You talking to me?

2011-04-21 00:00

Several months after the oil disaster caused by BP in the Gulf of Mexico, the company’s much-maligned (and now former) CEO Tony Hayward appeared in a minute-long TV advertisement expressing just how “deeply sorry” the petroleum company was about the devastating effects of its oil spill. BP’s attempt at scraping together the remaining shreds of its reputation was a classic example of the “too little, too late” cliché and the entire event is now tacked up as the “worst case” example of what happens when companies fail to manage their reputations in crisis situations – especially in a world of social networking.

The idea is the central premise of media specialist and main BBC World presenter Nik Gowing’s study, entitled Skyful of Lies and Black Swans, and his recent address in Johannesburg to select business groupings. Gowing says most companies’ existing methods of communicating with the public and managing their brand reputation – typically, communications agencies and carefully engineered press releases – are no longer adequate in a world where the power of information has shifted away from traditional media sources to citizens with access to information and a mobile device to share it.

One of the biggest web trend news sources – – advises companies to make use of reputation tracking services that lend corporates an understanding of the conversations and sentiments about their brands as well as their major competitors’ brands. Mashable recommends several web-available applications, such as Buzzlogics’s Insights application, which tracks all brand mentions in the blogosphere, and Nielsen Buzzmetrics, which tracks so-called brand health indicators on all consumer-generated media, such as Youtube, blogs and social networking websites.

And key to new generation brand management according to Gowing? Once you know who’s talking about you, talk directly back to them.

Social media/ big business clashes

PETA versus DKNY

ANTI-FUR PROTESTERS from animal rights group PETA hijacked the Facebook site of one of the United States’ biggest fashion houses – Donna Karan – with almost no resistance from its management or public relations team.

Lesson: Don’t underestimate the power of “brandjackings”.

Casual wear enthusiasts versus Gap

THE ICONIC US clothing brand unveiled a logo redesign in 2010 – only to withdraw 24 hours later after widespread criticism on Twitter, Facebook and blogs reached fever pitch. A Google search for “Gap logo” yielded 626 results in the mainstream press alone.

Lesson: Social media means the brand no longer belongs to the company alone.

Greenpeace versus Nestlé

ENVIRONMENTAL protection group Greenpeace criticised the damaging implication on rainforests by Nestlé’s business practices. A junior public relations staff member managing Nestlé’s Facebook account threatened anyone misusing its branding with a ban from the page, which ensued in thousands of angry public comments aimed at the company.

Lesson: Youth and ease with social media don’t make up for a lack in public relation know-how.

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