Chris Lee

Head of Social Media Knowledge

Grayling London, Soho

The mascot for the FIFA World Cup 2014 was the Brazilian three-banded armadillo. When threatened, this animal's first line of defence is to curl its three bands up into a hard sphere to resist attack. It's an impressive sight and one that is actually real, unlike the false rumour that ostriches bury their heads in the sand when under perceived threat. The mythical ostrich act does, however, provide a great metaphor to describe how many companies still view criticism on social networks.

While there's nothing new in saying that organisations are at the mercy of publics: either their own customers, non-governmental organisations or even their own staff, the case studies keep coming: Recent victims include British retail giant Tesco, which was subject to a guerrilla price tag message campaign from protestors over its wage structure. Meanwhile, we've seen more self-inflicted, reputation-damaging own goals in recent weeks, from Delta Airlines' Ghana giraffe gaff to music broadcaster VH1's disasterous #AskThicke Q&A.

It all goes to underline that reputation threats can come from within organisations' own marketing departments, as well as pressure groups and disgruntled customers and while some of us may take wry schadenfreude from other brands' misfortune, we all secretly fear that one day it will be our turn. That's why good marketers will prepare not to fail, rather than fail to prepare.

Preparing Not To Fail

I spoke last week on the subject of reputation management to a select audience of in-house marketers in Zurich, and these were the three key takeaways of my speech, which should provide our own three-pronged line of defense:

  • Understand your changing media landscape: who are the influencers? Who are leading the 'tribes'? It may not necessarily be the traditional media, depending on the market

  • Prepare your organisation for the era of the Social Web: Both in the content you generate and in the way you respond to queries and criticism. Do you have a social media policy for staff? Do you have 24/7/365 listening and response protocols in place

  • Measure what matters: Be led by data in your decision making. Understand what customer pain points are and deal with them. What do people find when they search for you on Google? Let this guide your engagement and content strategy


We can all learn from the mistakes of others. The changing dynamic of reputation management from brands to the public and other influencers may require business change for many organisations and training for staff as an absolute minimum.

If you would like to know more about how Grayling could help you with your reputation management and digital marketing, please get in touch.