If none of the above methods work and the end seems near, it could well be time to rebrand, repackage and begin their promotional campaign from scratch.

Then they can instigate some positive reputation management tactics and build a loved brand.

Now, how to boost business at The Bull…

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