We are

  • Expert

Avoiding Reputation Damage 101

There’s been a lot of unrest worldwide in recent months - as if dealing with the Covid-19 crisis wasn’t enough, we’ve also had to deal with a wide range of social issues that have polarized communities.

It makes very depressing news, but there was a wee bit of relief recently when some examples of corporate integrity surfaced. The North Face and Patagonia companies have pulled their advertising from Facebook platforms to support the call from The Stop Hate For Profits campaign, and Twitter permanently banned a controversial rabid commentator, Katie Hopkins, for hateful conduct. With luck, more Twitter bans will follow.

Closer to home, our own local Stuff news website has also suspended all of its activity on Facebook and Instagram until further notice too as part of a trial. The reason stated for this was public trust – a core value for the news website – which was not necessarily compatible with the way the social media giant was operating. Stuff had stopped advertising on Facebook after the Christchurch Mosque terrorist attacks on 15 March 2019, so withdrawing from other activity is a natural progression.

Others who are currently boycotting Facebook include Coca-Cola, Unilever, Ford, Adidas and Starbucks. Boycotts have occurred in the past, though the latest ones appear to relate to a refusal by Facebook to fact-check posts by Donald Trump, who has used the platform to incite violence and division.

Hopefully there will be other advertisers boycotting Facebook over their failure to stop ‘hateful lies and dangerous propaganda’ too.

It would be good to know how many small to medium sized businesses are included in these boycotts, assuming there are any, however it’s likely that there may be only a few, as most will be dependent on using Facebook advertising to promote their products and services, post-Covid. Facebook relies more on small business advertising for revenue than its large corporates, so it will no doubt take the boycott in its stride. And some of these boycotts are only for short periods or are trials, but it’s a start.

When so many of us depend on using social media as a platform to spread the word about what we’re doing within our businesses and organisations, it’s important that we’re mindful of our bedmates. Bad stuff can rub off on those nearby; ever heard the old expression “lie down with dogs, get up with fleas”? Reputation damage can be done by osmosis and it is critical that we don’t associate with anyone who might be attracting attention for all the wrong reasons. The old adage, the only bad publicity is no publicity, really doesn’t wash anymore. Social media put paid to that.

Before finalizing and implementing your marketing strategy you might want to reputation-check the platforms you intend to use to promote your products or services. Have they received any bad press in recent memory? Have there been any court cases that they’ve been caught up in, particularly employment-related ones? Is the chosen social media platform actually visited by the people you want to target your sales to?

It’s not just the marketing platforms you need to be wary of. Have you checked out your trading partners? Are they ethical in their activities? Do they share your organisation’s values and integrity? Is there any connection in their businesses with the exploitation of workers, livestock, or the environment?

News spreads really quickly these days, and bad news spreads faster than anything. Thanks to Google, most bad news never truly disappears, but just lies dormant on the internet until someone gets a whiff that something might have gone off, and then it’s dredged to the surface in lightning speed and spread out for all to see. 

It’s not just organisations that need to be careful around reputational risk – it happens to individuals’ careers too. It’s not unheard of for former employees of disgraced companies to remove the employers’ names from their CVs so as not to be tarnished by association with the organisations’ dodgy reputations. People have long memories and Google has an even longer one, so the best plan is to avoid being associated with them in the first place.

While social media platforms might still be among the best sources (and sometimes most affordable) for gaining profile for an organisation, take care where you place those advertisements. It takes many years to create a good reputation but it can be lost in mere seconds. 

Never underestimate the power of social media when it comes to influencing society. The rapid changes currently happening in the branding and marketing strategies used by companies that have been around for many years is another interesting thing to watch. Suddenly we now have skin-coloured sticking plasters offered in a range of skin colours, not just the Caucasian one that was previously available. Breakfast cereal will no longer use brown monkeys to promote chocolate-flavoured rice bubbles. And don’t go looking for Eskimo Pies in the dairy freezer as they’re getting a new name and branding too. Funny thing is, these products have been around for decades, but it took BLM protests (and the social media outcry) to get something done about it. I rest my case.

Using your own website to market your business is a fairly safe bet; it remains under your control and the messages you’re sharing with the world are yours to manage, but make sure you keep it updated and looking good. Remember, it’s your shop-front window to the world. Make sure it’s tasteful, appropriate and not likely to cause offence. Make sure too, that if you allow others to post on your site, that they’re in-line with your values and reflect your professionalism. The last thing any business needs is to be judged by the company it keeps if it’s negative in any way.

PS. Expert has turned down work from potential clients who didn’t fit with our values over the years – and we’ve had absolutely no regrets.

Talk to us.

Let's start a conversation about your web presence today
Phone: +64 4 384 9833 | Email: us@expert.services
Address: 19 Tennyson Street, Te Aro, Wellington 6011, New Zealand
Postal address: PO Box 6474, Wellington 6141, New Zealand

To send us an email, please complete the form below...