A few weeks ago I wrote about company street reputations and how the Net makes them perpetual—as in, unhappily ever after.
In an article, Chris Gidez, head of U.S. crisis management for the public-relations firm Hill & Knowlton, says, “Once it’s on the Web, it’s like taking the rods out of a reactor. Companies have to work harder to determine, ‘Do we need to worry about this?’ “Overreacting can call more attention to a rumor than it gets on its own, I’ve had clients who wanted to respond to a problem with guns blazing, and I say, ‘Hold on a second. You might be telling a larger universe of people about a problem they didn’t know existed.”
Granted, in some cases, you don’t want to acknowledge rumors because it merely fans the flames. but you do need to address any that are reverberating in your customer/employee base, on the Net or in the media.
“In trying to kill a rumor, companies often enlist help from outside sources, including linking to other Web sites like Snopes.com, a well-regarded reference for sorting out myths and rumors.”
But it’s more difficult to address negative impressions within your candidate/employee base, since there are no outside sources to enlist—and it’s impossible when the rumor is true.
If your company has a rep for arrogant managers who treat workers like dirt because the managers are arrogant and they do treat workers as expendable, then there is little point in trying to refute that.
If the company brings in new management with the express goal of changing the actual culture, as well as its public perception, then it’s absolutely necessary to make those changes very public.
However, rather than major announcements trumpeting the changes, it’s better to make the changes and mount a viral campaign after the fact.
As usual, it’s far more effective to walk first, then talk.