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Relevancy before you need it
by Andy
August 10, 2012

Summer is over, and so is my blog hiatus.

An article in this week’s Business Week (August 6, 2012) highlights the real need for maintaining brand positivity as social media can create extraordinary corporate headaches at virtually no cost.  Nike felt this wrath when ‘web-savvy critics of its labor practices skillfully used search engine optimization to inundate the Internet with negative portraits of the shoemaker’ (p. 20).  News got out that offshore wages at Nike’s shoe factories were akin to slave labor (when compared to U.S. standards), and that child labor laws were being abused – all while posting fantastic revenues and profitability.

While all multi-nationals are victim of sporadic mud slinging, I believe it’s the rare occasion that these reported misdeeds are systemic and worthy of such wrath.  (Arguably, Wall Street is worthy of such focus).  Nor am I taking a side in Nike’s off-shore HR practices.  But mistakes happen no matter how good the intent.  The problem is that the social good these companies often do (i.e., United Way, parks & recreation, jobs) rarely generates headlines because it makes for poor ratings.  Bad news sells better.

Today, the potential for PR disaster is extreme.  Since the Nike controversy, the Internet has matured and created a brand management nightmare as it enables a vocal minority, the radical right (or left), or a disgruntled worker to wreak havoc.  One viral video, one angry employee, one tainted product can undo years of social positivity and brand investment.  Making matters worse, it can come from down the hall or around the World.

The problem is that you cannot undo the Internet, nor can you undo the passions of happy consumers or angry mobs.  So how do you combat that?

Rob Norman, CEO of GroupM North America, has a strong take on this.  Rather than wait to put out a fire, he believes you can inhibit disaster before it occurs.  Remember, social media is far more focused than traditional outlets.  It allows birds of a feather to flock together and discuss issues very actively and passionately.  Effective monitoring can find these social conversations and isolate potential pockets of concern, which creates an opportunity to diffuse complaints or concerns before they blow up.  Showcasing brand goodness is far more effective before issues arise, not after.  I agree.

Better yet, social media is a very inexpensive way to keep a strong baseline of positivity to support your brand.

Loyal consumers and vocal minorities are a passionate bunch.  And, they possess unfettered access to global communications.  Keeping a solid beat of relevant positivity is key to effective brand management and for dousing a firestorm of bad press before it ignites.

2 Responses to “Relevancy before you need it”

  1. Love this article. So true.

  2. Love this article. So true.

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