Why Do People Blame the Media for Corporate Disasters?
A recent study conducted by 24/7 Wall St. called American Companies Burned Worst By The Media, details ten brands that have had the most damaging stories featured by the press during the last 12 months. “Negative press coverage means little unless it has a profound effect on a company’s ability to do business either because of damage to its reputation or because it has spurred lawsuits,” claims study author Douglas A. McIntyre.
Although an interesting study, it has major flaws:
- The study blames the media for the reputation problems of all the listed companies, despite the fact that 5 brands on the list had deaths associated with their employees or consumers. The media can’t be blamed for covering stories where people died due to a company’s negligence.
- Last time I checked Toyota (Toyota City, Aichi, Japan) and British Petroleum (London, England) are foreign businesses with operations in America, so therefore they are not “American Companies,” or brands.
- Four of the Companies listed (AIG, Freddie Mac/ Fannie Mae, JP Morgan Chase, BOA) were all involved somehow in the major United States Government Bailout Plan, which has never received widespread acceptance from the American people because of Government intervention. The Freddie and Fannie bailouts are estimated by The Federal Housing Finance Agency to cost as much as $350 billion by 2013.
- All companies listed were slow to react to their problems. The disasters these companies faced were debilitating, but instead of being proactive they pointed fingers and blame elsewhere or accepted responsibility for the issue too late. Toyota was forced to recall millions of cars because of driver error, but they are still to blame for not educating their buyers enough to operate properly.
I am not writing this to bash the study but more so to point out to businesses that you cannot control the media or what is being said about you online. Most businesses will not deal with a deadly mine or oil tower explosion, but can have problems like McDonald’s did recently because their brand was associated with something negative. If you are honest, forthcoming, and engaging with your consumers regularly, you should see success, but when you skip inspections and blame others for your brand’s mistakes the digital world will destroy you.
Managing your brand can be tough, but not nearly as tough as trying to save your brand from going under because of a disaster. If you are transparent, operate ethically, and don’t take short cuts with your brand you can avoid being featured in studies like the one above from 24/7 Wall St.
Reputation Management should always start before a problem occurs. We all will learn from other businesses’ failures and mistakes or suffer the same consequences.