Companies are increasingly faltering then failing on the digital communications front while they cling on to an outdated concept of corporate comms as enshrined by the precious company policy line.
The jig is up. The curtain has fallen and we’ve caught you with your underwear down.
By its very nature social media is instant, intimate and intrusive. Whether or not they perceive it as a help or a hindrance, companies need to recognise that social media is a force to be reckoned with and consumers will not back down.
Recently, Groupon co-founder and chief executive Andrew Mason sent an email to the organization’s staff to announce that he was leaving, he clearly didn’t hold back; “After four-and-a-half intense and wonderful years as CEO of Groupon, I’ve decided that I’d like to spend more time with my family. Just kidding – I was fired today.”
Refusing to tow the line, Mason must have left the comms team in a head spin, drafting out all sorts of press statements and running things through legal quicker than you could say ‘Fired!’
Mason’s story is one of intrigue. Even if the former CEO doesn’t go down as a martyr in his cause, he certainly held up a mirror to the nature communications. As communicators we have a duty to present a company in its best possible light, however, the way communications is developing, particularly social media, businesses can no longer seek shelter behind the rehearsed and exhausted company line. Consumers appreciate that things may not always run smoothly but more so they appreciate honesty.
Business leaders and chief executives are finding themselves becoming the face of their brands. Whether or not they were dragged to such echelons kicking and screaming, that’s where they are and they must embrace it. Social media doesn’t allow for a retraction or a quick delete. There is always someone watching or waiting in the wings for an answer. So give them one. Acknowledging weaknesses is a way to maintain integrity and more so a human face behind all the corporate speak.
Trying to subterfuge your way through the public domain should be left to the spokespeople over at the European Commission – Businesses should not expect such nondescript reactions. Take for example, the mass firing that occurred at HMV earlier this year, angry workers were tweeting live from the HR office; “There are over 60 of us being fired at once! Mass execution of loyal employees who love the brand.”
HMV maintained the usual corporate game-face through its administrators Deloitte who echoed doleful words of regret that “such decisions are always difficult and that it is a necessary step in restructuring the business to enhance the prospects of securing its future as a going concern.”
The response was met with customers who commented that they had no sympathy with HMW for the way they’d dealt with their employees and even going so far as to praise free-streaming and illegal downloading of online material.
Corporate communications has helped companies to save face in tough times, however, in these times, companies must not fail to realise they are dealing with a consumer with a lot more tenacity and digital tools than ever before.