I was at a Tech Conference recently and I enjoyed an entertaining session about reputation management. The speaker was expert and erudite, one of his strongest takeaways was whilst you can mitigate somewhat how your reputation is seen reputation management won’t change the fundamentals. If you are a mean company who only puts up with customers and really thinks we are all there for your exploitation no amount of reputation management can fix that.
We have seen recent examples where very public mismanagement of self inflicted wounds rapidly developed into a social media circus. As I type we are witnessing the well deserved public destruction of the owner of the LA Clippers. That a curmudgeonly old coot who was “dating” a mid 20s gold digger could be taped by her saying bad things about the very people of color who have made him rich and successful is interesting…but this guy has been found guilty on several occasions of racial discrimination in property letting. That’s a serious offense which he has been fined for. It happened before social media so that apparently gets a pass. If we are going to hold folks like Donald Sterling responsible for socially foul actually illegal acts of discrimination he should have been drummed out of the NBA years ago.
An even more spectacular example of reputation management not being enough to cover real sins happened last week when an unidentified genius at the New Your Police Department asked the public to post pics of them interacting with members of the police. The only people surprised by the avalanche of pics of police people beating up abusing and generally manhandling members of the public they were supposed to be serving and protecting were the police themselves. It’s shocking that they honestly though that we the people might want to post smiling pics of happy citizenry with jovial cops.
I live in SoCal where the police are what amounts to an occupying army. There are daily stories of the acts of abuse,stupidity and over reach perpetrated by the local police on we the occupied people. Yesterday I watched from the sidewalk as two motorcycle cops in perfect uniform complete with reflective sunglasses purred in perfect harmony along one of my neighborhood streets. As they past me and my dogs the both glanced (again in harmony) in my direction…it was a frankly scary moment (and I’m a middle aged white guy). The SoCal Cops don’t ask questions they empty their guns….as do the New York Cops. The difference is that nobody in the corridors of power in SoCal is dumb enough to pull the same stunt…they know they are widely loathed and are apparently at peace with that.
The problem with social media (as has been discovered by several dictators who have been recently over thrown by their people who used it to inspire, inform and organize) is that it’s not owned or controlled by the government. It’s not possible for the mayor to lean on Facebook or Twitter to play down a story or bury a lead. In the same way that.
In the same way that a bad plumber or purveyor of tainted meat can try to mask their bad acts with carefully placed positive reviews so our governments and their hench-folk can attempt to put the social Jin back in the bottle…fortunately for us it’s already too late for that.