#14 – Why Hackers threaten your reputation, bribing for positive reviews is bad, and have Heinz ads gone mad?

#14 – Why Hackers threaten your reputation, bribing for positive reviews is bad, and have Heinz ads gone mad?

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This week we discuss why bribing journalists for positive reviews is bad, how cyber hackers can threaten your reputation, and Heinz does something unexpected with their ads.

Each week, we’ll take a look at the most interesting reputation management stories, answer your questions, and share valuable ORM tactics. In this week’s episode:

If you have a question you would like us to tackle, please leave a comment below or on my Facebook Page.

Transcript (forgive us for any typos):

Andy Beal:                  And after taking a two-week break, we are back with a new episode, and Erin is with me. Hi, Erin.

Erin Jones:                  Hello.

Andy Beal:                  How are you doing?

Erin Jones:                  I’m doing pretty well. How about you?

Andy Beal:                  I’m doing pretty good, with the exception that I got hacked just recently.

Erin Jones:                  Oh, that is the worst.

Andy Beal:                  Well, you know, I wasn’t expecting Skype to be the one that gets hacked. You know, I have Skype, I’ve been using it for many, many years, and I’m always just logged in to it. In fact, I’m using it now. And I’m always logged in, so I don’t think about it, I don’t ever get prompted to update my password, and it’s been the same password for, gosh, I don’t know, 10, 15 years, and all of a sudden I log in and get this notification that I need to change my password, and I think to myself that it’s just Microsoft trying to get me to sign up for their logins as opposed to my old Skype one, and think nothing of it. And then, later in the day, one of my friends messages me and says, “Hey, you know, I’m not interested in whatever it is you’re sending me on Skype,” kind of tongue-in-cheek, and …

Erin Jones:                  Oh no.

Andy Beal:                  Yeah. Turns out that … Fortunately, I don’t have a whole lot of contacts on Skype — I just use it mostly as a telephone — but it turns out the hacker had messaged about 20 of my contacts with a phishing link, and fortunately, I was able to go in to delete it, I changed my password, I set up two-step authentication, and I was able to look at the history and see that it was someone in Korea that had logged in.

Erin Jones:                  That’s really interesting. And especially, like you said, Skype is not … Maybe I shouldn’t admit this over the air, but it’s not somewhere that I would commonly think of that, and I definitely probably don’t keep tabs on it the way that I should.

Andy Beal:                  Yeah. And, well, part of me was thinking, “Well, come on, Microsoft, this is someone logging in from Korea. Surely you’re smart enough to realize that’s not me.” But, you know, maybe it’s my own fault, and the reason I bring it up is, you know, it has an effect on my reputation. Of course, my friends were teasing me, it’s like, “Hey Andy, this is not good for the reputation guy to be spending spam links, blah blah blah,” so I get it, and I deserve that. But it could easily hurt you. If you have an account that’s compromised, not only could you lose sensitive information and maybe have your credit reduced, which is going to hurt your reputation in life, but who knows what they’re going to use the account for, and then you’re going to have to do a lot of explaining, and try to convince people that that was not you, and somebody hacked you, and it’s … You know, affects your reputation, and you’ve got some damage control to do.

Erin Jones:                  Absolutely. Especially with the political climate as hot as it is, we kind of joke tongue-in-cheek that whenever someone says something irresponsible on social media from a political position, that we know within an hour, they’re going to respond and say, “I’m sorry about that, my account got hacked,” and we all go, “Oh, ha ha, yeah right.” So it’s definitely … You don’t want to be on the side of having to make that announcement, because I think people … It’s hard, it’s happening more often, so you kind of expect it to happen, but you also kind of expect people to use it as an excuse when things don’t go their way.

Andy Beal:                  And trust me, I’ve used those case studies in my presentations, of “Hey, we were hacked, it wasn’t us,” and everybody’s the same reaction, it’s like, “Yeah, likely story.” There’s a … A Pew survey came out this week that touches on this. 64% of US adults have been affected by a data breach, and 49% of us believe that our personal information is actually less secure than it was five years ago.

Erin Jones:                  And, you know, I agree with that. I think I’m in a little bit more of a unique position because I’m married to someone who does network security for a living, and so I hear a lot of the horror stories from that end of things, and get the lecture frequently, because I’m probably the worst person on the planet at changing passwords and keeping up with my security. But it seems like the attacks are getting more intelligent, also, and we’re getting a little bit more complacent about it.

