It has already presided over one of the biggest PR disasters of the year and now Vodafone faces being sued by potentially thousands of its customers over poor network performance.
Sydney law firm PiperAlderman is seeking out disgruntled Vodafone customers to form a class action lawsuit over dropped calls, reception issues and poor data performance that have left customers fuming.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has already said it is investigating the matter.
Vodafone initially blamed software bugs and argued that there were no serious problems with its network. Continue Reading
The document, mocked-up with an official McDonald’s Australia letterhead and signed by fictitious managing director “Robert Trugabe”, outlines a secret plan to save money by leaving items out of drive-through orders.
“If the girls leave one item out of every second or third order, this adds up to several thousand dollars per week revenue,” it says.
“We need to work out if there is a way of making this a procedure without making it documented.”
The research report is intended to help public relations, corporate communications and marketing professionals better understand and appreciate how organizations are integrating online communications into their business practices, and what online communication skills they need to acquire to be competitive in today’s job market.
Some of the key insights include:
Very high levels of adoption in online communications, demonstrating that new media and social media are now a core part of the web-based communications mix. They have become integral to organizational communications.
Social networking adoption out ranks natural search engine optimization, with 70% utilizing them compared to 66% for SEO. The report found it is counter-intuitive for organizational communicators to not rank web content management higher in importance since social networks and micro-blogging services are frequently used to distribute hyperlinks into websites.
According to the 2009 Edelman Trust Barometer, a company’s own website is seen as more credible than business blogs, social networking sites and advertising.
Twitter is a communications platform that helps businesses and their customers do a number of useful things. Businesses can:
Quickly share information with people that are interested in the company
Gather real-time market intelligence and feedback
Build relationships with customers and other people that care about your company.
Your customers can use it too. They might:
Tell you (or anyone else) that they had a great–or disappointing–experience with your business, offer you product ideas, and share your promotional offers around with their friends and connections.
You can eavesdrop on the conversations taking place right now about your brand by searching Twitter for the name of your company, product or brand. If you have a Twitter account already, your home page has a handy search box on the right side. If you don’t, go to search.twitter.com.
So how do businesses use Twitter?
Apart from the uses of Twitter that I’ve already outlined, one of Twitter’s key benefits is that it gives you the chance to communicate casually with customers on their terms, creating friendly relationships along the way. Most corporations find this tough to do – it’s more natural for them to hide behind stiff annual reports and legalized company brochures.
The conversational nature of the medium lets you build relationships with customers, partners and other people important to your business. It humanises your company to your customers.
Plus, the platform lends itself to integration with your existing communication channels and strategies. In combination, those factors can make Twitter a critical piece of your company’s bigger digital footprint.
Today businesses are offering exclusive Twitter coupon codes, links to key posts on their blogs, sharing tips for shopping online, and announcing specials at store locations.
So to get Twittering, head to Twitter 101 for the lowdown on how to make use of this social media platform for the benefit of your brand. You too might lead a flock before you know it.
So, you’re United Airlines and Dave Carroll has socked an almighty punch to your brand reputation.
Of course, you wouldn’t be in this position in the first place had you not given him due cause to take his protest onto the international stage. But that’s another story. The big question is, what do you do now?
TIPS FOR REPUTATION DAMAGE CONTROL.
Accept responsibility for what happened. Be gracious, apologize and offer to make amends. (Look on the bright side. You’ve been offered constructive criticism that highlights an opportunity for you to do it better.)
Explain how you are going to ensure it doesn’t happen again. This means acknowledging the problem and fixing it. Then you need to communicate that the problem has been fixed and what people should do in the unlikely event it reoccurs. Depending on the industry you are in, you might hire your critic. If they are the one person who really knows exactly what’s wrong, they might also be the best person around to help you to fix it. You might even convert them to a brand champion in the process.
Walk the talk. Or don’t make promises you won’t keep. (You’ve already broken one promise, it’s what got you into this mess in the first place, so don’t compound your problems by breaking another one.) Now that the world is aware of what has happened once, customers and competitors will not be shy about saying something when it happens again.
Do not threaten, intimidate or any way force the person to retract, remove or change damaging content. Bribery, coercion and lawyers letters are the last thing that should be on your mind right now. You can’t shut up things on the Internet. Just trying to do it can lead to worse damage.
Implement a brand reputation program.
ELEMENTS OF A BRAND REPUTATION STRATEGY.
There is little more harmful than a flurry of negative press. And with the Internet offering far-flung strangers the opportunity to share opinions and scrutinize your performance, it’s even more imperative to manage the effects. Consumers in their droves are heading to the Internet to select which brands they will support and they are reading all the stuff that’s said about you.
The vehicle companies use to manage their reputations is a brand reputation program. It is essentially a hybrid of the traditional public relations model that incorporates a management component for activity online. It works like this:
Step One: Monitor what is being said.
