• Business leaders face pressure
to take sides in political and social
• Social media’s speed and
immediacy help drive that pressure.
• Strong communication strategies
can help avoid reputation damage.
In Uber’s case, Twitter mentions spiked to roughly 8,800 on Jan. 29, up from
about 1,000 the day before. By Jan. 31, though, the number was back down to
around 1,250 and quickly settled back down to its average numbers. From the
beginning of the #deleteUber campaign through the end of February, Uber’s
favorability shrunk from 50 percent to roughly 40 percent, based on a series of
polls taken by 18,908 respondents.
It’s a significant dip, but likely not a permanent stain on the company’s
reputation, especially after Kalanick’s public show of support for immigrants
and rejection of the travel ban. Uber’s favorability rating remained higher than
competitor Lyft’s throughout the ordeal.
tint. Executives are stuck between a rock and
a hard place. They’re exposed to reputational
damage whether they oppose or endorse a Trump
action, or even if they do nothing at all.
Take Elon Musk, for example, founder of
Tesla and SpaceX and a well-known advocate
for climate research and environmental
protection. He came under fire for not
publicly denouncing the travel ban and
for keeping his seat on Trump’s business
Musk has largely avoided the
limelight on political issues, couching
statements when he makes them at all
— as most executives are wont to do.
But he was prodded to defend himself
on Twitter after some users suggested he
was a hypocrite.
A strategy of avoidance may no
longer work as consumers, employees
and the public at large pressure
companies to make a statement or take
action in response to political events.
“A large segment of the population
expects the people they do business
with and the companies they buy from
to support their point of view or respond
to political or social issues in a certain
way,” said Chrystina M. Howard, senior
vice president, strategic risk consulting, Willis
In a damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don’t
environment, reputation risk is expanding, and risk
managers need to re-evaluate how they assess their
exposure and build mitigation strategies.
A TRUE CRISIS?
The challenge begins with determining whether a
negative public relations event is really
a crisis. Is it a temporary blow to a
brand, or does it have the potential
to do long-term reputation
damage? Misreading the signs
could lead companies to overreact
and further tarnish their image.
“These sudden public relations
crises are a source of panic for companies,
“Uber is probably a good example of what not to do,” said Jeff Cartwright, director
of communications at Morning Consult, a brand and political intelligence firm.
“They maybe went over the top in trying to reverse the way they handled the
protests at JFK.”
Tracking brand value in real time can give risk managers insight into the true
impact of a negative social media campaign or bad press. Michael Ramlet, CEO
and co-founder of Morning Consult, said most events don’t damage brands as
much as trending hashtags make it appear.
Morning Consult’s proprietary brand tracking tool allows companies to
measure their brand perception against influencing events like a spike of Twitter
mentions and news stories. More often than not, overall brand loyalty remains on
par with industry averages.
In a damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don’t environment, reputation risk is
expanding, and risk managers need to re-evaluate how they assess their
exposure and build mitigation strategies.
“The #deleteUber campaign turned out to be a very local thing that didn’t have
a widespread impact,” Ramlet said.
“Twitter at best is an imputed analysis of what people are saying. The vocal
minority might be very active, but there might be a silent majority who still think
fondly of a brand, or at least have no negative opinions of it.”
He said risk managers can also benefit by breaking down their brand
perception into geographic and demographic subsets. It can, for example, show
whether a brand is favored more heavily by Democrats or Republicans.
“If you have that data on day one, it can help you determine how to respond if,
say, Trump tweets at you,” Ramlet said.
Of course, some spikes in news media and social media attention are indicative
of much deeper problems and true reputational risk.
After the Wells Fargo dummy-account scandal broke, for example, unfavorability
ratings as measured by Morning Consult jumped from roughly 20 percent to
nearly 55 percent, while favorability dropped from 50 percent to 30 percent. Net
favorability, which stood at 33 percent pre-scandal, fell to - 4 percent post-scandal.
“They went from being the most popular bank to the least popular in less than
four months, according to our data,” Ramlet said.
The contrast between Uber’s and Wells Fargo’s stories demonstrates the
difference between a more surface-level public-relations event that temporarily
hurts brand image, and a true reputation event.
“Failures that produce real and
lasting damage to reputation include
failures of ethics, innovation, safety,
security, quality and sustainability,” said
Nir Kossovksy, CEO of Steel City Re.
“Activists make a lot of noise that
can be channeled through various
media, but for the most part in the
business world, stakeholders are
interested in the goods and services a
company offers, not in their political or
social views. As long as you can meet
Source: Morning Consult Intelligence
Jan 5, 2017 Jan 16, 2017 Jan 23, 2017 Jan 30, 2017 Feb 6, 2017 Feb 13, 2017
The Twitter Spike