“Ask Companies to choose” and How to Do It.

One of the most common questions I used to get when this wacky world of social media came to small business marketing was “what if people say bad things?” Negative word of mouth is very powerful. And one loud person shouting can do a lot of damage. As social media matured, the tools professionals use matured too. But the decision making hasn’t. When faced with a problem, the response is usual “hold your breath, it will go away”.

And that’s most often true. Righteous indignation tends to burn hot and fast. The first thing you do when you’re in a social media crisis is to walk away until you can act and make decisions with out you, yourself, being emotionally activated. Most social media dust ups burn out fast.

To be politically potent in the social media age is to NOT burn out fast.

Look at the “boycotts” that flared up around Starbucks cups not being “christmas” enough. Sure, there’s saber rattling for like a day and then people go back to buying their mocha-chocha-lattes. A protest, a boycott, a complaint, to be effective has to be persistent.

Last night I came across this Twitter thread by Ben Wikler of MoveOn and I had to record it for posterity. As a PR, corporate communication and social media expert, this is 100% nail-on-head. If you are organizing on social media for the change you want to see in the world, communicate sharply, escalate and sustain. You must push past that “Hold your breath” tipping point. That is your plan of action.

A few years ago, a former staffer from a top-tier int’l PR firm walked me through how corporations monitor social media for brand risk.

Big corporations shell out serious $$ for social media monitoring and threat assessment of their brands & CEOs, and get frequent reports.

My friend had been in charge of compiling those reports. Her team would track mentions of a firm, its products, its execs: quantity, tone.

The particular issue that companies want to assess is whether things are spinning out of control. So velocity and acceleration are key.

The reports would show graphs of mentions/social reach/RTs over time; screenshots of images & messages. Anything quantifiable or visual

If an online petition targeted a company, they’d check at regular intervals to see how fast it was growing

The goal was to forestall an emergency that could lead to brand collapse. If necessary, action would be recommended to stem bleeding

Chief Marketing Officers and CEOs could be reached at short notice & decisions could be made quickly if things were threatening to blow.

The most acute crises came when companies were doing something wrong that was being pointed out publicly, repeatedly. Brand disaster.

In those cases, companies had to decide whether to try to stonewall & wait out storm or do the right thing & make problem disappear ASAP

So a big part of assessment within a company was always: how fast will people move on? How much brand damage do we incur in meantime?

So the question for activists is: how long can you go? How much can you escalate pressure? If company thinks you won’t stop, it’ll fold.

We’re now in a time when many big companies face clear choices between right and wrong. Public will call on them to do the right thing.

If you’re a corporate decision-maker, you should consult your conscience. But also, consider your bottom line. The public is watching.

If you’re a consumer, this is your time to remember that you also have power. Not just your wallet. Your voice. Ask companies to choose.

Your power is a function of your ability to build pressure, to recruit, to escalate — and to not give up.

As my PR firm source explained to me, if you’re a consumer activist, your actions will count, because they’ll be counted. Literally.

One more note: focus. Our collective impact is greater if we pick one target, win, then move to the next, instead of spreading pressure out.

All of these companies & CEOs will be watching what happens to the others. Praise those who do right thing. Make examples of others, 1 by 1.

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