UPDATE on information pertaining to Seattle City Light’s contract with Brand.com- 6/25/2014.
When you do a google search for “Seattle City Light” or “Jorge Carrasco” the first news stories to pop up all involve Seattle City Light paying a certain online reputation management firm—Brand.com—to write fake news stories in order to boost its public image.
Of course, in hind sight, the irony of it all must be appreciated. City Light hired Brand.com in an initial $7,000 contract and signed a second contract with a cap of $40,000 in order to plant fake new stories that would “lessen the prevalence of any negative or less-relevant stories” in Google searches. Seattle City Light spent $17,500 in total. On June 25, the Seattle Times reported that Seattle City Light ended its contract with Brand.com and is seeking a refund. As a consequence of its terrible decision, City Light’s online presence is more disastrous—and negative—than ever. And, just in case you are wondering, not a single fake story appears in the “first 10 pages of Google search results for ‘Seattle City Light’ or ‘Jorge Carrasco.’”
What does show up are news stories from various news outlets and popular national blogs including TheBlaze.com (Wait Until You See How Much Seattle Paid for ‘Positive Buzz’).
Making matters worse, if contract terms are of any consideration, City Light did not even stand a chance to improve its public image. You see, City Light CEO Jorge Carrasco contracted Brand.com to cast himself and City Light as “green visionaries.” However, as the Seattle Times points out, the “stories don’t read as if they were written by humans.” That’s because “City Light ‘paid for doctorate level content’ from a ‘network of influential bloggers’… What it got feels more like software bots sifted through old news releases and assembled the bits into broken English.”
So, what press could have been so bad that City Light—a monopoly no less—felt the need to hire an outside agency to plant fake news stories? No one really knows.
The Seattle Times’ Danny Westneat ventures his guess,
“The worst that can be found about City Light on Google anyway is a bunch of people complaining about their bills, along with a 6-year-old Seattle Weekly article saying Carrasco can be a hot-tempered autocrat. You called in the image plumbers for that?”
City Light has paid $17,500 of its $47,000 with Brand.com. We wait in anticipation to see whether or not City Light plans to use the remaining contract to combat negative press due to this story… and the fact that CEO Carrasco is now the highest paid city employee after receiving a raise of $60,000 to make his total yearly salary $305,000, retro-active to January 2014.