Online Crisis Management
Copycat Sites, Critics and Stealth Websites

What is it? Copycat web sites and critics
When do I use it? Stealth Websites
Article on Online Crises

What is it?

The best way to handle a crisis is not have one.

Online is often an early-alert for industries of issues that can affect their businesses. High-tech companies naturally monitor online, but other industries are affected as well, such as those targeted by interest groups like environmentalists. Online crisis management is useful in:

Green_Ball4100.gif (257 bytes) Fact collection: This is a product or service-based monitoring wherein organizations track customer or client populations to determine if unknown defects are occurring or known defects are creating customer dissatisfaction.

Green_Ball4100.gif (257 bytes) Identifying, tracking and correcting misperceptions and false statements: This is active participation in newsgroups, forums, bulletin boards, etc. to correct information that has been misquoted, wrongly excerpted or fabricated. Online can be pernicious in that wrong information is proliferated rapidly, widely and beyond the reach of affected organizations.

Green_Ball4100.gif (257 bytes) Rumor control: Online is highly useful in finding and stopping rumors that affect an organization. Rumors are no longer localized. They flash around the world instantly online, and a company can be victimized well before it knows that harmful rumors exist.

Green_Ball4100.gif (257 bytes) Immediate reach to traditional/online media to get clients story out, address crisis and respond to criticism: During crises, online is a useful way to get news out quickly. It takes a short time to open a Web page, or to place documents on existing Web pages, and even less time to notify media where to find the information online. On-line can serve as a news media resource between press conferences to prevent erroneous information from gaining wide dissemination.

When do I use it?

Every organization should have an online crisis monitoring program that tracks key newsgroups, forums and Web pages where its interests, products and services are discussed. Participation online should be planned carefully against target audiences. For example, an online Web site for a breaking news story does little good if media you are dealing with do not have rapid access to the Web. However, increasingly, most do.

There are hundreds of online resources  and services for crisis management.  Use any search engine or catalogue site, such as Yahoo!,  and enter the phrase "crisis management."

Copycat Web Sites and Critics

Critics can build copycat web sites to vent criticism at an organization. These sites can be shadows of the original. The copycat site looks close enough to the real site to fool people. If you have an organization or topic that is like to be controversial, check for copycat sites and monitor them regularly. Critics will build sites that attack an organization but may not attempt to look like the organization's site.  There are many of these sites throughout the Web.

Stealth Web Sites

Online pornographers often use Stealth Web sites or "Stealth URL's."  These are sites with Web addresses that are close to familiar sites and can be confused easily with them.  The sites use URL's that vary by one or two characters or simply by designator.  For example, is the Whitehouse in Washington, D.C. while is a porno site.    Creators of stealth sites will also change, omit or double a character in a familiar URLFor example:

Originial URL =   Stealth site URL =

Original URL =   Stealth site URL =

Original URL =   Stealth site URL =

Stealth sites can embarrass an organization, but there may be little or nothing that can be done about them. 

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