IC Media Direct is a public relations and reputation management firm based in Washington D.C. that also operates a satellite office out of New York City. Dedicated to improving the profiles of its clients online, the firm focuses on ensuring that reputable and positive results are the first returned when someone runs a search on a client’s name. The company works with individual professionals, private companies and non-profit organizations. Fast Take: While it seems the company is on the right track, and is even occasionally successful when it comes to short-term fixes, we cannot recommend them as a long-term service. The company’s flagship accounts featured in their case studies all seem to have reverted back to their negative origin, and when evaluating an online reputation management campaign that’s considered a failure.The History of IC Media Direct IC Media Direct was formed in 1996 with the express purpose of handling PR for clients in the then-emerging world of online commerce. Since its initial inception, IC Media Direct has grown its services to focus primarily on helping clients restore and manage their online reputations. The company is one of the oldest firms working in this realm and has hired writers with major business and online publications in order to accomplish its aims. IC Media Direct promotes their services as offering clients a second chance at a first impression. The firm participates in and sponsors a variety of marketing, media and technology conferences every year. While its physical offices are located on the East Coast, the firm works with clients from 49 different countries via its phone consultation and Internet-based interfaces. IC Media Direct definitely talks a big game, but whether or not they live up to it is another story.Services from IC Media Direct Reputation management forms the heart of IC Media Direct’s client services. These services are designed to help clients garner the best first-page search results possible on all major search engines including Google, Yahoo, Bing, AOL and MSN. By improving page-one search results, the firm aims to help its clients create a better online image. They work with an array of individuals as well as businesses and organizations on reputation management. In addition to managing overall online reputation, IC Media Direct also helps clients who have suffered from negative publicity online restore their good names. These services are generally targeted to clients who’ve suffered as a result of negative news coverage about themselves, their family members or their employees. When developing reputation management strategies, IC Media Direct constructs long-term action plans designed to address current reputation correction needs as well as ongoing reputation management. While the core of IC Media Direct’s services focus on online reputation restoration and management, the firm also offers a comprehensive suite of PR services. They research, plan and execute PR strategies on behalf of their clients. As part and parcel of this work, the firm cooperates closely with major online media outlets to publish high-quality content and track public reactions to their clients. IC Media Direct claims to have had a great deal of success within the case study section of their website. Unfortunately, as we’ll see later on in this article, the claims they make and the reality are two different stories. How Does IC Media Direct Manage Online Reputation? IC Media Direct positions itself as a company that proactively manages online reputation while pushing down negative items in search results. The firm accomplishes this by staying current with search engine algorithms and working actively with partner sites to promote positive news about its clients. Clients work with account managers who in turn work with a larger publicity team to create positive content. screen-shot-2016-09-23-at-1-39-32-pm Potential clients of IC Media Direct contact the firm to request a free, confidential consultation. These requests can be made via either a toll-free number or through an online web form. During the consultation, a firm representative talks to the potential client about their online reputation concerns and needs. Representatives gather information about the client’s line of business and public profile to better understand what types of concerns are most important to address. The firm states that it has employees who speak 49 languages in order to meet the needs of potential clients around the world. That’s a nice touch that acts as a bit of a differentiator for the company. The reputation restoration and management process starts with thorough online research about each individual client. During the research phase, IC Media Direct focuses on analyzing what types of results come up for a client’s name. They identify negative items so that it’s clear what must be countered. In some cases, the firm must also work to identify results that are completely irrelevant so that they can be pushed down. This most often happens when a client shares its name with another individual or company with an online presence. IC Media Direct looks to focus on new content creation, similar to a Reputation.com program. Unfortunately, as we reviewed over there, simple content creation is not enough. A new profile on a site like About.me is not going to be enough to outrank a negative article from the Wall Street Journal (just to use an example). After the initial research phase is completed, the IC Media Direct Team creates an action plan for reputation management. This plan may include publishing positive news items, addressing negative items and building strong online profiles on popular social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Once the plan is completed, a representative from the firm goes over it with the client. At this point, the client is encouraged to make suggestions or to provide supplemental information regarding online reputation concerns.After the client and IC Media Direct reach agreement on an action plan, the company’s representatives and writers begin their work to restore online reputation. The primary means through which this is accomplished is with positive publicity. The firm maintains that most consumers will view only the first page of search results for a given individual or company, so it focuses on these first-page results. Professional writers working with well-known online publications create high-quality articles about individuals and businesses that will rank in these first-page results, thus pushing down negative items. There is an open question over whether or not this type of work is ethical, as people trust the news sites featured in the accompanying image to be non-biased. While IC Media Direct works with a number of online media outlets, the bulk of its efforts are focused on placing positive items on Bloomberg, Reuters and MarketWatch-affiliated sites. In addition to publishing new stories, the firm also creates and disseminates press releases on behalf of their clients. These releases are shopped to a variety of online outlets and local news outlets to ensure that client results are positive across both general and locally focused searches. Focusing on press releases in a common tactic in the ORM industry, so it’s a positive sign that IC Media Direct uses them. Whether or not simple press releases offer enough power to outrank “undesirable” listings (as the firm calls them) remains to be seen. After initial reputation restoration work is completed, a client management team from IC Media Direct continues to monitor the online reputations of individual clients. Press releases and news stories are published as needed to maintain positive first-page search results. IC Media Direct does not publish pricing information for its services. Potential clients are given quotes tailored to their particular needs. This pricing takes the scope of the project and individual reputation management demands into consideration. IC Media Direct: The Client’s ViewDue to the sensitive nature of its work, many of the clients of IC Media Direct prefer not to disclose that they are working with the firm. This is not a negative reflection on the company but is very common among firms working in reputation restoration and management. While unfiltered client reviews are not readily available online, the company does profile companies and individuals it works with on its clients and case studies page. These case studies highlight how the firm was able to tackle online reputation concerns. They also showcase the types of positive content that the firm is able to push to first-page search results on major search engines. The company also publishes press releases that it has created and released on behalf of its clients. These showcase the type of writing that IC Media Direct employees specialize in and helps potential clients determine if the firm can meet their PR needs. For clients, one of the chief drawbacks of the firm’s reputation management services is that they cannot counteract negative reviews on consumer sites such as Google+ and Yelp. These sites closely control reviews and do not allow third-party services to solicit positive reviews from customers. However, IC Media Direct representatives can work with clients to craft thoughtful and positive responses to negative comments on review sites that allow businesses to respond to client concerns. IC Media Direct also glosses over another problem – most of their case studies feature outdated or strictly untrue information! See below for an excerpt from another online review about the company:As you can see, many projects that IC Media Direct use as their case study projects are “unclean” and contain negative results. That’s not good! It could be a sign that IC Media Direct’s work is only a temporary band-aid, and comes undone without constant upkeep or contract renewal. That would be unfair to clients that spent months paying multiple thousands of dollars in retainers and finally see a finished product, only to see the work undone as soon as their contract ends. Whether or not the pages were never clean or once were and currently aren’t, it’s a major red flag in regards to IC Media Direct’s effectiveness.A Final Note about IC Media Direct IC Media Direct is often referred to as one of the leaders in the field of reputation management. This is largely because the firm is one of the oldest working in this area and has been able to form meaningful partnerships with high-level business publications. The firm’s employees are well educated regarding reputation management and how search engine algorithms affect individual client results. Unfortunately, the firms backend work does not look to be as effective as they paint it out to be. The case study projects, which should be a company’s flagship work, are generally messy and look as if nobody has done any work on them. Overall it’s hard to recommend a company that can’t even put it’s best foot forward when it says it is.