By Paul Mead, Managing Director, VCCP Search.
It’s so much easier to rouse a rabble these days. No need to fix bayonets; forget your donkey jacket and oil drums; and leave your placards at home. If you want to raise an angry mob behind your cause simply make yourself a nice cup of tea and go online.
If you find some like minded individuals who share your gripe you can swap stories. If your stories are all concentrated on a particular website or blog, that content will move up the search engine rankings, spreading the message further.
From here anything can happen – online petitions, anti-brand websites or action groups. A few disgruntled people online can connect quickly to form a mob, which can become a firestorm for the brands or companies involved.
Unlike the uprising against the poll tax there’ll be no riot police, broken glass or smashed up McDonalds, but the power of the online mob should not be underestimated. It can bring previously untouchable multi-national corporations to their knees; it can even change governments.
I was researching a new car the other day. I have so many offspring that I have to keep their names on an excel spreadsheet, so I needed something pretty big.
There has been a major above-the-line campaign recently for the new Land Rover Discovery and with seven adult seats and the title ‘What Car: Car of the Year 2007’ it looked the ideal choice. A search on Google quickly changed my mind however.
I found a site in the top five search results filled with angry Discovery drivers talking about unreliability, poor service and a catalogue of other issues. In one minute the value of a multi-million pound campaign was negated and a potential customer lost.
How many others have been lost? And how many millions of pounds in lost sales have Land Rover encountered through one Google search result?
But of course we know all this, don’t we? The power and growing influence of the web is not a new phenomenon.
So why is it that the online crisis or issues management plan for most brands and major corporations – even those actively using the internet as a sales channel - seem to be sandbags at the door and hide under the desk until the nasty people go away?
How do you monitor and protect your brand online? What is your digital crisis communications plan? If the answer starts with an ‘Errr…’ you’re not alone.
Most brands are sitting ducks, waiting for the ticking time bomb of a crisis to explode and blow away hard won reputations overnight. And yet there are simple solutions available which could save millions in sales. But hey, it’ll never happen to us.
Tin helmet anyone?
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