Analysis of some of the biggest media crises of 2017 has helped a leading PR disaster analyst to forecast the most likely issues set to hit business organisations this coming year.
Assessing many of the leading PR disaster stories from news and social media channels, PR disaster analyst and author Gerry McCusker predicts these five topics will create big reputation challenges for businesses and brands in 2018:
Incidents that occur on company property
Issues around marketing campaigns
McCusker, owner of crisis simulation technology, The Drill, said:
“While crisis-aware businesses commonly rehearse for operational accidents like explosions or toxic contamination, they have previously not really viewed sexual harassment or marketing fails as serious crisis liabilities.”
The rise of the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements are evidence of the new types of threats that will affect company image and repute. Both movements have successfully topicalised the sexual harassment issue, and mobilised people to openly call out workplace abuse.
“This is a good thing for company culture and staff safety, but not for brand repute,” McCusker – who is the author of the book ‘Public Relations Disasters’ – adds.
Monitoring the data of harassment cases from the entertainment and media industries has also revealed strong negative stakeholder sentiment across many social and online news channels.
“It’s possible that the harassment issue has been too-long dormant in many other industries and could emerge imminently, when the issue is being so widely reported.”
The analysis also indicated the increasing globalisation of online content. Incidents occurring in one country can travel to every corner of the globe. Take United Airlines’ incident from last year that saw a passenger heavy-handedly off boarded from a flight; the US-based incident was shared on Chinese social media platform Weibo, and received more than 550 million views and 240,000 comments.
While most organisations will encounter new kinds of PR vulnerabilities, companies that take action early are able to reduce the long term impact on brand reputation.
McCusker has advice for companies and organisations keen to protect their brands in 2018:
Start with staff – ensure employee/staff issues are handled responsibly and sensitively
Listen better – use monitoring technology to find the online conversations circulating about your brand
Patch things up – computer updates must become a regular part of your workplace maintenance schedule
Do the drill – test and rehearse your crisis response plans, especially on topics that your business may have viewed as too difficult or confronting previously.