I was honoured to be invited to a Dangerous Dinner recently.
Initially wondered whether it would be a gathering of a culinary “fight club” daring each other to nibble puffer fish, road kill and other dodgy delicacies. Turned out to be a deliberately iconoclastic assembly of writers, academics, thinkers, consultants and senior in-house HR and Comms practitioners, all fuelled by fine wine and huddled together for a bare knuckle debate about hot topics served up as accompaniments to the hot dishes.
The courses included the role and relevance of HR; whether Gallup’s Q12 nurtures or murders engagement and lastly, whether social media is ruining the reputation of your brand.
The last subject stimulated the bloodiest debate (which wasn’t altogether the fault of the alcohol). Seemingly current corporate comms thinking, in spite of “Giggs-gate” is to employ an elite team of enforcers to scan and apprehend malevolent “tweeters” and snuff out the Facebook fire. Seems a little like unzipping ones flies to fight an inferno to me.
It might be a more effective strategy to connect with people in a way that earns their affection or to do something about the matches, pointing out the harm that carelessness can cause. Even better, why not focus on actively involving multiple stakeholders with the brand. Celebrate what’s really great about the business, live the values and make friends and fans inside and out. And if something happens which is “off brand” (it’s inevitable), listen, deal with it openly, honestly, apologise and move on to doing more “great stuff”.
Had Mr Giggs followed this advice, everyone would have stopped twittering by now. Instead he’s passed into social media folklore, for all the wrong reasons, and people have forgotten what a great footballer he was.
There are organisations out there who take their brand so seriously that they do “monitor” the social media channels. But not just to “catch people out”. They actively engage with communities, spread the good news about their brand, ensure that the messages and the media are complementary and, most importantly, actively seek out and publicly address any rumblings of discontent.
So the message for the message managers is, don’t expect to police the www successfully. Rather join the party and place your focus on cultivating multiple-stakeholder relations, inside and out. And for everyone else, well if you have feedback about a brand, whether good or bad, try sharing it in the social media space. You’ll quickly learn who the positive players are by the nature of the responses you receive from the brands themselves.
Exciting times, rich with potential. Provided organisations embrace the opportunities upstream rather than focusing on fghting the threats downstream , I have a hunch it will turn out to be a lot less dangerous than people think………………