Social media’s power has recently made headlines: consider the reputational damage to a senior executive at UBS through a LinkedIn post. We have also seen the release of the report ‘The Global Disinformation Order: 2019 Global Inventory of Organised Social Media Manipulation’ which tells us that organised social media manipulation is on the rise – with campaigns taking place in 70 countries. Social media’s influence is pervasive.
Australians spend an average of one hour and 31 minutes a day crafting their personal reputations on social media – that’s 637 minutes a week and over three weeks a year. Given this growing investment in our personal reputations, it stands to reason that we also need to invest more in organisational reputations. This is evident in over 90% of Australasia’s executive leaders saying that reputation is a primary asset of their organisations, according to research findings in our latest Reputation Reality report.
Social media is immediate and accessible, with undeniable power. Consider the unfolding of a crisis: social media and the smartphone have introduced ‘citizen journalists’ – people using Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat and Twitter channels to ‘tell the story’. Commentary on the issue will come from people on social media rather than your organisation. One hour is all it can take for a story to be told and a reputation to be damaged in the eyes of the public and your stakeholders.
Stakeholders are at the heart of SenateSHJ’s reputation management framework, which describes three critical elements to building trust and reputation:
- promotion, through identifying and promoting platforms that make a valuable contribution in areas stakeholders care about;
- protection, through building proactive plans to manage areas of concern or risk, including stakeholder engagement, issues management and culture audits; and
- engagement, through managing employee engagement to highlight and embed specific cultures and behaviours that build trust with customers and stakeholders.
These elements all come into play when dealing with a crisis on social media.
Social media facilitates rapid communication across the world when a crisis occurs. But the work you do before the crisis in using social media to build and maintain a strong reputation is essential. Genuine connections build a base of advocates and an ideal outcome: your brand supporters jumping in and supporting your organisation during a crisis, with strength in numbers.
The story can also be managed through owned channels and interactions on these channels. When a crisis hits, digital channels allow you to reach out immediately to key players who have influence when it comes to your brand and present your side of the story quickly.
Organisations have succeeded in maintaining (or even enhancing) their reputation in the wake of a crisis – those that do swiftly acknowledge any error on their part as a crucial first step. Sometimes even humour, when used appropriately, (particularly tongue-in-cheek) can positively impact stakeholders. KFC in the United Kingdom employed such an approach when supplier issues caused the closure of several stores as there was not enough chicken. This crisis began with customer complaints on social media. The complaints turned to compliments after an apologetic advertisement was published with the company name rearranged to spell ‘FCK’.
Reputation management is becoming more important and more complex in our professional and personal lives with the power of social media. You can use social media to tell and manage your story when a crisis hits – or others will. It is essential to plan, act swiftly, and importantly promote, protect and engage.