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Sept. 15 — Employers that don't have a clearly defined plan to monitor web reaction to a potential public relations crisis often find themselves responding to “Internet outrage,” rather than defining the narrative themselves, Ronn Torossian, president and CEO of 5W Public Relations in New York City, told Bloomberg BNA Sept. 12.
Torossian cautioned that today, a single person with a strong opinion can become a powerful online army, and he urged that employers be proactive in controlling all avenues of their online image.
“You have to prevent, you have to avert and you have to minimize damage by having control of all channels that represent your company,” he said. “That includes Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, websites and blog sites. It only takes one negative consumer, client or enemy with an Internet connection to forever change your online brand.”
Torossian added, “Being right in a court of law doesn't mean you're right in the court of public opinion.”
Beyond social media complaints about products or service, employee behavior also can fuel online outrage and severely damage an employer's reputation.
Case in point: the video of Ray Rice assaulting his fiancee and the damage that has done to the NFL's brand. In another example, an online video showed the CEO of a specialty foods company mistreating a dog. A social media petition to oust the CEO reportedly generated more than 183,000 signatures in a week, while other petitions on Facebook and Twitter encouraged boycotts. The CEO resigned soon thereafter.
Torossian said executives and the companies they work for have to become accustomed to responding to online criticism in real time because with social media, “everyone is in the media.” He added, “These days there is no such thing as not being in front of the camera, no matter who you are.”
Will McInnes, chief marketing officer at Brandwatch, a social media and Internet analytics monitoring company headquartered in the U.K., told Bloomberg BNA Sept. 15 that now more than ever it is important for companies to analyze social media data.
“Understanding online activity, recognizing problems quickly and having the ability to solve those problems” saves companies time and money, he said.
McInnes said gathering data and having an employee who is trained to understand the nuances of social media and has the ability to craft messages for social media is a good start, but it is important that information gleaned from social media isn't siloed and that the executives who can act and make decisions have access to such information.
Torossian said it's prudent for companies not only to own their domain name but to purchase CEO domain names and domain names for other high-level employees. They should do it because it's inexpensive and often when consumers, employees or clients become disgruntled, they start websites using a disparaging version of a company's or executive's name, he said.
“Walmartsucks.org, for example, is a very popular website,” Torossian said. “In the Internet era, search engine results are a necessary part of any company brand.”
“If you're an executive, buy your domain name,” he said. “I can't tell you how many people don't own their own name online. Crisis preparedness 101 is own your name. It's very important, it's very easy to do and very few people do it.”
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