Social media is a place for brands to amplify their stories, humanize themselves, and connect with the people that make them what they are. More recently, it’s also become a stage for consumers to take brands to task for their missteps. As a social strategist and creative on the agency side for the better part of a decade, I’ve seen my share of digital crises and the aftermath.
Social has ignited the rise of a culture where bad actors are called out and negative experiences are no longer discussed behind closed doors. Given the nature of social as such an accessible, public channel for consumers to demand accountability and resolution, a single call-out can snowball into a reputation crisis for a brand that isn’t prepared.
If anything is crystal clear to me, it’s that call-outs don’t happen in a vacuum. The impact of call-out culture echoes to every aspect of a business, from consumer sentiment to revenue. A single negative post has the potential to reach thousands of people in a matter of seconds, on a truly global scale. If your brand isn’t prepared to react quickly in the face of today’s viral culture, you’re effectively risking your reputation and opening up your bottom line to long-term damage.
It starts with accountability
In the midst of a brand crisis it’s easy to see the merit in defending your position. But 55 percent of consumers aren’t looking for loaded explanations or defensiveness, they’re looking for an apology and a solution. Reactively explaining, rather than actively fixing, keeps your brand in the hot seat and can lead to lasting negative impressions of your business.
A slew of brands are making concerted efforts to move toward humanizing their corporate and social entities, so it makes sense that pushing policy-focused responses and stock language rather than addressing and solving a public problem can rub consumers the wrong way. In most cases, a company needs to respond immediately, be transparent and take action.
When Pepsi experienced the PR crisis heard ‘round the world — treading into political waters with a commercial that attempted to speak to its millennial audience — the social reaction was swift. After an immediate barrage of tweets calling the company out for a seemingly tone-deaf message, the ad was pulled within…
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