You should be aware of what is being said about you, your products, brands and competitors. You can do this easily by using some tools that are freely available. Examples of these tools include Google Alerts, Yahoo Alerts, Google News, Technorati, BlogPulse or BoardTracker. Set yourself up to receive free alerts, or go to these websites (such as news or Technorati) and perform a search.
Step Two: Respond to Negative Feedback.
Here are the guidelines:
Respond, don’t react. Be measured, positive and calm about what is being said. You don’t have to respond to absolutely everything. It’s a judgment call on your part whether you think you should engage.
Figure out whether the feedback is genuine or competitor-driven. This will govern how you respond.
If it’s customer-driven genuine feedback, be timely (don’t respond to old posts), transparent (say who you are) and honest. Thank them for feedback. Engage in an open friendly way. You can invite trial of your product or use some other form of inclusionary brand tactic.
If you suspect it’s competitor-driven, don’t make accusations without proof. Use positive brand messages from other sources to use as links in a reply post. Be nice. Ask for their contact details so you can handle their issue personally. If they won’t supply it, it may impact negatively on their credibility not yours. You can report harmful or defamatory content and request its removal. Try to identify the person posting the content. Leave your lawyers as a last resort
Step 3: Build a Resilience Plan.
People are surprisingly forgiving. For the most part, brands can afford to make a few mistakes provided that they admit them, fix them, and don’t make mistakes all the time. To counteract the impact of negative publicity and feedback, brands need to build resilience against negative perceptions, and they can do this by:
Creating on-going two-way conversations with customers. This enables the brand to better understand exactly what its customers want. Create a blog, engage in forums and groups, survey your customers or invite them into your premises. Get feedback from your sales teams. Try to understand what’s important to your customers.
Writing regular news stories with positive messages that can be released to media, influencers and uploaded onto your own website. Smaller businesses can do this quite cheaply using PRWeb or another media distribution firm that also offers an editorial service.
Thinking the value ledger concept. Build a repository out there of good things your brand thinks, has said or done. It boils down to having more good stories to outweigh the few bad ones.
Encouraging active, influential brand champions to talk about you in the market. Credible bloggers and journalists can do a lot to help build your brand resilience. Implement a concerted campaign to win them over.
Actions speak louder than words. Transparency and action build positive brand perceptions which in turn offer cover against future PR disasters. Spin doesn’t work. You have to be seen to be believed. Get involved in activities that ensure your brand is seen positively. For example, if you make a food product, be the first to offer transparency in labeling.
In a fast-moving, complicated world, no single PR strategy is going to enable you to escape some degree of brand attack. But what smarter companies do is plan ahead. By doing so, they are armed and ready to defend their good name.
The Internet is the ultimate democracy. Anyone with an Internet connection can share their opinions, regardless of whether they are good or bad, and they can do it honestly, publicly and uncensored. When you sit on the right side of the ledger, the collective opinion can propel your brand onto the world stage. Do it wrong, though, and in some cases it can render it almost worthless.
You are powerless to stop negative commentary and feedback. This is part of the power of this new democracy. Send a threatening lawyer’s letter to shut someone up, and they might just publish it online causing you even greater havoc. You don’t have control, and those brands that try to enforce it end up looking scared.
The power of the Internet doesn’t stop there, of course. It is also a powerful leveler, one where a single person can etch the name of your company onto a lone bullet, aim and fire, and leave even the most powerful brands in the world reeling from the carnage. If you’re one of the very few brands who still hold any shred of doubt about your vulnerability, just turn to Dave Carroll’s story to set your own internal barometer straight.
You can Google for the rest of the story, but the lesson is clear. Before the Internet, big brands may have got away with less-than-ordinary behavior. Now it isn’t possible to escape penalty for it. When Dave Carroll warns United he’s going to write songs about his experience with their brand, one can almost imagine the rolling of the eyes in their hallowed corridors. Those same eyes will be spinning, not rolling, anymore.
For what started as a simple compensation claim for $USD1200 for the repair of a guitar morphed into brand carnage. The video reached more than 4 million viewers in 3 weeks, was reported in most major media, and became a lively topic for blogs, forums and dinner parties around the world.
It will cost United millions of dollars to repair the damage to its reputation. One wonders whether it can even be done. And sadly for United it will take a long time. High profile, catchy ditties, such as the one created by Dave Carroll, just don’t fade from people’s memories fast enough to save the biggest brands in the world.
Of course, the last laugh is with Dave Carroll. He’s gone on to international recognition for his music and song-writing. His music sales have soared. His band is in demand. He has offers pouring in. Bob Taylor wants to give him guitars.
And it’s all thanks to a big brand that claims to care about its customers but when the time came to walk the talk, it stubbornly refused to step forward.