Crisis communications has always been a function of public relations. As the Internet continues to change the face and the scope of the public relations industry, communications professionals need to be prepared for potential damages that can occur and last forever on the Internet.
In Steve Earl and Stephen Waddington’s new book, #Brand Vandals – Reputation Wreckers and Hot to Build Better Defences: Corporate Reputation Risk and Response, the two UK PR professionals, take the reader on a realistic journey of what could happen and how to rectify damages that could occur on the web.
Stephen Waddington, European Digital and Social Media Director for Ketchum (one of the world’s largest public relations firms) writes section 1. He sets the stage for what could happen and what has happened to many British companies. Today, people hold the Internet in their hands. It’s always accessible. He writes to ignore social media, is to put your brand in the hands of vandals.
I know for me, when I call with a complaint, I barely get a response, but when I tweet out a complaint, many of the companies that I complain to, respond immediately. Twitter has become more common than making that call and that’s where things can get out of hand.
He writes that it’s important to listen and read what people are saying. It’s also important to see what people are saying about your competitors. (It could be an opportunity for you, he writes.)
He gives the reader some case studies that the “U.S.” reader certainly didn’t hear about before, including a situation that happened to Fortnum & Mason’s in England. The store refused to stop selling foie gras (goose liver) in their stores and the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) came right after them. They organized their troops, created videos and posts throughout the social networks. The bottom line here is, “never underestimate your customers.”
He also talks about how not only can your customers sabotage you, but your employees can too. Staff can whistle blow and leak information about your company easily to the public.
Steve Earl, European Managing Director of Zeno Group, wrote the second section – Tackling Brand Vandals. He says that it’s important to be prepared. He quotes Jonathan Copslky’s Brand Resilience, which definitely made sense to reiterate:
* Assess the situation
* Make sure that the employees are educated
* Rehearse the response
* Analyze what went well and what didn’t
* Measure the impact
* Create internal and external ambassadors
Earl says that brands need to build trust and then trust that their audience will support them. He says that leaders need to “stand strong, confident” and that they need to be able to handle snowballs and “chuck them back with gusto.”
He concludes the book by helping the reader prepare himself in 90 days to tackle almost any online attack.
There’s been a lot written about the subject of online vandalism, but what sets this book apart is that these two authors are from the UK and they bring examples that most of the people here, including social media people, have never heard about. I found that very interesting. All too often when American writers are writing about damage control, it’s always the same stories over and over again. This book shared light on the subject and put it in a different context.
The authors are both great writers and kept the reader absorbed in the book. To be honest, I started reading it one evening and couldn’t put it down. I found it that compelling. As a matter of fact, I plan to have my staff read it and it will be a recommended reading in my new Master’s class at Hofstra University.