Stay committed to your decisions, but stay flexible in your approach.
- Tony Robbins
3 actions for brand protection in the digital world
October 7, 2014
After facilitating a planning session for a medium sized services business recently, the CEO came to me and posed an intriguing question – how do we protect our brand in the digital world?
This question is not uncommon and is on the minds of executive teams in particular. There is often a concern about how their organization’s brand can be trashed in the rapidly changing digital world, and especially as a result of social media. There is a focus on how well can the social media journey meet the desired outcome of the organization’s strategy, including the protection and indeed the enhancement of the brand.
One of the biggest challenges for organizations is managing any negative commentary on social media either from customers directly or the broader stakeholder community. Organizations are rightly fearful of any negative or sensational comment going viral and out of control. Comments that fit this category can originate with a disgruntled customer or someone who bears a grudge against the organization for some other reason. Whatever the reason, the issue at hand is how to manage a potentially damaging situation. On one level, this is no different from managing customer complaints and dealing with them quickly and in good faith.
But on another level, the social media environment creates a whole new ball game because the complaints or comments are out in the open and visible to many people. This can quickly become a many-to-many dialogue, and a brand can be trashed and reputations damaged in a very short space of time. In most cases, dealing with social media commentary requires a focus on three actions in particular.
1. Speed is the essence
The organization needs to respond with lightning speed to address negative comments on social media. This does not mean a response within a few hours or a day. It means an immediate response so that the organization is actively engaged in managing and influencing the damaging conversation that is occurring on social media. If this does not happen, the issue can balloon out of control, a legitimate fear of many organizations engaging with social media. An airline that is dealing with a baggage-handling problem or delay needs to move very quickly to fend off any undue criticism and commentary as quickly as they can. Some airlines such as JetBlue have been proactive and turned to social media and Twitter in particular to keep customers up to date in real time regarding delays or schedule changes.
2. Make the positives work
A second factor is the need to reinforce the key features of the brand that will help to mitigate any damage incurred. For instance, if customer service was the target of an aggressive conversation on social media, then once the immediate issue is addressed, the organization should highlight some the good things it is doing in the customer service space and perhaps some of the innovations it has introduced. Depending on the issue, this may need reinforcement over time.
3. Beware the noise
A third factor is dealing with some of the noise or trivia on social media, whether it be positive or negative. I recently saw a retailer on Facebook asking for suggestions for an ideal shopping aisle. They received some excellent suggestions, but amongst them, there were many comments that were a complete distraction from the main game. One hopeful person even suggested the ideal shopping aisle would be one where all the products were free. It is good to see that optimism is alive and well. But in reality, much of this sentiment is simply noise in the system, and there will always be an element of this.
Matt English is an independent business commentator and strategy consultant. He recently published the book Grasping Social Media available through Amazon