The internet is a fickle beast, a referee-less world where all facts, theories and opinions have roughly the same weight and influencers are chosen by size of following, not depth of experience. There's no denying that social media and search engine marketing has its benefits for business of all sizes -- it's a relatively cheap (sometimes free) way to reach customers, build your brand and connect with like-minded thought leaders and relevant news outlets. But as we all know by now, it can also be a source for the kind of vitriol that takes down a thriving company.
At the very least, an online attack (whether through social media or stuck on page one of your Google results) can distract you from your core business mission, costing you man hours and money by keeping you from doing the day-to-day work needed to keep the trains running on time. Angry Yelp reviews or Facebook posts are everyday examples of this problem. More dramatic, and obviously more damaging, are angry tweets from the President of the United States himself.
From Election Day to February 8th, Donald Trump took to Twitter to target 62 different businesses, attacking them for pricing, perceived media bias, or the old fashioned crime of competing with his own company. This has spawned some notable job growth under his Administration, as a cottage industry of wannabe crisis managers has sprung up to counsel the desperate. Hedge fund traders have actually designed algorithms specifically to capitalize on Trump Tweets; by buying low and selling high in short time periods, they can make millions, even as the business at hand suffers.
Toyota and Nordstrom are two of the more prominent examples of this line of attack. Toyota was singled out for moving factory operations to Mexico, with the President threatening a border tax which is still kicking around Washington as a policy proposal and costing Toyota and other foreign-headquartered automakers serious heartburn and lobbying dollars, despite the enormous costs it would put on both domestic and international companies.
From a communications standpoint, the Japanese automaker erred in being dragged into the nationalist, anti-trade rhetoric much of the President's base favors. It mistakenly hoped that the Red Wall of factories in Republican-controlled states, combined with its reputation as a good corporate citizen, would insulate it from backlash. More importantly, it failed to effectively deploy Republican politicians representing the districts it had invested in as a counter to the President's attack.
Nordstrom, meanwhile, is hailed by communications pundits as a shining example of a Trump Tweet responder. Their nimble reply was fact-based and measured, pushed out on Twitter in a boredom-inducing fashion that reassured its customer base and investors alike. The company "broke the curse of the Trump tweet" according to the Washington Post; it's stock recovered in just four minutes.
But go ahead and Google each brand. Toyota's Page One is filled with advertisements, social profiles, and a gem of a Harvard Business Review article on leadership. Nordstrom, meanwhile, still has three different negative results from their Trump Twitter attack, including a bruising one from the bizarrely-named Racked.com.
"After a crisis it's imperative to take back control of your digital presence quickly. If negative search results linger on the first page, then people searching for the company and its executives are funneled to those negatives -cementing them in your search results. We work hand in hand with crisis management firms to leverage all of the tools necessary to quickly enable companies to take back control of their online narrative.
That means acting quickly and understanding how your content strategy, search engine optimization strategy, PR strategy, social media strategy and internal communication strategies can work seamlessly and symbiotically."
Too often, companies are focused on the immediate fallout of a communications crisis, and fail to clean up the mess after the fact. While this can cost time and money, failing to effectively address it, in a timely fashion, can cost even more.