Andy Beal:                  And we’re connecting so much more to the Internet — I mean, my watch connects to the Internet these days — so there’s so many more places where we can come under attack. I know I try to use two-step authentication as often as I can, but the problem with that is it always … You know, it always seems to inconvenient me more than the actual hackers. I’m the one that’s trying to find my phone to type in the code, and sometimes I wonder if it’s worth the hassle. Then, of course, my Skype gets hacked, and, you know, that convinces me that I need to do it.

Just kind of connected to this, I had a software company that I built, a software called Journalate, which was a private online diary, and we use the best encryption that we could find. I couldn’t even bypass it to look at what someone’s personal private journal entries were, so it was that good. But it kept me awake at night, because this was a side project for me, it was a small hobby company, and I’m thinking, “I don’t know what people have shared in their journals,” and if it gets hacked, then-

Erin Jones:                  Oh my gosh.

Andy Beal:                  You know, it’s not making enough money, not enough of my focus to worry about that, so I sold it a few weeks ago to someone that can make it their focus. But if you’re a company that stores private information, doesn’t even have to be credit card information, just can be addresses and telephone numbers, you really need to make sure that on a regular basis, you are checking your security, that you have a plan in place if there’s a data breach, because something like that could be totally out of your hands, but completely devastate your reputation.

Erin Jones:                  Definitely, and all it takes is one … Not even high-profile, one medium-profile user to turn attention on it with huge magnification. Especially with something like Journalate, if someone, a high-profile person, were using an account and spilling secrets to themself — which, you know, they may do to kind of unload — and then it got out there, that’s definitely a spotlight that you do not want.

Andy Beal:                  Right, and so you have to take that into account. I think a lot of firms focus on the bells and the whistles, and they don’t necessarily focus on core things such as infrastructure. And so your reputation could be hurt just as much, if not more, if your servers go down. You know, you’re relying on Amazon, and they have an outage, like they did a few weeks ago, for a number of hours, and now you’re having to explain to your customers why their service is not working. Or you’ve not updated PHP in a while, and there’s a vulnerability that you’ve not patched, and now you’re leaking their personal information on the Internet, and so you have to focus on these aspects of your product or your service. And it might not even be that high-tech; it could be that you’ve hired the wrong person, and that person is skimming credit card numbers from your clients’ files and using it to make small purchases at the weekend that they hope go unnoticed.

Erin Jones:                  Yeah, it’s kind of the high-tech version of people grabbing a couple dollars out of the cash register before they leave, and I think it’s going to become more and more common. Something that actually surprised me, one of the stats from the article … Or, from the study, was that only 41% of Americans have gotten fraudulent charges on their credit cards. I’ve had this happen more than once, and luckily, one of them, they caught the person in the store and arrested them, which was kind of exciting on our end, because we were on the phone the whole time. But I don’t think I know anyone that hasn’t had someone try to use their credit card or their credit card number, so I thought that that seemed almost like a low number.

Andy Beal:                  Yeah, I mean, it’s happened to me, on Christmas Eve morning, woke up to get a fraud alert that someone had been buying something in Walmart or Best Buy up in New York, and wanted confirmation if it was us or not. Yeah, we really live in an age where we’re connecting more, we’re sharing more socially, so we have to be careful. Side tip: If you’ve got a social media profile, don’t make your full date of birth public. There’s so many of my friends where when it’s their birthday, Facebook tells me exactly how old they are, because they’re making public their full date of birth. I mean, you’re just making it one step easier for someone to assume your identity, so be careful about the information you share.

Be careful about the services that you use. I see some really good products out there that look really innovative, they just launched, but I know nothing about the company, and while it might be exciting and cool, you have to ask yourself, well, you know, “How secure is it? Who’s behind it? What happens if they go out of business in six months and I’ve put all this personal information on there?”

Erin Jones:                  Right, and along with the date of birth, I know people that when they get home at night, they check in to their home address, so they’ve got their birth date, they’ve got their home address, their full names, you know, a little bit further, where their kids are at school. With that little bit of information, you can do a lot of damage.

Andy Beal:                  Right, right. And I think that on the company side, you have to educate your customers. Now, one thing I like, a really good example is I use MailChimp for email delivery, and MailChimp actually offered me a $5 a month discount if I installed an … Went ahead with two-step authentication. So they basically said, “Hey, this is so important for us and for you that we’re going to give you a discount if you implement this extra security,” and I’m like, “Yeah, let’s do it.”

Erin Jones:                  And that’s awesome, because not only are they valuing you, they’re valuing all of the people that trust you, that get your emails, and I think that’s a really great way to reach out and let people know that it’s important.

