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Transparency and the rise of the new spin doctors December 18, 2009

Posted by optimalrisk in Business, IT, relationships.
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Social media is introducing ‘forced transparency’ into the corporate world. Corporations are not always poised to deal with the speed of social media when it comes to incidents and complaints.  More and more companies are hiring social media ‘experts’. While some companies are seizing this opportunity to engage consumers, others are cringing in the corner wondering if they will be caught.  Whistleblowers, insiders, investigative journalists, and hidden cameras have been around for years.  However, the speed at which we can get information from these “primary” sources has not been experienced until recently.  Deep down, we know that many companies try to maintain ethical business practices while chasing their bottom line, but there some companies (in some instances, whole industries) that would be ‘misunderstood’ by the public if their inner workings were brought to life.  In come . . . the New Spin Doctors!

To be fair, there have always been marketing and communications professionals who make sure that the company is looking good, but this new breed has to develop new tactics.  The “press release” and “official statements” are slow ways to respond to an issue.  It is slow because they depend on traditional conduits like press conferences and media outlets.  Social media is about relationships.  If Bob and Sally are friends AND Sally and Jamie (and doesn’t know Bob) are friends, all it takes is for Bob to tell Sally something.  If it is interesting enough to share, then Jamie will soon know as well.  If Bob has a bad experience with Company X, it only takes hours before hundreds know (depending on network size). Also, the people in Bob’s network are less likely to believe the company when they respond after the fact.  The reverse is also true.  If Bob sends a message to the network praising or exonerating the company, then that bodes well for the company.  At best, it is now easier for an individual’s network to cause concern for a company.

I predict that the “New Spin Doctors” will have some adjustment time, but will soon create systems that make it hard for reputations to be damaged by a video of 2 stupid employee making ‘gross’ with the food.  Let me know if you can dream up or know ways that these spin doctors will let the company come out on top.

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