Google Blogger Attacks Sicko, Backtracks

On Friday, Google Health account planner Lauren Turner tried to rally healthcare advertisers against Michael Moore's latest documentary, Sicko, by advising them that they should increase their presence in the search results in a blog post on the Google Health Advertising blog, "Does negative press make you Sicko?"

The post was an attempt to educate healthcare advertisers of the benefits of search in reputation management, but many accused Google of going too far with its apparent partisanship, and by Sunday, Turner was forced to recant.

The healthcare industry is no stranger to negative press. A drug may be a blockbuster one day and tolled as a public health concern the next. News reporters may focus on Pharma's annual sales and its executives' salaries while failing to share R&D costs. Or, as is often common, the media may use an isolated, heartbreaking, or sensationalist story to paint a picture of healthcare as a whole. With all the coverage, it's a shame no one focuses on the industry's numerous prescription programs, charity services, and philanthropy efforts.

Many of our clients face these issues; companies come to us hoping we can help them better manage their reputations through “Get the Facts” or issue management campaigns. Your brand or corporate site may already have these informational assets, but can users easily find them?

Turner reminded advertisers that place text ads, video ads, and rich media ads in paid search results or on Google's content network could provide "a platform for educating the public and promoting your message."

On Sunday, Turner backtracked a bit, making it clear that the opinion of the film she expressed was her own, not Google's, but reiterating that search could be an effective way to manage a company's or an industry's reputation:

But the more important point, since I doubt that too many people care about my personal opinion, is that advertising is an effective medium for handling challenges that a company or industry might have. You could even argue that it's especially appropriate for a public policy issue like healthcare. Whether the healthcare industry wants to rebut charges in Mr. Moore's movie, or whether Mr. Moore wants to challenge the healthcare industry, advertising is a very democratic and effective way to participate in a public dialogue.

The film, according to the NY Times, attacks the American health care system and calls for its complete overhaul. Moore's goal is reform: the creation of "a single-payer system, with the government as insurer, that would guarantee access to health care for all Americans and put the private insurance industry out of business."