Andy Beal:                  Right. Now, I’m going to shoehorn a segue into “reaching out.” If you’re reaching out to journalists, trying to get a review of your product, don’t follow the route that Jetsmarter took. Now, Jetsmarter is like Uber for private jets, which is something I never have to worry about testing out in the future. Don’t think that’s ever going to happen. But they reached out to The Verge, I think it was, and wanted them to do a review, and were willing to let a journalist go through the entire process and take a private flight. Very cool, very exciting, but hidden in the small print of that offer, they wanted to hold a charge on the credit card for $2,000 if the journalist failed to write, effectively, a positive article about their experience, which is absolutely crazy.

Erin Jones:                  It’s not only crazy, but I feel like they were taking a really big chance here, in that you can’t get a private round-trip flight for two grand. I’m kind of surprised none of these journalists said, “You know what, charge me two grand, I’m going to have a party on one of your planes, and then I’m going to write whatever I want.”

Andy Beal:                  Okay, well that talks to the integrity of some of the journalists that are out there, but yeah, you’re right, it’s amazing that someone didn’t just try to call their bluff and say, “Okay, that sounds fine,” and then write their negative review, complete with the full details of the charge, and then just eat the charge as part of, you know, their investigative journalism. So I could see that, but instead, they kind of outed Jetsmarter and wrote an exposé on the practice. The problem is, this is just like astroturfing, where you’re paying for positive reviews, or, you know, these companies that have anti-disparagement clauses, where if you write a negative review, they’re going to fine you.

It all falls into that realm of, hey, wait a minute, shouldn’t you just be building a really good product or a really good service, as opposed to putting out something that even you’re not confident people are going to like, and therefore, you put this kind of fine in there if they say something negative? It really kind of speaks to the quality of your own product. If I was owning Jetsmarter, I wouldn’t want a journalist within a hundred yards of it unless I felt I was offering a five-star product or service.

Erin Jones:                  Exactly. I mean, reading this post, I automatically assumed that they were awful. You know, I just went, “Okay, well, there’s no way they’re providing a great service if they have to put a clause at the end that says, ‘If you don’t love everything about what we’re doing, we’re going to charge you for your experience.'” So I did a little bit of digging, and they have terrible Yelp reviews. From what I read, it sounds like about a year and a half ago, they provided a good service, and then maybe they got a little too big for their britches, and were busy and couldn’t accommodate everything the way they needed to, and it kind of started to fall apart. I don’t know if they were trying to get these reviews to put it back together, but it sounds like some of their other policies aren’t that great either, so, you know, it doesn’t sound like they’re going in a good direction, reputation-wise or service-wise, if they don’t make some really big changes really quickly.

Andy Beal:                  Right, and now it basically taints any positive review that’s out there, because you’re going to be asking yourself, you know, was this incentivized, or did these people have the same clause? And, you know, I have a little bit of experience with this, so … You know, with govisithawaii.com, my wife does a lot of reviews, and sometimes people will say, “Hey, come take our luau. We want you to take it and do a review.” Now, I can tell you that, for sure, we have never done anything where there was any kind of suggestion that, “Hey, we want you to write a positive review.” In fact, there’s been plenty of stuff we’ve done where we don’t have positive things to say about it, but it’s assumed that you take that chance.

It’s like, “Look, you know, we want you to experience this and we want you to be honest with your readers,” and for us, I’d rather just give them the hundred bucks and pay for it myself than have any kind of chance that they’re expecting a fully positive review. You know, there’s been times where I’ll just [inaudible 00:16:24] on Twitter or Facebook and say, “Hey, doing something,” and, you know, “the flight’s late,” or “the seats are terrible,” or “the food is awful.” But yeah, you know, there’s a way to reach out to a journalist, and it’s fine to say, “Hey, we want you to test this out and try it,” but you can’t put any kind of a caveat on it and say, “Only if you then write” … “We only want you to write something positive.” You just … That’s just asking for backlash, because any kind of journalist with integrity is going to, at best, say “no thank you,” or at worst, use that as the basis for their article.

Erin Jones:                  Absolutely, and there are multiple news outlets that I could see going, “You know what? This is going to be worth $2,000, because it’s going to go down in flames, and it’s going to be amusing, and it’s going to go viral,” and just the whole thing, I just … I don’t … This is such a grown-up word, but it’s icky. Like, I just feel like the whole … The way that it was worded, and they way that they reached out to people, it just feels kind of smarmy, almost. And it definitely doesn’t make me go, “Wow, that makes me feel like this great executive who’s going to be flying private because I can afford this timeshare service.”

Andy Beal:                  Yeah. It’s kind of funny that they’re becoming known as “the Uber of private jets,” because Uber’s reputation is in the gutter right now, and that’s where theirs is going. All right, let’s move on, let’s finish up with something that is a little bit more positive, and you’ve got a story about Heinz.

