The recent release of embarrassing U.S Government State Department cables by WikiLeaks and selected news media have been followed avidly by mainstream media. Now Forbes magazine has published a scoop interview in London with Julian Assange, the leader of the organization behind the leaks. In this interview Julian identifies that his next focus, for what he describes as Mega Leaks, will be big business. WikiLeaks is no stranger to exposing corporate wrong doing, as shown by the revelations about the collapse of Iceland’s Kaupthing Bank and the funneling of money to the proprietors and companies that they owned, or the Swiss Bank Julius Baer’s offshore tax activities. In Julian Assange’s words “WikiLeaks means it’s easier to run a good business and harder to run a bad business and all CEO’s should be encouraged by this.”
In today’s interconnected world of increased social networking, democracy of information is becoming the new standard. The concept of trust and brand become very critical to a company’s reputation in social media. As an example, the take away from the whole BP Gulf of Mexico issue is “walk the talk”. Despite BP’s best, and in some cases desperate, efforts in social media to contain the situation its focus on its brand image of being green and “beyond petroleum” was never matched by its actions or its commitments; it became hooked on its own brand myth. Environmental groups point out in the blogosphere that BP spent more on branding than renewable energy resources. Now the question of safety protocol violations, after three of the largest oil-related accidents in the past five years, means that BP’s management’s integrity is at severe risk, especially if there are any WikiLeaks.
As a result of the above, C suite executives may have been concerned about the impact of social media and what messages were being broadcast about their business into the digital world. WikiLeaks, however, has just upped the ante on the game completely! With several of our clients, one major problem area that we have identified is that they are not integrating social media as a unified element into their overall business structure and strategy. Brand messages and activity in the real world, online and via other media channels have to be consistent. Dialogues with consumers and business partners have to reflect the culture of the company, the strategic direction and positioning that management is trying to establish. For this to occur it is necessary that employees see a congruency between internal dialogues, external messages and actions taken. Without this congruency, the possibility for misalignment of intent, message and action increases. With the media driven awareness of the prevalence of secure and anonymous WikiLeaks drop boxes and of an organization committed to investigating and exposing unethical, dishonest or inconsistent actions, the opportunity for disgruntled or frustrated whistle blowing employees to ensure democracy of information just exploded exponentially.
In reality, no organization is WikiLeaks proof, despite the best promises of IT and cyber security companies. Today more openly accessible data is being generated within organizations so that it has become impossible to effectively contain and secure it. The best possible line of defense is to maintain consistently open and ethical behavior. CEO’s and boards should give serious consideration to their company’s digital footprint in terms of what their family and friends would think if its behaviors were to become public knowledge tomorrow… because they will!
Archive for November, 2010
In this global recession, when millions have lost their jobs and are seeking new employment, how many times have you heard the complaint that people apply online for a job with a reputable global company and never hear back? They go to the website, submit their resume and it disappears into the bowels of the corporation with no way to track it or follow up on it. You are at the mercy of the global HR system!
Most job applicants in this situation react the same way as consumers who have become disillusioned and frustrated by poor service or failing products. Understandably, they do not hesitate to tell family and friends about their frustrating experience. Worse, in these days of social networking, they are sharing this experience in online networking groups. This paragraph should be sending shivers down the spine of any CMO reading it!
Most HR functions will argue that they are inundated with applications and have too few resources to respond. Contrast this, however, with the challenges that most CMO’s are facing in this depressed economy. Traditional marketing tools fail to deliver and CMO’s struggle to engage with influential consumers in key social networking groups.
Most social networking and media research indicates that peer recommended brands will be those that succeed in the future. This should be a time when Marketing joins sides with HR to ensure that they are fighting the same battle and not inadvertently creating “brand terrorists” of the future.