It’s no secret. The business environment is the toughest it has ever been. Maintaining a clean and good reputation is now quintessential to maintaining business growth and steady revenue. Unfortunately, all businesses these days must keep a watchful eye on how their brand is perceived and the reputation their brand carries. Popular web-based platforms, like Yelp and the BBB, now have enough public influence to make or break a business – just ask any restaurant owner!
Because of the interconnectedness of the 24 hour news cycle, blogs, social media, and other platforms, one bad testimonial or review can actually syndicate itself around the web for anyone to pick up. In the digital age of immediacy, any user, customer, or news agency can instantly pick up on that bad publicity. Some of the nastiest wars on reputation can be seen in the energy sector.
Who cares what people think? It’s the name of the game.
The truth of the matter is that, in word-of-mouth marketing, bad publicity spreads faster than good publicity. Like a sort of “butterfly effect,” one simple misunderstanding can lead to dire consequences for a business. The snowballing of an issue happens because the 24 hour news cycle demands news be delivered as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, this can lead to an onslaught of bad publicity cause by mistaken or bad information.
Attention spans are falling rapidly and many organizations are taking drastic measures to keep ratings up and viewers interested. This can cause certain agencies to use sensationalist tag lines and titles to drive attention and views. Many times this takes form of platform arguments.
Platform arguments are a great way for an organization’s growing movement to gain popularity. By using mass media, organizations can sensationalize titles to drive attention, which fuels a platform argument. Platform arguments can be used to drive agendas at the expense of the loyal supporters who believe they are making a difference. Some agencies now believe it’s a form of entertainment. However, news organizations, like the AP and local news stations, are great at producing truthful and accurate information.
The Curious Case of the Backyard Fracking Incident
One recent example of sensationalist titles running away with bad information is the case of Rex Tillerson, former Exxon CEO. Mr. Tillerson was engaged in legal issues over his private land. Several agencies around the world caught wind of this story and twisted the information out of perspective.
For example, some organizations saw irony in the situation; an energy company CEO seemingly against his own industry. Salon reported on the “unsavory consequences of fracking” and Reuters reported that it was a water tower that was in question and not fracking itself.
If everyone is covering the same story, why is there such a difference in what is reported?
(Cue the “Telephone Game” from Childhood)
It could be agenda, intentional sabotage, platform arguments, or just an honest mistake. It doesn’t matter. Every one of the news, blogs, and personal agencies that reported on Mr. Tillerson’s legal battle has its own legion of loyal followers spreading the message through social media networks, blogs, and other platforms regardless of inaccuracy. And it’s because loyal followers trust their organizations to present the facts accurately.
So what can be done?
There are a number of different strategies that companies can deploy to take care of their reputation issues. Big companies like Exxon have company spokesmen and professional PR representatives that help them compose truthful articles to combat negative press.
The most important thing is to tackle reputation issues in a timely manner. Getting ahead of bad publicity can save a company a fortune in potentially lost earnings. A good strategy is to release your own content to influencers and tastemakers and spread a counter message. Another option is to simply drop out of the spotlight altogether. In an update, Mr. Tillerson has left the lawsuit, however, the lawsuit has not been dropped by other residents, including former U.S. House of Representatives majority leader, Dick Armey.
A Chance to Be Heard
No matter what side of the clean energy you fall on, both sides should have equal opportunity to present their cases. But the business world doesn’t operate in a utopian manner and requires timely diligence to manage it successfully.
Coincidently, Exxon Mobile provides the “Protect Tomorrow Today” Initiative that is dedicated to educating the young on clean energy and energy production solutions that reduce the amount of oil used, the improved fuel economy, and establishing environmental and safety regulations in markets where none exist.
Many organizations have valid concerns, especially when it comes to balancing energy production and environmental protection. Those organizations also unknowingly protest against some of the world’s best green energy initiatives and education platforms. Perhaps brand reputation could fix that.