Although he is an interesting member of the animal kingdom, Mr. Ostrich is not a great guide when it comes to reputation damage control. In fact, looking to an ostrich’s tactics for dealing with trouble is much akin to checking in at a frat party for tips on etiquette. It might be entertaining, but it’s probably not a great idea.
Most companies are more than happy to engage in social media conversations when things are going well, or when they’ve got a new pitch, but what happens when things head south? Most companies duck their heads and wait for the media frenzy to pass. Traditional public responses such as heavily scripted press releases and media statements no longer cut it in today’s fast-paced, social media centric world. News, both bad and good, spreads like wildfire with the assistance of sites like Twitter and Facebook. If a company isn’t prepared when accusations and questions start piling up, they can quickly be buried in bad publicity.
Recently, corporate giant Sony and trendy retailer Urban Outfitters learned this lesson the hard way. Two very different companies with two very different issues both handled their troubles in the worst way possible – with total silence. Urban Outfitters sent out one sad little Tweet saying they were looking into the issue and would report back, followed two days later by an official statement saying that they are unwilling to “be undermined by these false allegations.” Probably not the best way to win over your audience; no one likes to be insulted or called a liar.
What should they have done? Unfortunately, not being prepared for a reputation crisis beforehand put both of these companies in a tough spot. Mid-crisis is not a good time to work on your damage control strategy. We’ll skip the lecture, if you’re reading this; you’ve likely heard it before 😉 It all boils down to one very important, but often overlooked idea: Communication. No one likes to feel like they’re being shut out or ignored. If these companies had simply become a part of the conversations that were taking place about them, they probably could have avoided a large portion of the negative publicity. Yes, they still would have had to answer for what they’d done, but their now former fans would have seen the humans behind the corporation. People are much more forgiving when they feel that they’re dealing with people instead of corporate drones.
Did you know that although the ostrich is a bird, it cannot fly? Just another reason to look elsewhere for business tactics –after all who wants their business stuck on the ground?