Erin Jones:                  Yes, I came across this article yesterday, and I just thought it was really a neat integration, and a neat way to bring attention to ketchup, which we’ve talked recently about products that aren’t always top of mind, how they get people’s attention, and what they can do without being obnoxious or awful, getting negative attention. So Heinz is using an ad that was actually pitched in an episode of Mad Men. Don Draper, the lead character, was pitching Heinz on an ad campaign, and it ended up being something that they turned away from, and so … On the show, and now, a few years after that show aired, Heinz is coming back and saying, “You know what? We’re going to go back, and we’re going to take this ad from Don Draper, because we realized that it’s going to work well,” and they’re turning it into a real national ad campaign.

Andy Beal:                  Now, what I loved about this ad is, if you see it … We’ll put a link in the show notes. If you see it, it’s basically a picture of a hamburger, and then it says, you know, “Where’s the Heinz?” There’s no picture of the bottle of ketchup at all, because … And you watch the clip from Mad Men, they’re basically saying, “Look, your brand is so associated with ketchup, we don’t even need to put your product in there. The human brain, the person that sees this, is going to fill in that gap and know that it’s Heinz ketchup that’s missing from that delicious hamburger.” And this kind of lends itself to … It’s not just building a reputation for something, but building an iconic brand that is strong enough that when people just utter your name, they immediately think of one thing that you do really well. And so with this ad, it’s like, “Where’s the Heinz?” and people are going to go, “Yeah, where is the ketchup? That burger needs ketchup.”

Erin Jones:                  Absolutely, and I just … I love the way that … First of all, I think it’s a great ad campaign. It’s really clean, it speaks to itself, and like you said, our brains just automatically connect anything without a lot of noise. And I thought it was neat that they tied it in to the show, because the show’s got a big enough following … You know, I haven’t watched it in several years, admittedly, but as soon as I saw the link, I thought it was really cool that they did this.

Andy Beal:                  Yeah, so you’ve got two brands overlapping, they work together to make sure that … Heinz made sure that they could use the ad, and I think the actual Heinz ad agency gives partial credit to the fake agency from Mad Men for coming up with the campaign, so they really worked together. So now you’ve got two strong brands that are overlapping; it’s going to help them both. People are going to be like, “Hey, Heinz is really cool, I want to use Heinz ketchup instead of Hunt’s ketchup,” and now people are going to be like, “Hey, yeah, I need to go back and check out Mad Men,” or “I’ve never seen that show, I want to watch it, because it sounds like it’d be something cool,” so they … It’s a win-win for both brands piggybacking off of each other.

Erin Jones:                  Yeah, and it kind of went back and said, you know, “50 years ago, the world wasn’t ready for this clean, sleek advertising, but today, people get it, and so we’re going to do it this way,” and it just … I thought it was really fun, kind of tongue-in-cheek, that they went back and made fun of their old selves, and realized that they were much more cool and streamlined now, and just fun all the way around.

Andy Beal:                  Yeah. So if you’ve got a brand that you’re building, try not to be the jack of all trades and the master of none, right? Focus on something simple, memorable, that when your brand is uttered, people are going to go, “Oh yeah, that’s that,” such-and-such, “software company,” or “Oh yeah, they make great phones.” Whatever it may be, focus on building a reputation where people talk about it, and when they say your name, it’s going to mean something. So, you know, “Andy Beal” means “reputation,” and when you get hacked by Skype, everybody picks on me for doing something to hurt my reputation that wasn’t my fault.

All right, well, on that positive note, we’ll wrap up the show. Thank you all for listening, as always. Please leave a comment on the podcast page, or head to the Facebook page at andybealORM. If you have a comment, or you have a question about reputation management, we’d be happy to hear from you. Erin, thank you for joining me this week. Hope you have a great week, and I know you got a little bit of sickness in the house, so hope everybody feels better.

Erin Jones:                  Thank you. We are coming back strong.

Andy Beal:                  All right. And thank you all for listening. We really appreciate you tuning in, and hope you’ll join us again next week. Bye-bye.

ByAndy Beal

Andy Beal is The Original Online Reputation Expert™. A bestselling author of two critically-acclaimed reputation management books, a keynote speaker at dozens of events, and brand consultant experience with thousands of individuals and companies.

    2 Comments for “#14 – Why Hackers threaten your reputation, bribing for positive reviews is bad, and have Heinz ads gone mad?”
    1. Andy, What a brilliant presentation! It seems that you’re also a top influencer in the world wide web. In my 5 years carrier I am getting most clients having threaten by bad reputation. I think that this might be the solution for them. And, Ah Yes, I can suggest them should followed you in twitter for this. Thanks!

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